The Makinde family had the opportunity to relocate to a neighboring West African country, Ghana. As every blessing has its challenges, it took some months to settle in at work, find a school for their kids, obtain a residence permit, work permit, accommodation, hospital and of course a place of worship. So, they were on the lookout for a church. Some factors were considered: proximity to their new home and whether or not they should settle for a church which had a physical presence in Nigeria or just worship at an unfamiliar church.
Finally, they decided to attend one of the largest and fastest growing churches in the city of Accra. They attended the first service which commenced at 7:30am. They enjoyed every aspect of the service, but they did not bother to stand for recognition as new attendees after the service, because they felt it was unnecessary. However, they decided to make it a date the following Sunday. Subsequently, they continued to worship at the church. But sadly, they were yet to make any friends. And at the end of each service, they humbly picked their kids, walked down to the car park, and zoomed off.
Several months after acclimatizing to the city, one Sunday morning after the service, a gentleman tapped the husband’s shoulder. As he turned around, the man realized he was mistaken. He had thought Mr. Makinde was someone else. He apologized and walked away, leaving a bewildered Mr. Makinde. Mrs. Makinde, who had become restive over the past weeks, then said to her husband, “I wonder when we will be known in this church, and get to talk with other church members”.
We can all relate to the Makinde family story. Joining a new church, especially a big one, can foster feelings of loneliness and being lost in the crowd. If enough care is not taken, a new member with no human relations might reconsider regular attendance. You may wonder if this is a cogent reason for irregular attendance, but the truth is most humans are social beings and we all long for connection. No wonder new attendees are always welcomed with love and warmth so they feel a sense of congeniality.
As a new attendee or an old attendee who is yet to connect and make friends, there is hope for you. It’s really not too late or too early to make new friends in church. And here are some tips that can be useful:
- Stand up for recognition as a new attendee: This is an opportunity to be welcomed to the church officially. You will be able to fill in your details with the church and meet with other new attendees at the welcome reception, which usually serves as an opportunity to break the ice and mingle with others.
- Attend the membership classes and other classes organized by the church: These are opportunities to know more about the church and meet more people.
- Engage in volunteering: The aim is to lend a helping hand to others, which puts you in a unique position to meet potential friends in a positive space. You can offer to serve at a conference, summit or program organized by the church. You will meet new people, exchange pleasantries and strike up conversations through which meaningful relationships can be built, and they can lead to great friendships.
- Join a small group: A small group is an avenue where the church gets to know its members in a more intimate way. Find a small group which you can identify with based on either your interests, location or both. After the meetings, there will usually be some time to unwind and socialize. You will definitely find one or two people you can relate with right there.
- Join a unit: This helps you to serve and while contributing your quota to the growth of the church, you get to meet people doing the same. Friendships often kick off over shared experiences. This is ideal because there is common ground to start conversations to relate with people you do ministry together.
- Get involved in activities such as mass evangelism: At the meeting points, you’ll get to meet other church members and you can ask for guidance on evangelism, other topics and strike a conversation through this.
- Be friendly: One must have a friendly attitude to make friends. The first step to being friendly is often saying a simple “hello”. A couple of opportunities to say this abound before, during or after the services. Don’t take the moment to ask your neighbor how their week was for granted. Ask genuinely, and with a smile.
Know that friendship requires time and effort; it does have an element of trial and error and it might not happen right away or with the first people you get to meet. However, if you keep attempting to make new friends in the church, eventually you will find the right people and build friendships.
Remember though, the main reason for joining a church should not be to make new friends, but it helps to make and have friends. So, be receptive to the message and over time, with some effort, you will attract new friends.
By: Bolutife Ore-Dawodu