How to Make Friends at Church

It’s tough to plunge into a new congregation. Here’s how to get your head above water.

Once, a man decided to attend religious services while visiting a new town. He went to the meeting location and made a bunch of new friends, just like that.

The man in question was the apostle Paul, and we learn this story of his visit to Philippi, including that friendly Sabbath, from Acts 16. Unfortunately, most of us aren’t like Paul in multiple key respects, so perhaps the story should be accompanied by a warning: results not typical. For most of us, making friends in a new church is hard.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot over the past year because, last July, my family moved from Georgia to Ohio for my husband’s job. It was a difficult move; we have way too many books, it turns out, and they’re heavy. But far worse than shifting the books was leaving behind so many people we’ve known and loved for years—friends at church chief among them.

Leaving is only part of the trouble, however, and finding a new church isn’t the end of it either. Once you’ve settled on a local congregation, just how do you make friends?

It’s important to mention at this point that my husband and I, both socially awkward academics, are not as bold as Paul and have zero skill in small talk. I’m plenty familiar with the lives and writings of people who’ve been dead for two millennia or longer but often find living people rather harder to understand. And yet, being in community with them is a requirement of our faith (Heb. 10:25). God created us for community with himself and other believers, and church community is both a scene and source of spiritual growth. It’s also—eventually—lots of fun, even for the awkward like us.

The question, then, …

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