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Rexpert84

Making Friends At Church

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Hi All,
 
First time poster about a subject that has probably been explored several times in this forum. I’m trying reeeeeeeally hard to make friends.  After having my second child in the fall and being on maternity leave, I felt keenly aware of some loneliness and self esteem issues (I think work typically provides a distraction).  I’ve never been one to have a lot of friends (I have a good relationship with my best friend, my husband), but I definitely felt that having friends in the ward/neighborhood would be a good, perhaps even healthy, thing for me.  I had this conversation with Heavenly Father towards the end of last fall and I felt like I could really give the friend thing a try for a year.  So that has been my commitment and I’m about 6 months in.  
 
I think I’ve read just about every talk, blog post, and discussion board on the subject of making friends at church.  They almost all have the same advice, which typically revolves around serving others, reaching out to those who may also be looking for friends, magnifying your callings (including ministering), and being generally approachable and friendly.  None of that is bad advice, but I feel like I am doing all of those things and I don’t feel like I’m getting the results I was hoping for.  
 
I wouldn’t say that I’m not making any progress, but don’t think things are moving the way I would like.  I think people view me as a “nice person you see at church”.  This might sound stupid, but I would like to be invited somewhere (either just me or my family) by another person/family. It’s pretty discouraging that we’ve been in this ward for ~18 months and not a single family/person has reached out beyond what is required through church. I was especially surprised when I had a baby and no one from relief society came to visit or offered to bring in meals or other assistance.  
 
About me … I’m a female in my mid thirties, married for just over 7 years, and have 2 young children (nursery age and younger). I work full time and my husband is in school full time.  We live in Utah in an area with a lot of new home growth.  Our ward is comprised of homes that are all less than 3 years old, and even though there is a lot of construction in our neighborhood, our ward boundaries are such that the only new members to our ward are people buying existing homes (at least for the time being) — so we are relatively static and quite small for a Utah congregation.  As you might expect, being in Utah makes it such that our ward and our neighborhood are essentially the same (maybe a 2-3 block radius).    
 
I think my reason for posting is that I’m at this point where it’s getting really difficult to come to church and be aware of how friendless I am.  I know that friendships are happening and developing between other families/individuals in the ward (even a lot of the same people I am trying to reach out to).  People aren’t unkind, but I do get the impression that people are not really interested  in anything more than an acquaintance at church with me. I committed to try for a year, so I am going to keep my promise, but it’s getting very difficult to come to church.  I know that’s where Heavenly Father wants me to be, but … I can take the sacrament anywhere and my testimony certainly isn’t tied to a particular ward or building.  It would be much easer to attend a ward(s) as a visitor where there are no social expectations/hopes than to attend my own ward where I feel very excluded.
 
I guess I am looking for advice and guidance around two things …
  1. Ideas for making friends or getting past the “acquaintance at church” phase of getting to know someone
  2. Coping with the social anxiety of attending church

Thanks for taking the time to read!

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Consider starting a book club (and inviting everyone on your block.  Start with a book that will broaden horizons but not be controversial.  (Maybe Brad Metzer's new book on the attempted assassination of George Washington, or  A Short History of almost Everything by Bryson.) (You might pass around a flyer and announce the book club will meet on the 2nd ______ of every month, and ask people if they'd be interested and in what they want to read.   For the first two times, I'd hire a babysitter to help your dh to take care of yours and whomever else's kids for the 2 hours.)

If youre not volunteering at your neighborhood school that is a good way to meet parents.

Plan a neighborhood event for a holiday (and be sure to include neighbors that you havent seen at church).

if your RS publishes birthdays, call and say happy birthday. 

You didn't ask for this help, but I hope you will consider this too:   since I learned to attend church solely because I wanted to be where my Heavenly Parents and Savior wanted me to be, and wanted to know I'd done my best to live the life that would allow my children to have the comfort of knowing God's love for them and the scriptures and songs that support that,  that made all church attendance much less anxious, and a lot more satisfying.   Often it is the gap between expectations and reality that caused the most problem for me.

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I don't want to leave this unanswered.  I have ideas,  but am sick now and find that most of what I want to say on most posts I'm too tired to do it. I'll get back to you.  

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Invite them somewhere-- it breaks the ice, and gets the ball rolling.  

