Group of People PrayingJoining a new church opens you up to new possibilities for personal and spiritual growth. It can also be a place to form solid, lasting friendships with people with whom you already have something in common. If you're nervous, that's normal. As with any new social situation, it can feel awkward to enter existing circles and become one of the group. There are several ways that you can make the process go more smoothly, though.

Make the First Move

No matter how friendly and welcoming people are when you walk in the door, it's natural for them to settle into comfortable habits. They take a seat in their favorite spot in the sanctuary with the people they usually sit with. Even if they're interested in getting to know you, they know that walking into unfamiliar social situations can be overwhelming. They don't want you to feel obligated to sit with them.

Most people, however, are eager to welcome you into their group. You just may have to communicate clearly that you are open to it. Find someone with extra space in their row and ask if you can sit with them. You don't have to talk a lot, and the service itself provides a buffer against some awkward small talk, but engaging in worship together can lead to deeper discussions later.

Be a Joiner

One thing that most churches do well is let people know about the multiple opportunities for gathering and fellowship that are available. While you can certainly meet people in services, small groups provide an easier space for conversation and getting to know people on a deeper level. There are many different small groups that may be interesting to you:

  • Scripture studies
  • Book clubs
  • Volunteer groups
  • Children's or youth ministry
  • Exercise groups

Look at the bulletin board in the church's common area. No matter how the building is laid out, there is probably an information hub that will be fairly obvious to newcomers. The calendar of activities is likely to be listed on the church website, with contact information for the specific person you need to connect to for more details about joining. Take advantage of these resources to make a solid step toward becoming closer to the people in your new church.

Invite People Over

You may receive invitations to lunch or dinner during your first few visits. Showing hospitality by sharing a meal is a common strength found in faith communities. This is also one of the easiest ways to reciprocate with people you want to get to know better. Invite another couple or a group of people over to your house for dinner. If cooking is not your forte, consider going out to eat together (while being sensitive to possible economic disparities). The benefit of sharing a meal is that everyone has to eat, so most people already have the time set aside in their daily schedules to do so. You're just asking them to change the location.

There are other alternatives that don't revolve around food but still give you the opportunity to share your daily life with your new friends. Invite them to go bowling or have a game night. Make a friend date to go to the farmers market or run errands that you have in common together. It's hard to develop a real friendship with people when you only see them once or twice a week at church, so looking for opportunities to see them outside the walls of the sanctuary can foster mutual affection more quickly.

Making friends as an adult may be more of a challenge than it was in your youth, but it's not impossible. By intentionally spending more time with people in your new church, you can form lasting bonds.

Category: Religion

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