Making Friends in Church:
What Can I Do?

Befriending gives us the opportunity to grow personally and spiritually.

This is Part 3 of a three-part series on Forging Friendships in the Faith.

Eliza Tan

Making Friends in Church: What Can I Do?

Befriending gives us the opportunity to grow personally and spiritually.

This is Part 3 of a three-part series on Forging Friendships in the Faith.

Eliza Tan

How often do you meet your friends? Consider this: We meet our churchmates at least once a week, which is probably a lot more often than we might see our closest friends. And since we all share a common faith, the church would be a great place to share lives and make friends. 

Yet, some of us find it difficult to befriend others, either because we’re too rushed, we fear being vulnerable, or we feel no one wants to listen to us—among many other reasons (see part 1 of series, Why Making Friends in Church Is So Hard (but So Important)).

While these hindrances are not easy to overcome, learning to navigate them as we seek to make friends in church can offer us opportunities for personal and spiritual growth. Consider how you can make friends and be a friend to others as you . . .

. . . Commit Yourself to Christlikeness

The Bible’s descriptions of friendship show that a true friend is faithful, trustworthy, encouraging, and prepared to point out and correct wrongdoing. These are the virtues we are to look out for in friends, and to cultivate in ourselves as well. (See part 2 of our series, How to Be a Friend, According to the Bible

All these traits are embodied in our Lord Jesus Christ, the epitome of a true friend. Becoming a friend, then, is part of becoming like Christ.

Jesus taught us that “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). 

Not all of us are called to give up our physical lives for our friends, but we can all learn to die to our preferences on how to be a friend. This could mean denying our personal inclinations to be overly private, or our reluctance to put effort into building up a friendship.

“Everyone says they want community and friendship, but when that means accountability and commitment, people run the other way,” theologian and author Timothy Keller has noted. 

But, while dying to ourselves to cultivate deeper friendships can be frightening, Christ’s love can enable us to overcome our fears. 

Allowing Jesus to transform us can, for example, make us better listeners. Good listening stems from humility: if we learn to display the mindset of Christ and put others’ interests above our own (Philippians 2:3-5), we will find ourselves more genuinely interested in others when they share, more keen to ask questions, and less likely to make assumptions or make judgments as others speak.

American author Adele Ahlberg Calhoun shared an exercise that can help us discover how we can grow to be a better spiritual friend to others. Spiritual friendships are friendships that are rooted in God and share a common aim of helping each other grow in their faith, in their walk with God, and in Christlikeness.

First, list the characteristics of a spiritual friend in one column, and the characteristics of yourself as a friend in another. 

Second, reflect on the two lists and ask yourself why you might be averse to certain biblical instructions. For example, you may be afraid of pointing out a friend’s weakness (Proverbs 27:6) lest you appear unkind or even judgmental. But, as you check your heart that your words will come from a place of love and desire to help your friend grow in Christlikeness, you can also learn to find the place and time to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).

In what areas can you grow as a spiritual friend?

In what aspects do you need to deny yourself to be a better spiritual friend?

How can you learn to be a good listener?

. . . Know Your Limits and Resources

Demands for our time and energy can be especially heavy in some seasons of our lives, making it harder to reach out to others or to spend time with friends. For example, when a new child arrives, when we start a new job, or are caring for a family member. To be a friend or to have one, we need to know our limitations—and be ready to adjust our lives where needed. 

For the mother of several young and active children, it may mean arranging to meet her friends one weekend afternoon every month or two. For a busy professional, it may mean calling a friend to chat on the phone when there’s not enough time to meet face-to-face. For someone emotionally sapped by family issues and work, it may mean being brave enough to say: “Sorry, I’m too exhausted by work to meet this week. Can we meet next month?”

It would also help to know what kind of friends we need or can be to others—or can’t be. It is natural to have different friends for the hand, head, heart, and soul. Some may be great companions in serving and doing things together, while others are better at invigorating us with intellectual discussions. Some may be good at listening to us and validating our feelings, while others may excel at ministering to our inner being and reminding us of our identity in Christ.

In this season of life, what resources are you willing to commit to be a better friend?

Who are your friends of the hand, head, heart, and soul? What kinds of friends do you need more of?

What kind of friend are you to others? How can you be more of a friend in hand, head, heart, and soul?

. . . Learn to Be Vulnerable

Like-mindedness can help people click and bond. In his book, The Four Loves, writer C. S. Lewis notes: “Friendship arises out of mere Companionship when two or more of the companions discover that they have in common some insight or interest or even taste which the others do not share and which, till that moment, each believed to be his own unique treasure (or burden). The typical expression of opening Friendship would be something like, ‘What? You too? I thought I was the only one.’” 

But how can we find someone who is like-minded unless we are first ready to reveal ourselves? As sociologists and psychologists have pointed out, the reciprocal sharing of personal information can foster closeness. 

This can be a challenge for those of us who are so private or independent that others won’t know when we need help. A church mate once told me that when she first knew me, I appeared to be aloof and guarded. I had done this out of self-protection, but it made me seem unapproachable and cold. And because I hardly talked about my struggles, she thought that my walk with God was stable. It was only after she had known me for a few years, that she realised otherwise. It took years for me to learn how to open up and share the ups and downs of my life with friends in church. 

The apostle Paul sets a good example for us to follow in this regard. He was willing to expose his vulnerability, asking the churches to intercede for his ministry and mission (2 Thessalonians 3:1; Romans 15:30; Colossians 4:3–4).

Do you struggle with self-disclosure? Why? 

In times of crisis, do you turn to someone for help, or wait until it is over before talking to someone? What does this tell you about yourself? 

How can you be more open and vulnerable in your friendships?

. . . Be That Friend

Jesus’ second commandment is to love our neighbour as ourselves. But who is our neighbour? When an expert of the law asked Him this question, our Lord gave us the parable of the Good Samaritan, and told us: Be like the Samaritan. Be that neighbour (Luke 10:25–37). 

If we’re asking the question, “Who is my friend?”, then perhaps the challenge for us is: be that friend. 

Be that friend who not only prays for our friends, but also asks for prayers. 

Be that friend who knows others well enough to support, encourage, and speak the Word of God to them. 

Be that friend who understands that friendship is a two-way street, where mutual commitment and connection with fellow pilgrims can strengthen our relationship with God as we journey with Him and one another.

How to Be a Friend, According to the Bible

Why Making Friends in Church Is So Hard (but So Important)

Eliza Tan is known by many names, but her favourite is 'My beloved child'. Though she eats to live rather than lives to eat, she still enjoys her food and wholeheartedly agrees with Ecclesiastes 3:13, "That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God."

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