So you've moved to a new city, church-hopped for a while and you've found somewhere you think you'll enjoy. But wait a second – it's massive! How are you ever going to get beyond the 'awkward newbie' phase and actually start to get to know people? Aside from the obvious – for goodness sake join a home group and actually turn up on a Sunday – here's a few handy tips for settling in:
1. Be that person eating cake alone. As tempting as it is, don't run away at the end of the service; you're not going to meet anyone on your walk home. Grab a lukewarm cup of tea and a slice of that questionable ginger cake and Have A Conversation With A Stranger.
2. Sign up for stuff. Yes, a freezing cold walk in the rainy English countryside does sound fairly terrible and Saturday mornings are best spent in bed, but you'll meet more people (we hope) going on a few of the 'organised socials', even if the idea of them feels like hard work.
3. Volunteer. Don't just go to things, ask if you can be useful somewhere. Show me a church that doesn't need help with the washing up or setting out chairs and I'll show you...well, it won't come to that, because there simply isn't one. There's always a need, and you could be just the person to meet it. Plus, it's often easier to bond/chat to people over an activity, however mundane, than standing around awkwardly after a service (see point one).
4. Get connected online. Does your church have a Facebook account? Are you prolific tweeter? Start following people who you've seen around, and have a little stalk. If you're really keen, you could even post in the group to say hello – it's helpful for people to be able to put a face to a name and gives you a way in.
5. Network. The Christian world is infamous for being about three inches wide, so let your friends know where you've settled and chances are, someone will know someone. Get them to hook you up.
6. Be proactive. Don't wait to be asked, invite someone for coffee! It might feel awkward but Christians love hipster cafes, so choose one and get someone to try it out with you. Good friendships are nearly always built over caffeine.
1. Bug your pastor. Don't announce yourself needily to the vicar every week; it's not actually their responsibility to get you integrated – it's up to you to make an effort. Find a moment to introduce yourself, but don't make a beeline for them after every service.
2. Don't sulk if it doesn't happen straight away. You might have forgotten how long it took you to feel at home at your last church, but it's rarely instantaneous. Hang in there, it will get better.
3. Don't assume you're being ignored. Just because you haven't been invited to that after-church social, don't immediately jump to the conclusion that everyone hates you. Assume oversight instead, and ask if you can join. The cringe-factor will be reduced once you've got a glass of wine in your hand.
4. Don't sign up for stuff you know you're terrible at. We're all for trying new things, but if you can't sing and you hate kids, the worship band and youth group probably aren't where you'll best use your gifts. Think about what you're good at, and offer your services where they'll be most helpful.
5. If you're single, don't start dating someone straight away (and definitely don't if you're married). They may well turn out to be the one, but you probably won't make an effort to meet anyone else and if it all goes wrong, you've just socially ostracised yourself and created awkwardness for everyone involved. Plus, they were part of the group first, so chances are it'll end up worse for you.
Good luck! If you've got your own tips let us know - @ChristianToday.