Friends at Church

I don’t usually think about myself as the type of person that has much to say, or very deep thoughts (which is why, since I’ve started blogging again I’ve stuck with my cooking adventures), but a blog post I read yesterday got me thinking … it talked about the importance of members having friends within the congregation.

“One
 study 
found 
that 
98%
 of 
church 
satisfaction 
can 
be 
predicted
 simply 
by measuring 
how 
many 
intimate 
Christian 
friends 
our 
congregation 
members 
have.”

It doesn’t surprise me. I would go so far as to say that most of my good friends (at least the ones I actually see in real life) are members of my church.

My husband doesn’t have many hobbies, but one of them is checking out listings of dairy farms for sale all over the country. As I’ve told him time and time again, there are two things that would keep me in Buffalo: our school system (at least for the next 6 years while I still have kids in school), and our church.

I see a large part of my work as helping people make connections that lead to the friendships that make our church ‘home’ for them.  Mostly this involves getting them the information they want about the programs they are interested in, without inundating them with noise about things that don’t interest them.

One of the newer tools I am using is The Table, a congregation-specific online tool aimed at strengthening faith-sustaining relationships, and yes, the statistic was used to highlight the potential of this kind of tool within a congregation.

One way to encourage connection, community and friendship within your congregation is with the Table. People can be introduced through the directory and then get to know each other as they discuss, serve and pray together throughout the week.

I was curious about the 98% statistic, and I managed to dig up this book excerpt (particularly page 8), which is possibly the source. I know nothing about the book or the author, but it makes sense to me.

These relationships embody more than a casual acquaintanceship; they entail knowing the other person in a variety of settings and knowing about multiple areas of the other person’s life.

True for me too. Many of my ‘church friends’ are also parents of my kids’ friends. Some are their teachers, our dentist, high school classmates (mostly of my husband’s, but I was an exchangee in the local school district for one year too), and relatives (again, his).

That leads to the tricky, for some, connection between the idea of church-based friendships and  blurry personal-professional boundaries for church staff using social media. In a church social media tweetchat (#chsocm) a couple of months ago, some felt that when a pastor leaves a church they should ‘unfriend’ church members … leading to this post by one of the participants.

I do think that when a minister leaves a congregation, the relationship with people in the congregation will change. He or she also needs to be careful not to undermine the leadership of the new minister. But a mass unfriending on Facebook?

Although there may be some differences with clergy, I know that lay staff can face some of the same issues.  I’ve maintained relationships to some extent, including online and in-person, with some former clergy, and lost touch with others. If I were to leave the staff (and I’m not planning to), I’d be keeping some members as Facebook friends (the ones who I consider my friends in real life), and unfriending others (honestly, I am friends with some people mostly for ‘work’ purposes).

Either way, as I commented to @PaulSteinbrueck‘s post,

I can’t really comprehend a pastor who is not truly real-life friends with at least some members of the congregation. Doesn’t sound like the sort of place I’d like to belong.

… back to the importance of church-based friendships.

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