Feature: Deacon Ministry Reminds Churches to Welcome New Friends This Holiday Season

By Donna Kline

December Deacon Update: Making Friends

Things were a little sparse in the primary Sunday school class the weekend after Thanksgiving. Only two little girls were there, one of them a visitor. Elbow-deep in the glitter and glue of the construction paper Advent wreathes they were making, the visiting kindergartner smiled at the other and said, “Wanna make friends?”

In another congregation, I’m told, a couple had been regularly attending worship as well as the fellowship time that follows, and were dismayed that members of the congregation seemed to only be interested in talking to each other. Finally one Sunday another couple approached them, and a good conversation began. Within a few minutes, though, the couples realized that they were both visitors, neither of which had been welcomed by anyone from the congregation: there was no evidence that anyone there wanted to “make friends.”

The second story isn’t at all unusual, and is in fact human nature–we gravitate to those with whom we are most comfortable. But isn’t this just the opposite of what Jesus taught us? Are we not to seek out those who themselves are seeking the hope found in the good news of the Gospel story? Certainly when they seek us out the least we can do is welcome them!

Advent is a time when more visitors join our services than any other time of year. In the days of Advent remaining, consider offering the gift of friendship to those visiting your congregation whose faces aren’t familiar to you. Think of people in your life who may not do well at “making friends” and invite them to a service. It may be the best gift you can give–to them and to yourself.

“Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers” (Romans 12:13).

— Donna Kline is director of the Church of the Brethren Deacon Ministry, and a member of the Congregational Life Ministries staff.

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