By Marie Burrus
In our busy, disconnected modern society, finding community is hard. Especially for the unchurched, it can be even more challenging. Many Millennials are using technology as their favorite tool to find social interaction, new friend groups and activities in which to participate. I recently had a conversation with an older friend who was having a hard time finding nonbelievers to talk to. She was blown away to hear about the many websites and apps I suggested for making connections with people in her area.
With that in mind, I thought I’d collect a few of the best resources you can use to meet people in your community. Many of these people are looking for interaction but may never darken a church door. I hope you can use these tools to meet people where they are, meet people in real life and intentionally engage them with the gospel as you do things you would likely want to do anyway. It very well may be a good first step to evangelism.
Meetup is a website and app for finding groups of people in your area with similar interests. Sign up, choose your interests and Meetup will point you to tons of groups you might be interested in. Or you could start your own group.
We did just that, and these groups opened a ton of doors. A few of my friends from our small group started a monthly Faith & Philosophy meetup. I was blown away by the interest and the variety of people who came. In the description, we were unapologetically Christian and welcomed people from other faiths to come, as well. Many people who would never darken the door of a church were very interested in dialoguing with us. So, we talked about the Bible, what Christians believe, science and philosophy. (And I loved it.)
We were a hodgepodge group of people from all kinds of different belief systems at a coffee shop, and God used technology to bring us together. Through these meetings, a gypsy, a Buddhist-agnostic Brazilian, a Quaker, Southern Baptists, New-Age spiritualists and “seekers” respectfully discussed the Bible and Truth together. And we became friends.
Find it difficult to meet your literal neighbors? Afraid of creeping people out by waiting outside to meet them? Register for Nextdoor. It’s social media for your specific neighborhood. You have to verify your address via mail, then you’re in. In a few weeks, you have virtual access to all of your neighbors who want to connect.
In our neighborhood, posts can be anything from, “Have y’all had more spiders since the rain came,” to “I really need help moving next week. Know anyone?” Of course, there’s also the ever-popular, “What kind of snake is this?!” It’s a great resource for knowing your neighbors and what’s happening in your area.
Like sports? Always looking for a pickup game? Atleto is an app to help you find other athletes. I’ve personally never used it (I’m not exactly the most “sportsy” person out there), but I imagine it’d be a great way to meet people. I have many friends who have developed relationships with others via pickup basketball, soccer and football. Especially if you’re interested in soccer, you can open a lot of cross-cultural interactions just by starting a game. Many of my immigrant friends are always looking for someone to school in soccer.
Speaking of internationals, many own and operate amazing restaurants and international stores in your area. You can use Yelp!, Urbanspoon or something as simple as a Google search for “Indian food near me” to find those places. If you make a place a haunt, you can really get to know the owners and even become parts of their local communities.
For me, it was African hair braiding shops. As your basic white girl, I didn’t have a lot of reason to be there other than the fact that I spoke French, but they welcomed me to come chat. Before too long, I was celebrating Eids, proofing English papers and helping people’s children learn to read. We had conversations about who God is, evil in the world and how Jesus serves as our only remedy. I found myself neck deep in the West African community, and I loved it. We got so deep into it that my now husband had to buy kola nuts for my local “African uncle” before we could officially be engaged (according to the uncle, at least).
So beware. These resources may become outlets for deep, lasting and complicated friendships. I hope they are and that those relationships open great evangelistic discussions. I hope that you use these resources to share Christ with people where they are, and I pray that God uses our intentional friendships to deepen people’s understanding of who He is.
A version of this article originally published at UBA Houston.