Some friends and I were wondering what turns random people into good friends. We work at Life.Church, and our jobs actually have a lot to do with helping people make good friends. One of the things we’re super passionate about at our church is something we call LifeGroups, which is just a name we came up with for the friends you grow, laugh, and serve with.
Anyway, we decided to try a social experiment. I asked a friend of mine, Jeff Galley, who is sort of like a relational ninja, if he’d host a series of conversations with six totally different people, most of whom had never met, about what it means to be a friend. We told each person very little about our plans, and invited them all to show up for some meals and conversations together at a house they’d never been to.
What happened next kind of blew us away …
Well, actually not at first. Small talk mixed with bagels, fruit salad, and getting mic’d up for sound with cameras and filmmakers walking about isn’t exactly the ideal setting for turning strangers into good friends. Still, we stayed calm and carried on.
In our first conversation, we talked a lot about what great friendships look like, and why they matter. Jeff came prepared with some thoughts to spur along conversation. Because he’s a ninja. One of my favorites was this quote from best-selling author and researcher Brené Brown:
“True belonging is not passive. It’s not the belonging that comes with just joining a group. It’s not fitting in or pretending or selling out because it’s safer. It’s a practice that requires us to be vulnerable.”
Okay, so to the part that kind of blew us away. I won’t totally give it away because we captured it on video, and I want you to see it for yourself. In our second conversation, we talked about how good friends have purpose in their friendships. There are things we enjoy together, goals we want to accomplish, places we want to go, communities we want to change, ideals we want to share.
That was good, but it didn’t surprise me. What surprised me was when my friend Jeff, who was supposed to be all ninja-like, started breaking down, crying, sharing his own story. You probably don’t know Jeff, but I’ve never seen (or even heard of) him crying. He’s a thinker. He might have emotional thoughts, but tears? With strangers?
What does this have to to with making good friends? It’s simple. Good friends share their stories vulnerably without some fake attempt to look put-together, sound smart, or fit in. In this risky moment, Jeff, Kevin, and Carrie discovered they had nearly identical, deeply personal experiences. What happened next? Everyone else took the cue and opened up. Over the next several conversations, I saw one ninja, and six random strangers become good friends.
Usually good friends don’t video their conversations, but we did.
But maybe you don’t buy it? You can do your own experiment. Go ahead and watch all of the videos and even use the Bible Plan we created to start making good friends yourself. If a group of strangers could become friends with cameras running, then you can do it no problem. Whether you have a group you already get together with, or you want to start one, I hope you’ll watch these videos and discover what it means to belong.