We all have our special people. I have them, you have them. Special friends make you feel good. Spending time with them feels comfortable. They “get” you. And they are such an incredible blessing. But that’s for another blog post.
But what I need to hear more (and perhaps you do too!) is that we need to break out of our clique.
That’s right. You heard me.
Don’t try to talk us out of this. Yes, by seeking out our friends at church, we’re “ministering” to them. We are checking up on how they’re doing and talking about what we’ve been praying about for them. But…
Weren’t we meeting up with that girlfriend for lunch tomorrow? Didn’t we already have dinner plans later this week? Won’t we text this afternoon once the kids are down for their nap?
And by greeting only our friends, don’t we sometimes miss that visitor? We miss that lonely person, just getting up the guts to come over and talk to you–when BAM!–you have already launched into a lively, exclusive conversation with your friend.
Yes, we should definitely be greeting and hugging our friends, but I think that’s easy to do. What’s hard is going up to someone you don’t know. It’s hard to approach a little old lady or a shy teen or a single mom with a herd of kiddos. Maybe they’ve been to church before, or maybe this is the first time in a long time.
And we all know we should be doing more of it. But it’s easy to just say, “That’s not my talent,” or “I’m not so good at that.”
You know what fixes that?
Practice. Patience. A lot of prayer. You’re never going to be “good” at talking to new people until you talk to a new person. You won’t ever know how to introduce yourself until you try it out.
Sound goofy? It’s not. Especially when you are that new person. That visitor. That girl sitting in a pew wondering, “Was this really worth it? Should I really come back to church–to God?”
So here are some things that help me. Maybe they will help you too.
Pray about it
Ask God to grant you the courage to introduce yourself to someone new (maybe a visitor or maybe just someone who needs some encouragement). Ask Him to help you see with His eyes. To send you someone that you can minister to.
Before you go to a worship service, Bible class, or fellowship, think about what your goal is. You don’t have to climb Mount Everest at first (e.g. Today, while dealing with my own three kids, I plan to meet every visitor who came to church today. Um, maybe not!).
Instead, you might think that you will get to know one visitor really well and sit with them. Or if there’s not a visitor, think of someone who might like some encouragement, perhaps a widow or a single person. Perhaps someone who’s been through a recent tragedy or someone who’s just recommitted their life to the Lord.
I’m not always so good at thinking on my feet, especially while chasing after my own little man. Somehow, when I have already decided on meeting or encouraging that person, it’s easier to actually do it when I get there.
Be patient with yourself. You may have a colossal failure and call someone by an entirely wrong name. Or you might mistake them for a visitor when they’ve been attending for months (or years). That’s okay. It’s part of the learning curve. And it will make for a hysterically funny story at lunch (I know from experience!).
Be patient with those you reach out to. Sometimes, they’re painfully shy or sad or withdrawn. Sometimes it feels like you’re pulling teeth trying to get them to tell you anything about themselves. That’s okay too. You’ve done your part–and surprisingly, although you may have felt it didn’t go well, that person might go home and be really encouraged that someone took the time to talk with them.
You may not be super outgoing. Just pick one person to get to know. Focus on that one. Write her a card. Send her texts. Ask how you could pray for her.
Or you may be a social butterfly. Make it your goal to meet and greet visitors. Maybe you could sign up to be a lobby monitor or someone who helps guide people to Bible class. Or talk to your preacher and see if you can be in charge of sending cards to visitors.
Wherever you are personality-wise on that spectrum, don’t give up. Sometimes approaching those we don’t know as well isn’t just for their good. It’s also for ours. It makes us grow and helps us develop a Christ-like heart. It gives us an opportunity to place ourselves in someone else’s shoes.
So this Sunday, or whenever you meet together with others in service and worship to God, reach out. Break out of that clique. You might discover a new avenue of service. Or you just might have begun a friendship greater than you’d ever expected.