Steps to Making New Friends
As many of you know, one of the worst aspects of leaving the church is losing all or most of your friends, and the difficulty of making new ones.
We may experience extreme loneliness after we leave the church, and some of us fall into the rut of accepting that loneliness as our way of life from now on and forsake the idea of having good friends ever again.
Lisa and I experienced exactly this after we left the church in 2010. We did lose almost all of our friends, kept only a few, and experienced long stretches of loneliness.
But now, some years later, we have a pretty healthy list of friends. We would like to see it grow and develop, but essentially we do not experience extended periods of loneliness like we used to. Usually, if we have the time and want to see friends, it happens. Cool!
How did we do it? Because it has to be done. It has to be intentional. We discovered pretty quickly that if we just waited for it to happen, it wouldn’t. We came to realize that almost everyone is dealing with the very same issue.
So here’s a list of things Lisa and I did that I suggest you try in order to make new friends. I’ve even included some copy-and-paste texts for you to use if you want.
1. Don’t take it personally. If someone doesn’t pursue you like you are pursuing them, we found out that most often they are too busy, too afraid, or too shy to initiate. If they refuse three times in a row without a good reason, let them go. It’s supposed to be fun, not laborious. “We’re trying hard to see you guys. Can we make it happen this week?”
2. Schedule it in. If you don’t schedule time to get together with others, your schedule won’t allow it. Life is crazy busy for everyone I know. Life life. Don’t let it live you! Make it happen. “What are you guys doing Saturday morning? Want to meet us for brunch?”
3. Restore old friends. Are there people you used to be friends with that you’ve lost touch with? We restored a few older friendships and it was worth it. “Hey, for some reason we’ve been thinking about you guys and were wondering if you’d like to get together.”
4. Pick up clues. If someone you work with or run into often or whatever hints about getting together, take it seriously. Take them up on it! “You mentioned us getting together last week. Shall we? We’re pretty free this weekend!”
5. Choose a neutral place. Lisa and I often prefer to go out than have people in. With us both working hard, it’s just easier because we don’t have to clean the house immaculately, prepare food, or take the risk of people staying far later than our bedtime. Plus, it’s just nice eating out. It’s something we enjoy. “Hey! We’re going out to Italian-by-Night and want to know if you’d like to meet us there. Say, 7pm?”
6. Extend invitations. One night at a pub with friends, we met friends of theirs. They seemed cool. They’d heard about nakedpastor. We talked. Next time we meet them we just might say something like, “We enjoyed meeting you guys that night. We should meet there again sometime. Ya?”
7. Keep it up. Don’t relax your efforts. Making friends, we found out, is hard work. And, just like any relationship (including marriage) it takes hard work to maintain. Contact friends every week. “Hi guys! We haven’t seen you in a while. What’s up? Can we get together this week?”
8. Detoxify. If you have friends you discover are toxic, as in they don’t accept you as you are and are a drain on your wellbeing… like they are trying to get you saved, trying to get you to go to their church, trying to burden you with their problems, trying to make your life miserable and negative. Just let them go. Feel no guilt over ending a relationship. Do not carry over from your church days the idea that we must always forgive and reconcile with every single person who’s ever been in our life no matter how bad they are for us. End toxic relationships! For this one there is no text. Just stop cold turkey.
9. Go to events. Art gallery hops, wine tastings, Toast Masters, join a choir, go to staff parties… anything! Get out where people are. If you used to go to church you know these events were provided for you. Now you have to seek them out yourself. Meet new people. Follow up on any leads. Lisa and I went to an event once and we were hanging out with people there. As the evening progressed a few said, “We’re gong to such-and-such a bar after. Wanna come?” Take those opportunities.
10. Appreciate the few. I’ve known a lot of people over the years. Most people just have a few good friends, then maybe a wider group of just friends or acquaintances. This is normal, folks! When a friendship feels really good, develop it. Work on it. You could become very good friends. Also, enjoy the just friends friends too. “Hi! We really enjoyed the other night with you guys. We should get together more often.” Chances are they are wishing for good friends too.
I hope this helps. Remember, friends hardly ever just happen. They take work. They take noticing clues. They take follow up. They take development. They take intentionality. They take commitment.
You don’t have to go through the rest of your life lonely. You don’t have to long for the good old days when you had a whole raft of friends handed to you on a platter because of high school or church. You can enjoy friendships now.