I feel as though I have been able to develop not only a good number of friends but rich and meaningful friendships. I have many friends, friends from elementary school, friends from work, and even friends from church. The reason I feel led to share all of this is that I have been friends with people who have not always been in the same stage of life, same spiritual maturity, same age or even the same town as me. While having some things in common with my friends certainly helps keep me interested in the individual, their life is what seemed to me on what matters the most. Here are some tips that I have used to help me develop and maintain quality and quantity of friends.
TIP #1: Make it a priority to get together.
I know that we live in a world with a lot of demands: full-time work, raising children, and marriage. It makes me feel like I have time for very little beyond that. Since I have recognized that there are some friendships that have value and are fruitful in my life, I have to make time for them. This will not always be convenient and certainly not easy. I can't name the countless times that I have met these friends after 9:00 p.m. So I challenge you to use some creative scheduling to make friendship a priority.
TIP #2: Call them.
I know this seems out of fashion for some of you that have grown up with texting. If I call my friends, I usually do call on my ride home from work to capitalize on the time. If there is going to be a decent amount of time between actual human contact, pick up the phone and call. Don't get me wrong, I know there is value in texting and it does contribute to a healthy relationship but, hearing the laughter on the other end of the phone is more valuable than reading “lol.” If this is still making you squirm, you are going to have to trust me and give it a shot.
TIP #3: Use Technology and Social Media.
While I just hammered the importance of actual human contact and hearing their voice, technology and social media are still important ways in which we communicate. We live in fortunate times to have these things at our disposal. A text during the day from a friend can help you feel a little more connected to them and even allow for a more lengthy conversation to help catch up on something that you may have not normally had time to do. On my social media, while I am "friends" with hundreds of people, I only follow those that I would consider having over for a BBQ to my house. This allows me to see the things in my friend's life that they are celebrating or grieving. This also allows for some conversation. Social media is not a replacement or substitute for real human interaction, but it can be an asset in the relationships that matter in your life.
TIP #4: Show Up.
There are times in life that you just have to show up both in celebrating with and mourning with your friends. I am convinced that one of my closest friendships started when I went to his father's viewing. For me, when my own father died I can tell you, with near accuracy, how every person contributed: from a text, gift basket, dinner, or conversation. When one of your friends is going through a time of mourning you must find ways to mourn with them. Celebration works in the same way. Recently my daughter Kalee got married and even more than celebrating that my daughter, I shared these memories with my closest friends who celebrated this moment with me and these memories mean a lot to me. Being a part of your friends’ memories during the highest and lowest points of lives is a wonderful gift to give them.
TIP #5: Pick up where you left off.
While I try to do the things that I mentioned above, it is hard sometimes. Don't let a few months or even years stop you from picking up where you left off. One of my good friends at times has been tough to get together in a meaningful way consistently. Every now and then we are able to make it happen and it is a fruitful time. I had one friend I had not seen in 7 years and called him one day to see if he wanted to go to a Cubs game with me and he did. I would suspect the friendships that you are able to have consistent iteration with are going to be the most fruitful. Don't let the fact that you haven't seen them in a while being a barrier from picking up the phone or getting together.
TIP #6: Evaluate the Fruit.
I say this because not all friendship are built alike. I have had some friendships where I know that person would do almost anything for me if I were in need of their help. I find that the investment I put in their lives and the investment they make in my life is fruitful. When my dad was recovering from surgery in Indianapolis, it was a longer day than I anticipated and I needed a place to stay. I was not going to be able to make it all the way back home, so I called a friend and asked to crash at his house. I arrived at midnight, slept on his hide a bed couch, and left at 4 a.m. I am not saying there are not times we don't serve people where there won't be much return. I just keep in mind that if a person opens his house to me at the last minute at midnight, I know our relationship will produce much return.
TIP #7: Be Transparent.
My most fruitful relationships are the ones that I can be transparent. I know I am not always a good husband, a good father and good Christian, but that doesn't mean my friends and family are celebrating my weakness. There is a grace in my imperfection. There is also permission for them to be far from perfect. While I want my friends and family to be all Christ is calling them to be, I stay committed to not hold their weakness against them and be the person they need in their imperfection.
TIP #8: Pray.
To help me in this I use an app called Prayer Mate and I have a list of friends names on it. This app helps remind me to pray for the things my friends might be going through. It also can be a helpful reminder to get in touch with them if it has been a while. There was one day where the Holy Spirit prompted me to pray for one of my friends and specifically our friendship. Later that day, he called me and shared some of the challenges he was having in the midst of our friendship. Friendship requires supernatural help so keep your friends in your prayers!
TIP #9: Have the tough conversations.
If a friend has upset you or there is tension developing, don't just ignore it, admit that it is a tough conversation and tell them you are having it because the relationship matters to you. If the relationship is valuable to you it is worth having the tough conversation.
I hope that you are able to find some of this valuable and I pray that God brings you meaningful friendships in your life that make you a better person.
**This blog post was published on The Vineyard's blog**