When I was in grade school, we would travel to Georgia every few years for a family reunion . The first year we held this big event, I didn’t know most of the folks who were present. I knew my grandma and grandpa as well as my mom’s sisters and my immediate cousins, but I didn’t have a clue who everyone else was. To make matters more complicated, my grandpa’s brother’s extended family was there along with a bunch of second cousins and various other friends and relatives.
It was intimidating and awkward to walk into such a huge group of strangers. It felt like they all knew each other and that I was the odd man out.
CAN YOU RELATE?
After the initial awkward introductions, we would often be able to find common ground. Before long, I felt more and more familiar with the people and came to found that they genuinely cared. Despite how little relational history we had, we were family after all. In no time at all I felt at home and was enjoying a whole new group of friends and family.
The second time we went back for the reunion, I found that there was still some awkwardness when I first arrived because there were some new faces and other people I didn’t know. But having been through the experience before, I was more courageous to seek an introduction with the new folks and find common ground so we could get to the friendship stage as fast as possible.
Year over year, I found that the awkwardness was less and less because I was connected with more and more of the the folks who were there. And the number of “new faces” were fewer and fewer. I didn’t feel like the odd man out any more, I felt like part of the family—a big wonderful family.
As I think back, it’s pretty typical of the process for anyone who wants to connect to a new group of friends:
A. The initial unknown
B. The introduction
C. Finding common ground
D Friendship forms
For most of us, the stages A, B, and C are awkward. Once you get through that and on to step D, things get really rich and rewarding. What I learned was that the you can’t avoid the awkwardness in those first few stages. But, the faster you get through them the faster you get to the good stuff in stage D.
I had to learn to embrace the awkward! Being intentional to move from A—D quickly, I was able to enjoy better friendships.
This simple lesson is really relevant for our church family. You will hear us talk fairly regularly in our Sunday services about how much we value relationships. That’s because we are the adopted sons and daughters of God. The Church is his family! The relationship to one another in the Church is significant.
On any given week, many families or individuals show up to a church service and feel like the odd man out. They don’t have a lot of relationships or points of connections yet, so they feel more like an outsider than beloved family members. It’s not an uncommon challenge in a mid-sized church like us. This isn’t just for new people, by the way. Some people have been coming to Sound City for months and still feel this way.
“The kingdom of God advances at the speed of relationships.” Dr. Ramesh Richards
Our hope is to encourage people to be intentional to work through the awkward introductory stages to get to the point of connection and friendship with others in our church family.
We know it’s awkward trying to take those first steps. Especially in the context of our Sunday services where there are so many people. So we’re going to help!
For four weeks—Sunday July 10, 17, 24, and 31—we are going to “host” an event called the “Sunday Lunch Challenge.” During these four weeks, we are challenging the entire church body to EMBRACE THE AWKWARD! We are going to challenge everyone to meet someone new and to invite them to lunch. You heard me right. We’re not just going to take time for an awkward meet and greet only to forget each other ten minutes later. We’re going to ask folks to be intentional,to schedule time to go break bread,to get to know another. And, we’re going to challenge folks to do that for four weeks in a row!
I know this may feel awkward at first. Or it may seem contrived. But as someone from the South, I can assure you it’s common practice in many places in our country. As a kid, almost every Sunday my father would ask one new family and one family who was already in the church to lunch after Sunday services. We saw COUNTLESS families jump right into the church family because their first experience was a personal connection and a warm welcome over lunch.
Can you imagine how much more inviting our church family would feel if new families coming in regularly were invited to lunch and immediately connected to people that were part of the church?
I’ll close with this provocative statement from a friend and mentor of mine, Dr. Ramesh Richards: “The kingdom of God advances at the speed of relationships.” How intentional are you with building relationships with others? How much more powerful will God’s work be in and through our church as we grow the breadth and depth of relationships of all of our family members—both new and old?
Let’s embrace the awkward!