The night before I started kindergarten, my dad gave me a challenge for my first day. He told me that there was going to be a little girl in the classroom who was feeling scared and she might need a friend. He encouraged me to look for her and to ask her if she wanted to play. He told me that he would ask me all about my new friend when he got home from work. I took this job seriously!
The next day, I did just as he said and scanned the room for the little girl who was scared. Once I found her, I asked her if she wanted to play with blocks, and the rest was history. We remain friends to this day, all because of a simple invitation.
The challenge my dad gave me, now affectionately known as the “First Day of School Speech,” has continued throughout my life. He gave it to me the night before every day of elementary school, middle school, high school, and even college! He’s given it to me before starting internship programs, my first day of work, and many other special occasions. My stepson and my niece and nephew are also recipients of this challenge every year, and Big Daddy (his grandpa name) can’t wait to find out about the new friend(s) they made at school!
From a young age, this exercise taught me how to make friends. My dad was training me to look for someone else to help rather than focus on my own nervousness. This first day of school challenge taught me to be bold in approaching new people and intentional in making a friend out of every new situation. I still think of these principles today when I’m going into new environments! While it’s a bit harder to make friends as an adult, I’ve found that grown-ups really aren’t that different from a kindergartner on his/her first day of school.
Grown-ups are still worried that nobody will like them.
Grown-ups are still worried that nobody will talk to them.
Grown-ups are still worried that nobody will invite them.
Don’t get me wrong, I still have these feelings, too! I worry before walking into rooms of new people and get a flutter of nervousness when I’m in a new environment. However, the simple practice of making it not about me and focusing on someone else alleviates a lot of the fear.
On the first night of leading my new small group, I remember asking all of the girls why they had signed up. Every single one of them said they were looking for community. They wanted friends. However, many entered the house with worry in their spirit, asking “What if nobody likes me?” and “What if nobody talks to me?” and “What if nobody invites me?”
Does this sound familiar?
If so, I have a special challenge for you. On the first night of your new small group or the next time you attend, I challenge you to the following:
Step 1 – Identify: Scan the room for someone who seems a bit nervous. You can usually identify her by her sweet smile, nervous laughter, and fidgeting hands, and she might be sitting alone. Take a deep breath, say a prayer, and remind yourself that you’re about to make a new friend!
Step 2 – Introduce: Walk over to her, stick out your hand, and say “Hi, my name is ______. What is your name?” Sometimes the conversation goes naturally from here, sometimes it doesn’t. Don’t worry if there are some awkward pauses—that’s normal! Ask questions to get to know her. Focus more on getting to know her and you won’t be so nervous—I promise.
Step 3 – Invite: After chatting with your new friend, invite her to do something. It could be as simple as asking if she wants to go sit down in the living room, get some dessert from the kitchen, or even ask her to grab coffee at another time. Never underestimate the power of an invitation.
Whether you are in a small group or leading a small group, these three simple steps are a great way to make friends in your group. I think you’ll find that taking these steps will help you forget your own nervousness, focus on others, and help you both find the community and friendship you are longing for!
And don’t forget to tell me all about the new friend(s) you made in the comments below. I can’t wait to hear about them!
P.S. I dedicate this “First Day Of Small Group Speech” to my dad who has been teaching me how to make friends since 1993.
Mickey Pitts serves as a Marriage & Family Strategist for LifeWay. She is passionate about equipping couples with tools to help their marriages and families thrive. Mickey loves ministering to women and coaches women’s Bible study leaders in her local church. Mickey and her husband Reed live in Spring Hill, TN with her 7 year old stepson Landon and a crazy Wheaten Terrier named Dexter.