Editor’s Note: Allendale United Methodist Church in St. Petersburg, Florida recently hosted a “speed friending” event attended by nearly 100 people. This guest post by Faniel Pradel, Director of Engagement and Youth at Allendale, explains why the church hosted the event (very loosely patterned after the speed dating concept), how it worked, and how congregants responded.
Allendale is a fast-growing community with members and visitors from all generations and life experiences. A few members mentioned over coffee one day how they “know of” one another, but do not “truly know” one another. As we are in worship, attending events, and working in the community, we tend to just hang out with the same people we already know. We are often looking forward instead of looking at each other.
So how can a church engage all of its members and visitors – both extroverts and introverts – in a comfortable, safe, and welcoming environment? After much brainstorming, speed-friending was created!
Our first event was right after church, and we even ended church a little early to support the event and also be considerate of our congregants’ time. We had refreshments, and we also provided childcare for the little ones.
We set the fellowship room up with 12 rectangular tables, four chairs on either side, in three rows to help with movement. One side remained seated. (This was to keep it less chaotic but also allow those who needed to sit to be able to participate.) The other side moved. We did five rounds at four minutes each. During each round, participants pulled a random stack of questions (40-50 questions were provided at each table) and asked one another questions. These questions were both conversation starters and general get-to-know-you questions.
The entire event lasted around 45 minutes, ending right at lunchtime. Many stayed and continued their conversations with people they met and some even went to lunch together afterward.
As with all our events at Allendale, this was another intergenerational event. (Even some of our older children participated!) There was such high energy, continuous conversation, and plenty of laughter throughout the event. Most enjoyed the activity and felt they had the opportunity to finally get to know new faces as well as people they saw every Sunday, but truly never talked with. As our church grows, we want to be more than just the place you attend on Sunday. We want to be the place where you find your community, engage in social justice, and create life-long and meaningful friendships.
For more information, email Faniel Pradel or call him at Allendale at 727-527-6694.