One way to make friends is simply to get to know your neighbors. For a while, my wife and I were renting. We moved frequently. Over time, we developed a simple routine that we still use whenever we move into a new house. First, we visit all our immediate neighbors—usually the two houses on our right, the two houses on our left, and the four houses opposite us. We give them a simple gift—fruit, nuts, beer, or wine—and a card with our names and phone numbers. And then we ask for their names—and write them down before we forget.
Next we knock on their doors around Christmas and Easter and give them a simple card and gift. Bit by bit, we get to know them more. We invite them over for meals or do double-date nights with them. Often when we bake, we share the extra cookies or cakes we’ve made.
We also ask our neighbors for favors because we’ve found that, perhaps counterintuitively, you can build more relational trust by asking for a favor. By asking for a favor, we make ourselves vulnerable. We have placed ourselves in their debt. It’s a funny way to earn trust, but it works. And slowly we found that our neighbors were happy to ask favors from us in return.
Through this strategy, we eventually become the village hub. We become the social glue that holds the street together. As our neighbors begin to exchange Christmas gifts and goodies and invite each other to birthday parties, we slowly but surely form a community.
But more than that, we have a street where non-Christian neighbors are becoming friends with Christian neighbors. It’s a merged universe of friends.
Matchmake Your Friends
When I was single, people were always trying to matchmake me. They’d invite me to a party, and I would turn up, naively thinking it was just a party. But it soon became obvious what was happening. There’s a couple, another couple, and yet another couple—and then there’s a single girl all by herself. And look, they’ve even placed us together at the dinner table. How did I not see this coming?
But now my wife and I do the same thing. Except we’re not trying to matchmake a guy with a girl romantically; we’re trying to matchmake our non-Christian friends with our Christian friends socially.
It’s simple. We put on a social event, like a barbecue or a Super Bowl party, and invite some non-Christian friends. And then we think of Christian friends who have something in common with our non-Christian friends. We throw them together and watch them become friends with each other. We’ve found that a good ratio is 1:2—that is, for every non-Christian friend, we invite two Christian friends. That way, our non-Christian friends will find it easier to adopt the Christians’ plausibility structures.
Chan, Sam, and Ed Stetzer. 2020. How to Talk about Jesus (without Being That Guy): Personal Evangelism in a Skeptical World. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
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