Christian community

Forming Relationships with New Christians

friends

(This article is part of the series “Building GenNext.” You can read the previous post by clicking here.)

The young man sat statue-like in the pew, observing the various chattering knots of people. There were hugs exchanged, hands waving, and smiling faces. Three weeks had elapsed since he was baptized. He was supposed to be “part” of this group now, and yet he still felt like an outsider.

The first week, there had been an outpouring of congratulations, exuberance and introductions. He definitely didn’t know more than a handful of names yet. As the weeks had trickled by, he was just… well… he was just there. The sermons were still excellent, but the preacher assumed that everyone in the audience knew all this stuff. He shook his head with a small chuckle. He still couldn’t find books like—what was it—Habakkuk? Well, it was something like that. The Bible classes were hard to keep up with too. A lot of the discussion was over his head. Maybe his friends at college were right. Maybe this was a joke. It was as if his conversion was the end-goal and now these Christians didn’t care if he was here or gone.

He shifted uneasily in his seat, debating whether he should slip out before services started or if he should stay and worship. His roommates had been planning a day at the beach. They would certainly still be there. He was certain that God wanted Him to worship, but his resolve weakened with the mounting sense of ignorance and isolation.


The choice to become a Christian is not an end, but rather a beginning.

Unfortunately, the tendency is to treat it like the finish line instead of the first step.

When a new Christian becomes part of the body of Christ, we need to do more than smile and shake hands with them on Sunday morning. That is not a relationship, it is an acquaintanceship. As with young children, relationships are no guarantee that a new Christian will remain in the church, but a lack of meaningful relationships will almost certainly lead to their exit.

How do we build relationships with new Christians?

Begin with hospitality.

Whether it’s a meal in your home, going out for a cup of coffee, or eating out at a restaurant—invite them to spend time with you, on your dime. Eating out or enjoying a cup of joe is a great chance to visit one-on-one without the pressure of services about to start or people trying to leave. Ask questions about their job, their hobbies, etcetera and give them the opportunity to learn about you as well.

Bring others to meet the new person

I am an introvert by nature. It is not always easy to walk up to someone I don’t know an introduce myself. I remember once or twice walking up to someone and saying hello and they kept looking down at the ground like they were hoping I’d just go away. I got a lot of one-word or three-word answers to my questions and I could tell they simply wanted me to vanish. I would lamely say, “It was great to meet you” and slip back to my seat feeling wrong-footed. It would take weeks before I could pluck up the courage to try something like that again.

If you are one of those amazing extrovert people, put your talent to use. Ask that new person to come meet “this great person over here” (who’s probably an introvert) or bring some new people to meet them. Whenever I’ve been new to a group, it has been so helpful to have someone do this for me. It makes me feel as if I have value to that person and also connects me with more people in the group.

Once you have spent time with the new person over coffee or a meal, invite them again, but this time with one or two people who may have common interests with that individual. In our story above, did you notice how isolated that young man felt? He still had his worldly friends who thought he was a fool for going to church. We are silly to think that Satan will not try to use those old relationships to yank that new child out of the church. We don’t want new Christians to leave their old relationships, because those relationships may lead to others knowing Christ. However, we need to help them establish strong new relationships with godly men and women who will influence this new child of God to make good choices and know the Lord more fully.

Invite them to other functions.

Invite them to a game night, a bonfire at the beach, a potluck, or your kid’s basketball game. Maybe you both play golf or share an interest in books. They may turn you down quite a bit. You’ll have to use some wisdom here as to whether to be persistent. The goal is to engage them with more people than yourself and make them feel like family (because they are now part of the family of Christ!). Maybe you connect with this person really well, maybe you don’t, but new Christians will not likely build relationships with other Christians by accident. Be the type of person who provides an environment for friendships to grow.


Are you ready to engage the new Christians within your church by building true friendships?

What have you found to be effective in helping new Christians feel welcomed into the family of Christ?

