Notice: I've taken a part-time job, and it's definitely affecting my blogging time. I'll continue to add content here as often as possible.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Random Rant - Friendliness and Church

Occasionally there is an issue that makes me a bit hot under the collar. (OK, if you know me, you know that this may happen more than occasionally).

church dinner
Here’s a paradox. The church should be the kind of place where one can quickly form friendships and find people with whom they have many things in common. With a (likely) shared world view, one should be able to assume a huge body of shared beliefs and move quickly to finding additional things in common.

In actuality, most of the times I’ve found myself part of a new church group, the people are polite, but aren’t much interested in forming friendships. By contrast, at some other general interest groups I’m involved in, people easily converse and express interest in me, exploring the possibility of staying in touch... an initial step in becoming friends. Hopefully, I express interest in them as well.

Let me confess, right out of the box, that I’m not the greatest at personal relationships. However, I’ve learned, over a lifetime, some of the basics of both how to draw out other people, and how to answer questions in an interesting way. (You may think this is an easy skill, but I was an only child, raised in a home where we did not speak at meals. Conversing was not a skill I learned until college- but this is a tangent.)

We’ve been going to a particular church for three years now. I haven’t been going every week, but often. We’ve been to several dinners; I’ve been to an evening for women; I’ve volunteered to help at one event. Every Sunday we shake hands and greet those around us. However, I have yet to make a single new friend. (There are a few people there whom we knew before we attended.) Basically, I’ve decided that after this long, no one is going to approach me to be friendly, and I’ll need to be the instigator if I want to know who anyone is or what their interests are.

I think that part of the problem is the format of activities. In clubs based on interests, people are generally doing some activity (hiking, birdwatching, quilting, model railroading, etc), and are free to visit in between spurts of concentration on the activity. Of course, in a church service, we are all focused on worship, not each other.

However, even at the dinners we’ve attended with this church I haven’t felt a glimmer of interest in me. OK, OK, I know I shouldn’t be thinking about me. Yet, when we were new, I did have expectations that the people who “belonged” would take the lead to learn about the new people. I’ve now realized that this isn’t going to happen, and if I want to try to find any friends there that I am going to have to take an aggressive role. I have to admit that not very motivated to do so.

Where I’m going with this is to pose a question. If we Christians want people to believe in a God that cares about them, don’t we, as individuals, need to be doing a better job of caring than secular groups?


Coralie Nellhard said...

This is a very interesting post and something we as humans should think about. I don´t think it only applies to churches, it is the case in many societies.
Some people are generally interested in others for who they are and take a real interest but many people are only interested in what other individuals can do for them. For example look at "friends" on the internet, one of the main themes is just a cry to "Join my business"

vanilla said...

Seems like my kind of church.

Seriously, I think that church people have a real problem in that it is difficult to know how far to go in extending friendship to a newbie. I, for example, would be perfectly content to occupy my pew, my place within the worship context, and otherwise be left alone. Spouse, on the other hand, is not happy if she cannot form new acquaintances and friendships. I believe you are right in that worship is the only assured commonality with others, and as you say, the focus is not on ourselves.

I can't tell you how many times social attempts outside the church with church people have amounted to one exchange of an evening together then nothing further. Probably that says a great deal about me. Or perhaps everyone is just simply too busy with the known circle to expand the circle. Too little time.

Dad told me over and over that one who would have friends must show himself friendly. Perhaps I've no one to blame but myself.

Oops, I've coopted your rant.


Secondary Roads said...

Around here, most people appear to be very busy. Not much interest in anyone or anything new or different. Yet Jesus summed up God's law in two parts: 1 Love God with all you are and have and 2 Love your neighbor as yourself. How can one love and remain disinterested?

Sharkbytes said...

Thanks for some great comments, folks!

Coralie- You sure are right about people having ulterior motives for wanting friends. And, of course, real friendships make us vulnerable. I didn't even go there.

vanilla- cop away! I'm mostly with your dad. But I find myself with almost no local friends at the moment, and when we switched churches, I confess that I was thinking I might find someone to spend an occasional afternoon with. But, your comment about one evening together and then nothing is SO true. And that seems more true of church groups than other groups. Are we all really dysfunctional at getting to know people?

Chuck- Ouch... I know... and yet, I'm as guilty as anyone else. I'm willing to give some canned goods, or my used clothing, but I don't really want to be friends much, either. I've kind of decided that this is a church with a LOT of young Christians, and that even though I'm new, I probably should be the one to take the lead on more things.