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I'm going through a similar thing. But I'm much older than you and don't have young children at home. When they get older they'll soon be playing with the neighbors and that's when you'll make some connections with their parents. I'm so sad that no one came around when you needed some help. I've lived in my new neighborhood for a year and have yet to have one visit from my ministering sisters. I don't like how things are now. I asked the bishop to be in compassionate service so I could serve. But need you to know that I've been inactive for the most part. But I haven't been utilized except for one time to take a meal in. I was glad to finally have been put to work. But nothing but that in a whole year! I wonder if there has been changes to how this program works or not. I don't like the new ministering program at all because people think they have 3 months vs. monthly now. But like I said, mine haven't came at all. 

I feel alone too now that my children have grown. I do go out with friends as couples with my husband but that's it. I wonder if that's how the world has become now. We all want to be on social media or watching the latest netflix program. 

I'm basically an introvert now, but didn't use to be. I remember praying to God a few times to just have a friend. My best friend passed away with a heart attack, and she was the last bestie I had. 

In my old neighborhood a new family moved in next door and the lady came up with a book club like RPN mentioned doing. I guess this new gal had making friends in mind. And it worked fabulously. Or maybe a bunko group! That would be ideal, I wish I was brave enough to do either one.

I hope you find those friends dear!!

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It's tough. I always made friends at church and had a lot of fun in my wards...until my last one. It's been 8 years and I have not developed the same type of friends I had in the past. It gets old always being the one reaching out with service, ministering, callings in other ways to get to know people but it never has developed into much deeper relationships than acquaintances. It has gotten easier because I've gotten used to being more alone. I figure it was a lesson I needed to learn. I usually made my closest friends with those I served with but even that has not worked here.  Book club didn't work either. My ward here started out really difficult and it has been really hard to keep going at times due to social and other reasons but I kept attending even when I went home crying most weeks. But, friendships and meaningful relationships in your ward are a "bonus." It's not something everyone experiences and many times it depends on your ward and how you fit in. Pray for a friend and if one doesn't show up, I can testify that it does get easier with time not to have close friendships in your ward. 

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You have to work hard, and it will work out.  Memorize and use first names.  Send encouraging notes to people obviously struggling.  Have a recipe lunch day.  Offer to do babysitting trades. 

Spend one full year instigating events and don’t have a single thought about yourself. Show interest in people, genuine interest, and increase your warmth by 25%.  If all this doesn’t work by next year I’ll be a monkeys uncle. 

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I agree it can be really hard to make friends at church.  And I'm not a good one to have any advice because I'm an introvert by nature and tend to be one of those types who can only really handle having a small handful of friends that I interact with outside of church and that's all I can handle emotionally.  I mean, I enjoy being friends with people that I see at church and genuinely care about them and very much enjoy visiting with them but that's the level of interaction that I'm generally most comfortable with because to much friendship interaction leaves me feeling drained.

That's my disclaimer, to possibly consider that it's not that the people you interact with at church don't like you or want to be your friend, but just that their friendship needs might be different than yours (which I'm not saying as an excuse for you to be ignored or excluded because that's never o.k. and even us introverts need to get out of our shell sometimes to help another feel wanted and loved).

I know that some of the best places I've found for making friends at church is hanging out in the nursery when you have a kid that age.  Usually there are other moms with kids of a similar age in there as well.  You can also talk to the RS president to see if there are any playgroups or book clubs happening in the ward.  Try to find excuses to stand or sit by the women who have kids a similar age to yours and then start conversations about their kids so you can commiserate together.  Also, you could talk to the Bishop about a calling with the RS committee or as a RS teacher because those are good ways to get to know the sisters around you and for them to get to you know.  And when trying to gain friends, that's half the battle. :) 

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To go along with all of the above (because sometimes you really do need to put yourself out there), sometimes it is ok not to have friends at church as well.

I've found that often my best friendships don't come from church.  They come from outside of church. It took me awhile to see that was ok. Most of my friends are actually church members, I just didn't meet them there. 

Some of it is how busy everyone is. There is a reason we keep getting asked to simplify - yet I've found so many resist simplifying schedules. 

Some of it just different priorities. I love my book club, but it is not the club from my ward (which I actually co started). Most of the women could only do evenings which was ok for me for awhile even though I had wanted daytime, but then my husband started on his masters degree and was called into young men while working full time and traveling a lot. I cut out all evening activities except if it were during YM so I could be available for either all parenting stuff possible or any spare minute my husband and I could have together. I was invited to a day book club by a cousin and immediately switched.

I have found friends through another project outside of church as well.  

What I see is I can love the women from the ward and maybe some day I will have stronger friends in the ward and I can sit beside them and pray for them, but right now it is ok that the activities I do are outside of the ward.

One place to maybe look up is Meetup. Cooking or craft groups. Exercise. Eating out. Hiking. Museums. All sorts of ways to meet people through the sitep.

 

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