Recently I got that dreaded phone call that every church leader hates. “Hi Pastor. I am sorry, but I am leaving the church. I just haven’t been able to connect with people on a deeper level.” Ugh, my heart grieves yet again! Why is it so many people struggle with making genuine friendships in church? I have been in church leadership for 20 years, and honestly, one of the most common complaints people have, especially among women, is ,“It is hard to make friends.” My colleagues say this grievance is found in most churches across our country. It is even found amongst pastor’s wives and other church leaders.
We, as women, have the unique ability to create community and cultivate friendships. Friendship is something that really matters to God. Jesus even said to His disciples in John 15:15, “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” Wow, even Jesus desires genuine friendship.
I personally love making new friends, but as a leader, I realize it is impossible for me to be friends with EVERY SINGLE PERSON who attends our church. Therefore, I thought I would share some things I have learned about making friends that may encourage other women to step out into their communities so they can find their tribe of friends!
Making friends in a church isn’t always easy, but there are so many benefits of having like-minded, God-loving friends, therefore it is worth the effort. If you’re ready to make friends but are finding it difficult, here are some strategies to try.
- Smile – a lot. This may sound trite but ladies, some of you may not be making friends because you look unapproachable. Most women do not realize what their resting face looks like. I am sorry to inform you, but you sometimes look intimidating! Seriously, making friends really does start with being friendly, and being friendly starts with a smile. When you come to church the most important thing for you to clothe yourself with is a smile! Christie Brinkley says, “Share your smile with the world. It’s a symbol of friendship and peace.” Even if you are an introvert and you despise small talk, you can at least wear a smile on your face.
- Get involved. The easiest way to get to know people in your church is to get involved. Don’t just be a pew warmer; actually, participate in what is going on. There are many ways to get involved. Join a Bible study or go to a midweek service. Midweek services are usually less attended than Sunday services. Find opportunities to volunteer. When we serve, our sense of connection grows. We go from sitting by someone in church to laboring alongside them. Sign up to serve in your church’s nursery, find a small group or volunteer at the next outreach. Every church I know of is looking for more people to get involved and volunteer. Step up and serve. Not only will you feel great about helping, but you may even develop some authentic friendships with other people along the way.
- Take the initiative. Stop waiting for someone to come ask you to hang; instead decide to get the ball rolling by making the first move! It is ok to be intentional and to seek out relationships with other people. God set the ultimate example by sending Jesus who sought out a relationship with us and some of us while we weren’t even looking. Sisters, sometimes we need to get over ourselves and stop whining about how no one cares about us. We need to be the friend we wish we had. Be proactive and invite a new contact to lunch after church service, be purposeful and even offer to pay. I mean, who doesn’t love a free meal? If you can’t afford to take a potential friend to lunch then set up a time during the week to meet for coffee. Taking initiative may be a little awkward at first, but as you step out of your comfort zone and expressly go after people, God will eventually bless you with a meaningful friend.
- Find a touchpoint. One of my new friends and I went out to eat after church and we discovered that we were watching the same series on Hulu. My friend was just a few episodes ahead of me, so we bonded over our show. For a couple of weeks, we texted each other almost daily over this flick and discussed the characters and plots. We even sent funny memes about the show to each other. We spent hours on the phone talking about the series and then realized we had other things in common too. We both love to read and listen to podcasts so we began to share books and recommend podcasts to each other. Our friendship is still in the beginning stages, but I can see it already beginning to blossom because we found so many similar interests.
- Don’t quit! God has a tribe for you! Friendship is important to God and that is why it should be important to you. You were not created to do life alone. There are many examples of friendship in the Bible such as David and Jonathon and Ruth and Naomi, which we can glean from. Making friends is not always easy. Friendships are a two-way street; they are a symbiotic relationship, and an authentic friend is worth the work. True friendships take time, so stay persistent and don’t give up. God will bring the right people into your life.
“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” -Proverbs 27:17