About two months after I started at Hope Church, I was walking out of the worship center and someone said, “Have you met ‘so and so’ yet? I think you’ll really like her.” I said that I hadn’t, but then there she was, standing in the doorway. We talked briefly and in my mind I thought, “I really want to be friends with you, but you’re so cool! You probably have tons of friends already.” Later that week I received a text from her inviting me to coffee and since then, our friendship has been blossoming.
It was in November that I wrote my first blog - EVER! I wrote about being new to Dubuque; the joys and challenges of starting over again after 21 years in the same town and how it reminded me of all the newness we have in Christ Jesus. But there is another type of newness that I’ve been rediscovering and that is being part of a new family of Christians.
I had forgotten how much courage it takes to walk into a brand new worship building, how much fortitude it takes to go up and introduce yourself to a stranger, or how much joy there is in hearing new Jesus stories from fellow believers.
Here are a few helpful hints (I hope) if you find yourself new at Hope Church like me.
1. Pray. Talk to God as you drive to church, as you get out of your car, as you walk in the building. Just keep praying. Ask Him to go before you. To give you strength. To remind you that you are His precious child and that it’s okay to be nervous; remember that He’s with you in this new place.
2. Stay for coffee and treats. Work it into your morning to plan on staying. Otherwise, it’s easy to just run out. I’ve found that there are Hope people who are looking for new people like me and want to get to know us. (I say “us” because I’m with you!) Our Roshek Campus offers after-service treats every week and Kennedy campus has them once a month.
3. Keep coming. If you feel like Hope Church is a good fit for you, then make a commitment to keep coming, even on the days that it feels easier to stay home. Sometimes those are the times that we need others the most and it might just be the time you make a connection with someone.
4. Serve. When you serve with other people, you automatically have a new friend list! It’s a simple way to get to know people. Maybe you can help greet people as they come into service or hold babies in the nursery or assist in the children’s Sunday School classrooms or help with Vacation Bible School – any of these ways will give you opportunities to get to know some really great people as you serve Jesus together.
5. Attend an event. Michael Joiner the comedian, the IF Gathering for women, St. Mark’s Movie Night or an informational meeting (like my Elementary Ministry VIP-Vision, Information and Philosophy- meeting coming up this spring! Yes, I know that was a shameless plug!). Though there are different reasons for attending one of these events, they may open the door to some new relationship starters!
6. Repeat number 3. It’s hard. I get it. But just keep trying. Sometimes you might just have to be okay walking out the doors feeling a little lonely. But remember Joshua 1:9, which says, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” He is with you at Hope Church.
I hope these words bring you some determination, courage and strength to do the hard thing of trying to find new relationships at Hope Church. After six months here, I know that there are Christians at Hope who want to be my friend and are doing a great job pursuing me, but it takes two and I have to step out of my comfort zone also.
And maybe in six months you’ll get a phone call like I did last week and hear another sweet new friend say, “Do you have time for coffee? I’ve got a free hour or two.”
It’s worth it – I promise.