Although I don’t believe very strongly in the distinction between “Christians bubbles” and “the real world”–the corrupting power of sin is everywhere and so is Jesus’ work of redemption–my peers and I have found it valuable and grounding to go out of our way to make friends with non-seminarians. For one thing, your settings determine a lot of your conversations, and your conversations determine a lot of what you think about on your own time. If you want to minister to people, it’s really good to meet lots of kinds of people. Here are four tips I have for making friends outside of seminary.
1. Join something
Lots of seminaries have affinity groups, but so do local communities. Having just moved to Denver, I decided to join a local group called the “Denver Chorale.” It’s a hodge podge collection of frumpy old men, divas, church ladies, and shy dads. We’re okay at singing–well, we’re actually pretty good at singing. We’re working on a Christmas program which, naturally, includes lots of sacred pieces, mainly selections from Handel’s Messiah. In one night, I met twenty new people, few of whom probably even go to church.
2. Quantity time creates quality time
There’s a myth that good relationships are built by quality time. But my experience and stories I’ve heard from adults in my life suggest that all we have is quantity time. By spending a lot of mundane time with people you increase the odds of having really meaningful interactions (quality time). I’m going to spend a minimum of 35 hours with the Denver Chorale this semester, not including time outside rehearsal. Last week, after a brief introductory conversation, Bill invited me out for a beer. I couldn’t go last week, but I’ll probably go this week. I don’t even like beer, but good conversations happen over it. Who knows, maybe I can win an opportunity to speak gospel truth into his life.
3. Become interested in their interests
Let’s be honest: you’re interested in old books. That’s okay, so am I! I get my philosophical fix during class and on campus. Off campus involvement is a great setting for becoming a good listener, asking questions according to what they’ve told you about themselves, and listening to their stories. Maybe they like baseball and you don’t. Go to a baseball game! In Matthew 6, Jesus points out that where someone’s treasure is, that’s where their heart is. If you want to see someone’s heart, go to what they treasure. They’ll reciprocate eventually!
4. Talk more about your experience and desires than your goals
One little old lady I met asked me why I moved to Denver. I told her I wanted to be a pastor. Comically, and almost even like a comic book character, she recoiled and threw up her hands almost defensively. I guess “pastor” has certain connotations to her. She stopped talking about what she was interested in and started trying to say something about the Pope’s visit to America, assuming that’s what I wanted to hear, which it wasn’t. There are lots of ways to talk about your faith, but one of the best ways to meet new people is to emphasize the your over the faith. Faith will come. But it’s refreshing for people to hear well-articulated experiences and desires. Maybe you can even change the connotations they have surrounding the word “pastor!”
By Jack Franicevich Jack is an MDiv student at Denver Seminary. His interests range from the doctrine of the church, theologies of friendship and work, preaching, hymn-writing, and grassroots ecumenism to competitive table tennis, cooking for large groups, classical literature, and organizational development.