Being a security blanket

When I first came to my current church I knew one person, who's in my Bible study at uni, and I met his wife when I came to the church. They've been really great at looking after me, being extremely generous with their time, having me over to meals and introducing me to various people at the church. (Oh yes, AND they got me completely hooked on The West Wing, but that's another story!) I love them dearly for a number of reasons, but I've only recently realised what a difference it has made to the way I feel about the church, and how quickly it helped me settle in and feel at home.

We recently had a couple leave our Bible study because they're looking for a new church. They've been at the church for a year but I don't think they've ever really felt part of the place. I know how hard it is to come to a new church, and it led me to wondering why I had so little trouble coming to this church. Is the congregation actually that much friendlier than other churches I've attended? Well, they're certainly very friendly and loving, but I doubt they're that much friendlier than many other churches, and I'm sure there are still plenty of lonely people in the congregation who think it's not a friendly church. There are three congregations and they're all quite large so it's very easy for people to slip between the cracks. No, I think the difference for me is that I quickly became friends with this one couple at church. This was helpful in several ways - firstly, I knew there were at least two people who would smile and be friendly to me, which makes a big difference in that awkward, 'hanging around drinking a cup of tea on my own and trying not to look pathetic and needy' period after the service - they tended to look out for me... and notice when I was looking a little pathetic and needy! Secondly, they were very good at introducing me to different people, hanging around briefly to join in the conversation and then leaving me on my own to continue chatting (once it was clear I wasn't going to cry because they'd left). Lastly, just knowing that I had one set of friends gave me confidence to branch out on my own and initiate conversations with other people - because I knew that if it was a disaster, I still had my 'security blanket' of friends to fall back upon.

This has made me think differently about the way I approach new people, particularly if it's a person on their own. I'm usually okay at having a brief conversation, and at introducing new people to other people. I think, though, that it may be more helpful to invest a bit more time with one person, rather than trying to meet all the new people at once. It doesn't mean we have to become best buddies with a new person every month - I have been blessed by this couple becoming my good friends but that's certainly not guaranteed - but I do think it's a good idea to make the effort to look after a new person for a month or two, or however long it takes them to find their feet. I've heard so many people say "I wouldn't have stayed at the church if so-and-so hadn't made a point of talking with me every week." It's not a matter of hand-holding, it's a matter of showing love and letting people gain confidence and feel at home slowly. Moving to a new church, and especially a large church, is very daunting and having a friendly face or two on whom you can rely to remember you each week makes a massive difference.


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