 

 

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30 thoughts on “Forming Relationships with New Christians

  1. This is great advice to help new Christians integrate into their congregations – also very valuable to help “old” Christians who still feel on the edges of their congregations to get integrated as well! (I find that if you don’t have children, that cuts you off from a lot of the “normal” church integration and makes it more difficult to meet people organically).

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I am so thankful for your comment. It is very easy for people who don’t fit into the common groups of single or married with kids to get left on the fringe. I plan on discussing this in my next post, and I’m glad you reminded me about couples without kids, because that is unfortunately true.

      While I do believe that people should try to get involved any way they can it is helpful when people fill the role of “Barnabas,” taking people alongside and making them feel welcome and involved. 😀

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Even as a believer it’s hard to get involved in a church when you are new. I experienced that this past summer. The church was great, but as a newbie it was hard to get involved even with the million activities they had going on (it was a young church mostly ages 20-25 all my children’s age). I kept on going because I needed to be in a church. It’s easy to slip through the cracks when there is no connection with the people of a church.

    I think you’ve hit a very valuable point here on reaching out within the church. Sometimes we are looking for the down and out by the dumpsters and the bars, but we forget the down and out within the four walls of the church.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I like that: “sometimes we forget the down and out within the four walls of our church.” It’s true and unfortunate.

      I have been a member at 6 different congregations over the years. There were some in which it was easy to feel at home and others in which I felt on the fringe. I have always been immensely grateful to people who open their doors and hearts to me so I can be part of the family in that place. 😊

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s all a lesson in community and the true family of Christ. Get connected and keep the connection going. One body united strong!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Well said, ELIHU.

    It’s easy to look out for friends you already share common interests with, it’s a sign of maturity to reach-out to others you don’t know and extended friendship to them.

    Great read, God bless!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I like the way you said that. It is truly a sign of maturity, and we are all supposed to grow in that regard. Thank you for taking the time to read & comment. God bless!

      Like

  4. Nice job, friend. You know we often think we are out to make converts. That’s the Holy Spirit’s job. We are commanded to make disciples! Doing that, however, is a substantial investment for a person, and often we don’t want to make the investment. I truly believe every person should take on one or two others as a personal project at any given time. No more, because it takes so much time. A man in our church did that for me, and it is still going on 8 years later, and he is still doing it. Long term project LOL. I have done the same for another man, and will probably be in that role until one of us leaves or dies. Likewise my wife with a younger woman.

    Great Post.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I feel like a sham… you’re so kind to thank for something so little! 🙂 I can only imagine the time it takes to go and thank everyone personally! (I have to move the reblog to tomorrow, but your words will be heard! I promise. 🙂 )

        I think a lot of people have that heart. 🙂 Somewhere between the motivation and action, however, that strange hesitation sets in. It’s easy to think about your time (a high-commodity) and value that over a stranger. Or doubt your own ability to be a good enough friend for that person. Someone Else will handle the opportunity maybe.

        But I’ve been waiting for that Someone Else at my new church for six months. 🙂 I’m glad you wrote that. It made me think that I need to be that person for other new members like me. 🙂
        I hope you have a wonderful day!
        Christie

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I know what you mean. At the last few places I’ve been part of (I’ve had to relocate our family a few times), I always felt like I was on the outside waiting for someone to draw me in. At the last place, I began to realize that God wanted me to learn that He is always enough. Relationships are not about serving me, but serving others. It doesn’t matter if I’m their favorite friend; what matters is showing love for others.

        We recently moved to Texas and I’ve had to start all over again. I’m just doing what I can to reach out—but I know I could do more. It makes a difference though when seek out rather than wait to be sought.

        Like

  5. Stumbled upon this post of yours, and I couldn’t agree more with this post! In our own youth community, we have had an issue about “clique-ishness” which is about people who only stuck to their old Christian friends and never opening up nor being accommodating enough for newly converted Christians. It took some serious rebuking from our youth coordinator for the culture to change. Thankfully, the climate has continued to grow in being more welcoming with everyone. Your post is a wonderful and healthy reminder to be Christ-like in building relationships with people in the Christian family. Bless you! ☺

    Like

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