In the last three years, I have moved six times. Each move has required me to join a new congregation. In each new area, I have acquired new, close friendships with people I have met at church. Friendships with people of my faith strengthen my convictions. They also provide examples of lives that are lived according to the principles and beliefs that I adhere to. Making these essential friendships does require work, but it doesn’t have to be intimidating. Just attend every function you can, get to know the leadership, and look for needs to fill. Soon, you’ll find an array of welcoming faces every time you darken the church door.
Attend every function
While you may be most interested in attending worship services, congregations often have other activities that better accommodate socialization. Go to them. The people who attend these functions are often the most friendly and adventurous. Like you, they wouldn’t be going if they didn’t want to make friends. By seeing the new people in your congregation many times in a short period, they become less intimidating to you, and you can quickly develop the confidence to initiate conversations. Furthermore, by attending multiple activities, you are increasing the number of times these people see your face. This makes you memorable and therefore easier to talk to.
Befriend the leadership
Often the sheer number of people in a new congregation is overwhelming, so it helps to initially focus on the leadership. It's practically part of their job description to be nice and know everybody. This makes them the perfect people to get to know. Not only do they become a friendly face in the crowd, they can introduce you to other friendly faces, too. People in these roles can also act as confidants and mentors when times get tough, so it helps to initiate a friendly relationship sooner rather than later. Of course, your efforts shouldn’t be limited to the leader of the entire congregation. Maybe there is a women’s organization or a youth group. The people operating these groups often know many people in the congregation, too.
Constantly offer to help
The leaders you befriend can provide direction for where willing hands are most needed. By coming early to a church function to set up chairs, or staying late to help vacuum, you interact with a wider circle of people. This also sends the message that you are a kind, enthusiastic and industrious person. Put another way, you’re showing that you’re the kind of person that everyone wants around. Another way to help is to initiate conversations with people that are even newer than you are. After all, you know something better than most people do right now: sometimes, all you really need is a friend! I actually met my husband by introducing myself to the handsome, shy young man who had just moved in. Best decision of my life so far.
When my husband started graduate school and moved us across the country, we followed these steps together. They have worked beautifully in our new congregation. After a short time, smiles, friendly chats, and even dinner invitations can begin to flow in. These budding friendships help us to be excited to go to church even on days when we are tired, grumpy, or apathetic. Once we’re there, we rejoice and learn more about our place in the universe, and that makes us better friends to others, too.