I have always been one up for adventure and for trying new outdoor activities. One of the most thrilling things I’ve done is to look over a tall cliff’s edge or glance behind me while climbing a mountain face, and just jumping off. Even when I’m losing my balance or releasing my hold on what kept me steady, I would freefall for that split second. But after a while, I would feel safe again knowing that there were harnesses wrapped around my waist and legs while hooked to a secure line.
Having lived overseas for a few years, moving back to the Philippines and transitioning to a new church community during the pandemic was just that—a moment of freefall. I had tried to join other church communities before, but failed to form deep connections.
This time, I was again entering a new community where everyone seemed to already know one another. I was very uncertain about whether I could reach the level of closeness the church members already had amongst themselves.
But my longing to deepen my faith with other believers far outweighed the awkwardness and anxiety that I felt as a newcomer.
I hoped that because I took a leap of faith, someone would catch me. After all, I was holding on to God’s truth in Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 (NLT): “Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.”
Despite the initial feeling of falling into the deep end, I eventually was “caught” by a group of people who took me in as their own. It wasn’t easy, considering that most of our communication happened online due to the pandemic, but there were three major factors that helped me build these deep connections.
1. Involvement in multiple ways.
Building relationships is more than attending church services weekly. Joining a church community offers many events throughout the week where it challenges you to grow with one another. Some of the events I joined included game nights, watch parties, and candid conversations. Joining different activities helps with finding out what you have in common with one another, and joining different events makes it easier to recognize you in a large group of people. Someone is bound to notice and strike up a conversation with you.
You can go one step further by volunteering. I credit a large part of my integration to actively being part of the community—from joining a prayer huddle, leading a small group, to even hosting online.
I know it can be scary to open up, but go into it with the mindset of “wanting it”—want to be involved, want to seek fellow believers, want to be part of a family. Because over time, you’ll definitely find the right people to grow with.
2. One-on-one time with people you journey with.
Nowadays, more people are willing to open up because we all want a genuine connection. We all want someone to talk to because the pandemic pushed us into isolation, whether we liked it or not.
The past two years saw us leverage technology to connect with one another. Despite not meeting many people face-to-face, I was able to develop genuine connections with different members of the community. We talked about life and the Word of God through text messages or video calls.
I found that many of my deeper connections forged during the pandemic were a result of consistent calls to check up on friends, to share about my life, and to be open. One-on-one calls are great icebreakers to learn about people.
What I appreciated the most about these intimate conversations was that they were not only about checking up on one another but holding each other accountable to the teachings of God. Proverbs 27:17 (ESV) says, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”
My conversations usually don’t have an agenda, but they would always leave my heart full and enriched. It was amazing to see how God could orchestrate such simple conversations that would end up meaning so much. Now that I am gradually meeting these friends in person, the transition feels so seamless.
3. Intentionally connecting: say “hi”.
When you’ve joined the church community for a few weeks, how about making others feel welcomed? A simple “hello” acknowledges the presence of a newcomer and helps ease their nervousness of not knowing anyone.
The people who always said “hi” to me when I joined online services or group calls made a big impact on me.
One of the things that I feared was not knowing anyone on a call. That would cause me to second-guess joining the session. But seeing familiar faces who consistently said “hi” to me eased my worries.
Wanting to feel part of a community may seem like a risk. But there is hope. Just like me, you will not stay in freefall forever.
If not now, I pray you will eventually find steady ground and your tribe in the midst of that fast-paced, scary dive into the unknown. Risk yourself in the adventure by taking a leap of faith to settle in a church community.
We’ve all been hurt in relationships at some point. And because of relational hurts, our tendency is to cut off connections, withdraw from people, and try to heal in isolation. But is this really the most effective way? How can we truly heal from relational hurts?
In this article, a zoomer (someone from Generation Z) shares some things he learned from his dad when he was still learning to bike. These biking lessons became life lessons that helped him pursue God’s calling no matter what new experiences come his way.