24-year-old Rick is a young man full of life running around town catching up with his buddies. He works full time 5 days a week. He is old enough now to have seen life’s up and downs and the consequences of the bad decisions others make. He has also learned from a few of his own mistakes. He realizes it’s time to start sorting himself out. But he knows he can’t do that by himself. So Rick has walked into a charity shop to sign up as a volunteer each Monday.
Rick rides a motorbike and each time he comes into the shop with his helmet in his hand to start his shift. He is still getting used to the routine but likes the vibe of this place. It’s got a therapeutic feel about it. No one is perfect there. Everyone has a story to tell about their journey in life. But all the people are kind and friendly as they share their tale on the outside bench. Rick is shy but he fits in. He is starting to see where life’s journey is at for him and others in his immediate circle.
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Slowly Rick is opening up a bit in those outside bench conversations as he starts to unpack for himself what has been troubling him. He is a good young man who has a lot of practical values. But he has been hanging around with the bad crowd and that is bothering him. It’s actually why he is here at the charity shop to get in with a good bunch of people. It’s with a group like this that Rick can start sorting himself out.
Rick has never darkened the door of a church, nor have many in his generation. This church-based charity shop is the closest he has ever come to be in a spiritual place. Occasionally though someone like Rick will bravely step in through the front door of a church, full of nerves and greatly in need to sort themselves out with a supportive group of loving people. The trouble is many churchgoers are not sure where to start, what to say and how to best help. Here are a few ideas to get underway.
- Be a Friend.
Friendship starts with getting to understand and respect someone new. It extends the offer of relationship in being part of someone else’s life. Unconditional acceptance is what people in need of change crave. When meeting someone new don’t instantly try to change them or convince them of the need to change. Being a friend takes a commitment of time and opening yourself up to accept another person into your life as they are. Accepting a friend just as they are shows you are genuine in your offer of friendship.
- Forget the “Churchiosity.”
All groups including churches develop their own language and culture. These elements can be confusing and off-putting to people from outside the group. Try using everyday language in communicating and avoid churchiosity (religious jargon). Too often church language scares newcomers off. Do be real and answer questions honestly about your faith using Christian terms rather than in house church denomination language. When prompted by God share what impact the life and teachings of Jesus have had on your life.
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“ What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us.” 1 Corinthians 2:12 NIV
- Find Matters in Common.
New friends look for matters they share in common. You might be old they might be young but there is a glue that holds your new relationship together. Sometimes it takes a while to find out what makes another person tick. It can be hard work finding a common element. But when you find it there is a strong foundation to build upon. Perseverance pays off when searching for a ray of hope to build a friendship bond.
- Share a meal.
One of the easiest settings to get to know someone and provide a welcoming space is to share a meal. When getting to know someone new find out what their favorite foods are. You could find a place to meet where this food is available and have a meal together. Alternatively, try making a meal of this food at your home to share with your new friend as an invited guest. You might even include it as a regular part of your church potluck foods.
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- Catch up doing something great together.
Informal catch-ups build relationships especially when you get to share something great together. Whether it be visiting a place together, playing a game of tennis, sharing a ride or movie, find out the best way to engage in an enjoyable time together. Often it’s the thought that counts to add quality to a shared experience.
- Share your life journey bit-by-bit.
Newcomers don’t like to feel they are being interrogated. Sharing conversation is a two-way street. Start sharing a bit about your life in bite-sized pieces of information that help build a picture of your life. Each time you meet share a little more about yourself and encourage a friendly exchange of information and ideas.
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- Introduce your new friend to others.
Some of the most useful people you will ever meet are those that connect you to someone else who you were meant to somehow meet. It’s as if this go-between person has been sent on a special mission to join two other hearts and minds together. Realize you won’t always be the best person to click with every newcomer. Finding someone who has a lot more in common can often give a good setting for a newcomer seeking to sort themselves out.
- Find a path forward.
Simply listening to someone else describe what is troubling them can be a relief for many. Sharing the burden builds camaraderie. But providing an alternate path forward from a Godly principled basis can open a way forward previously unknown. A spirit-led discernment of Scripture, through prayerful guidance, models a Christian approach to decision making.
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- Be a helping hand.
Nothing speaks louder in your commitment to someone then being there for them when they need it the most. A simple offer to help someone complete a necessary task conveys your interest in being there for them. A pair of hands to help move some furniture, a listening ear to discuss a problem and a network of others to call upon makes a real difference.
- Involve in acts of service.
People like to feel needed and included. Living a life of service focuses the attention on meeting the real-life needs of those around you. Being part of a group that proactively seeks to include the newcomer and values who they are, helps them feel connected. Doing a project together helps others model the values of service, humility, and community. One of the best settings to talk and get to know someone is by being side by side helping others in need.
- Talk about the important matters of life.
Eventually, when you get to know someone new they will begin to extend trust in the relationship. Sometimes you may miss the importance of a matter shared. Be careful to reflectively listen as important matters of life are shared. Respect the sensitivity of what is shared in a trusting friendship. Simply having someone to talk over where life is at is a great relief for many people searching for answers. Offering times and places to further unpack and explore topics in a supportive environment will give hope.
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- Share words of wisdom.
Having a few principles of life wisdom to share that build a person’s self-worth and value based on Biblical promises are worth sharing. These might be verbal clues to remember, tracts to share or books of hope. A favorite text easily remembered could form the start of a promise box to be added to and drawn upon whenever troubling questions in life arise. As a new friend begins to sort out the worries in their life they will share with you what has been the most helpful. Remember this as it is likely something valuable to share again with another new person arriving at your church doorstep seeking to sort themselves out.
- Remember your new friend in prayer.
Taking key moments throughout the day to remember your new friend in prayer will make a difference. Ask them what they would like prayer support with and faithfully remember to pray for this request several times each day. When touching base with your new friend pray with them and encourage them as you journey together in helping them gain the peace that comes in sorting self out.