You know that feeling you get when you walk into the room for the first time, and you don’t know anyone. I’m talking, one hundred percent, flying solo, a sea of faces, not one is familiar, and your stomach feels like it’s about to fall out of your body.
I don’t care whether you are an extrovert, introvert, or ambivert (a combo of both), outgoing or shy, almost everybody will have some feelings of anxiety or even panic.
If you have found yourself in a new church (new community, new school, new anything), you are familiar with this feeling. When faced with this pit in your stomach, what did you do? Did you run out of the room, never to return, or did you push through those uncomfortable feelings?
The thought of starting at a new church can be a daunting task. Change can be hard. Change can also be a beautiful thing. What wonderful opportunities and connections are waiting for you? What does God have in store?
Friendships aren’t essential to your faith or even church; however, I have found that when you have personal connections, you are more committed to attending and growing together (not a fact, just my opinion).
In fact, Hebrews 10:24-25 encourages,
"And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
So let’s get back to where we started, walking into a room full of strangers. If you are anything like me, sometimes you just need a good pep talk.
Lately, when I am about to do something I am feeling nervous about, besides prayer, I will usually send a text message for some encouragement to my husband or one of my friends.
A bestie textie can come through in a pinch and give me that final push to do that hard thing. The encouragement I am looking for isn’t necessarily life changing. It’s usually pretty basic, but it is the kind of stuff that I need to hear one last time before stepping outside of my comfort zone.
Baby steps. If you get this reference to What About Bob, let’s just give each other virtual a high five right now.
1. Take the initiative to say hello to someone.
Believe it or not, most people are as reluctant as you to make the first move to meet someone. People tend to wait for others to initiate conversation. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised to see how receptive the woman in front of you is to meeting you.
2. Get out of your head!
Once you have made a commitment to start attending a new church, it may be hard to initially feel connected. That’s okay and normal. It takes time to build relationships but don’t get stuck in your head!
If you find yourself sitting in your pew or walking out after church feeling like everybody knows each other and looks like one big happy family, know that all it takes is one simple hello to break the ice!
3. Sit in different places around the church then find a comfy spot and plant some roots.
This one may sound simple and silly, but bear with me. There is a reason people make jokes about claiming their seats at church!
People tend to sit in the same spots, so chances are you will start recognizing faces if you attend the same service each week. This will breed a sense of familiarity and community even if all you do is say good morning each time!
Remember though, this doesn’t mean you have to sit there forever! You can change things up. This is just a simple way to comfortably build a connection over time. And don’t worry about “taking” someone’s seat. Church isn’t about your seat!
4. Think outside the box of ways you can get involved.
There are so many little jobs that happen around church in addition to the big things that we see on Sunday.
Whether your church is big or small, leaders may need help folding bulletins, cleaning up before or after events, landscaping, planning events, hosting funerals, and more. Sure, some churches may hire folks for these tasks, but it never hurts to ask and volunteer your time.
5. Work on a mission project or committee.
What are you passionate about? Find something where you can use your gifts and strengths. Are you great with kids? You may find a place to serve in the nursery area. Are you a great cook? Maybe you help with a Wednesday night dinner, meal ministries. You can even suggest something new.
6. Join a Sunday school class or small group.
There is no better way to get to know people than through a small group setting. In addition to delving deeper into Scripture, you can get to know someone’s heart as you discuss what you’re learning. Sunday school classes and small groups are a more relaxed atmosphere to really get to know people.
7. Introduce yourself to the pastor.
This is probably the most overlooked way to get connected! Even if you met the pastor when you first visited the church, reintroduce yourself and let him know you are attending regularly now. He can be a great resource for getting plugged in.
Tell him a little about yourself, where you are from, what you do, what you hope to find in a church. Ask him to introduce you to others who might have similar backgrounds or interests. Most pastors serve as an excellent tour guide to finding the perfect fit for new families. Don’t worry, they won’t be keeping track if you are there every Sunday once they know you. They have too much on their plates!
If this feels a little intimidating, you can always introduce yourself to those involved in other areas such as leadership, worship, greeters, ushers, or deacons!
8. Do what works for you.
You may be happy simply attending on Sundays for a while, worshiping without making too much of a commitment. After a while though, you may feel like you want to develop friendships with your fellow parishioners.
Don’t feel like you have to be part of every mission project, choir, women’s group, or book study that is offered. I encourage you to try out all your new church has to offer, but find what speaks to you!
God wants us to be in community with other believers. My faith is strengthened, encouraged, and even challenged thanks to the strong friendships I have formed with the women in my church.
Worshiping together on Sunday, digging deeper into scripture through our Bible study, serving in our community together, or simply having coffee and talking about our everyday lives are just some of the ways my life has been enriched through church.
While you may long for relationships, you may also hesitate pulling your car into the parking lot Sunday morning. The thought of meeting a bunch of new people, signing up for different meetings, and attending events can be overwhelming and exhausting.
Start by just showing up. Yep, that’s it. Just show up. God will do the rest. If the above, super simple tips give you the pep talk you need to do more, then God Speed!
Ok, friend. You got this. This is your text encouraging you that new friendships, connections, blessings, and more are waiting for you at church.