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3 Tips for Starting Conversations with New People

By Bryan Tener

Article Diverse Group Talking

Chances are that you’re beginning to think that you and your church need to start doing something different. The pandemic, disaffiliations, cultural changes, and the tone and direction of political discourse all have contributed to a decline in church attendance. You have noticed a few more empty pews; the people that you once saw every week are no longer present, and you notice their absence. Fewer people are using their gifts and talents within the life of the church and few are coming in to fill those gaps. You also notice that what the church has been doing to try to attract new people isn’t effective. But you know that you have good news to share, the good news of Jesus and the difference it has made in your own life; the hope, strength, sustaining love, and fullness of life found in your purpose. So you’re committing yourself to meeting new people in the community. Whether it’s the coffee shop, the dog park, the local pub, or the gym, you’ve decided you are going to step out of your comfort zone and meet new people in the hope of making friends and sharing your faith.

Sometimes it is uncomfortable to walk into a new space with unfamiliar faces. You might lack confidence or feel pressure to have all the answers. The reality is that we are never walking alone. God is with us. We will not have all the answers in this lifetime, so give yourself permission to let go of that pressure. Be okay with saying, “I don’t know; let’s find out together.” It’s risky and can be scary to put yourself out there to meet someone new and to find moments to share your faith.

Sometimes it is uncomfortable to walk into a new space with unfamiliar faces. You might lack confidence or feel pressure to have all the answers. The reality is that we are never walking alone. God is with us.

Imagine yourself walking into a gathering place in your community – a coffee shop, a dog park, a gym, or elsewhere. Make a list of the risks involved in meeting someone new and in sharing faith. Some risks might include discomfort in stepping outside your comfort zone, fear of change, and fear of rejection. What other risks might there be?

What rewards might there be? One reward is gaining a sense of courage in being able to strike up a conversation with a stranger. Another reward is strengthening your faith and identity as you recall the ways God has been active in your life. You may have joy at making a new friend and seeing someone else’s faith grow. What other rewards might there be?

It’s important to be aware of the risks and the rewards, to get a sense of your hang-ups and barriers. Realize that if you can get past those hang-ups and barriers, you have great opportunities on the other side. Once you have made it to the other side, you may see that the rewards, the growth, and the joy, outweigh the risks. Keeping that in mind can help you take those first steps to meet someone new and find opportunities to share your faith.

To get started meeting new people, consider these three tips for starting conversations that can lead to faith-sharing opportunities.

1. Be Approachable and Positive

Approachability is key when meeting new people. Body language like smiling, making eye contact, and maintaining an open posture can be helpful. People are more likely to initiate conversations with someone who appears friendly and approachable.

2. Ask Open-Ended Questions

Open-ended questions encourage longer and more meaningful conversations. These questions can't be answered with just a "yes" or "no," and they provide an opportunity for other people to expand on their thoughts and experiences. Open-ended questions offer an opportunity for follow-up questions to dig a little deeper.

Conversation Starters:

  • "What brings you here? I'm always curious about people's favorite spots."
  • "Have you been to events like this before? Any recommendations?"
  • "What interests or hobbies do you enjoy?"
  • "I noticed you seem familiar with this area. What are some events or activities that take place that I should go to? What’s something that used to be here that you miss not having?”

3. Find Common Ground

Shared interests and experiences are excellent foundations for building connections. Discovering common ground can help you feel comfortable and excited to engage in conversation.

Conversation Starters:

  • "I couldn't help but notice your [interest-related item like a book, accessory, or shirt]. I'm a fan of [related topic]."
  • "Are you involved in any local groups or activities related to [interest or cause]?"
  • "The church I attend serves through the free health clinic, and I find [related event, topic, or charity work] meaningful. Have you been involved in anything similar?"

Remember, the goal is to create a friendly and welcoming atmosphere where both you and the other person feel comfortable sharing and connecting. It’s relational. Forming that initial connection (while it may happen in the first connection, it may not) can be the spark that leads to a deeper faith friendship. It starts as a friendly surface-level connection that, through asking questions and listening for common ground, can lead to something more— to the space where trust is built, and faith is shared. It's natural to feel nervous at first, but with practice and trust that God is already at work as you come alongside, you'll experience rewards that outweigh the risks in meeting new people and sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.

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