Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Making friends, part two

On Monday, I wrote about some initiatives newcomers can take to get to know people at church. Today I’d like to focus on those of us who are established in our congregations. How can we welcome new people? Here are a few ideas:

1. Count your blessings
Being established is a blessing beyond compare. To recognize people and to be recognized is a gift; even though I have lots of great relationships now, I remember what it was like to be unknown. Not fun. Put yourself in a new person’s shoes: how would you feel walking into a room where you didn’t know a soul? Think about that for a millisecond and you won’t be able to stop yourself from welcoming a stranger. 

2. Look around
One thing I do each Sunday morning is scan the pews for anyone I don’t recognize. Could be they’ve been attending our church longer than I have, but if I don’t know them, I’m talking to them. Simply introducing yourself really can make a new person feel welcomed. So look around; if you see a new face, don’t hesitate to say hi. And pray for the Lord to open your eyes to the new people around you.

3. Get that number – and use it
When I was new, many ladies asked for my contact information and then actually contacted me. They didn’t all invite me to get coffee or to dinner; often they simply called to say, “Hi.” Calling someone doesn’t mean you’re committed to being BFF’s and having her over for dinner every Sunday. It’s okay to simply check in to say hello.

4. Invitation maybe?
Yes, it is okay to just call to say hi, but consider inviting her to something. Could be a Bible study you attend, or even to meet you at church next week to sit together. What may feel like a small gesture to you will feel like the world to her. Trust me on this one.

5. Make space
The reason I have the friends I do today is because they made room for me. They welcomed me into their world: they invited me to coffee, they invited my family to dinner and they invited my kids to play with their kids. I can’t think of a single one of these women who didn’t already have a dance card full of friends, but they made room for one more. I will be forever grateful for that kindness. I want to emulate that kindness now when I meet new folks.

Saying hello to someone doesn’t mean you’re automatically going to be best buds. Personality, common goals and personal interests come into play. But you never know if you might have a new friend sitting next to you if you don’t introduce yourself. And you never know how far a simple, “Hello,” can go.