It can be argued that in our culture today, we have too many acquaintances, but too few friends. This can be true of church as well. We see people on a Sunday, we know each others names and some basic information, and we can even enjoy one another’s company, but do we really know each other? How can we start to move from simply knowing someone’s name, to knowing them?
At the end of World War 2, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology converted former military barracks into tiny apartments for ex-servicemen who attended the university. Researchers saw this as an opportunity to study friendship formation. After the students had been living in the apartments for a couple of months, the researchers asked them questions about how and with whom they had made friends, including certain things they have in common, such as the branch of military they served in, their hobbies, their major in school, their hometown, and so on. What they discovered surprised them. Friendship wasn’t based on any of the possible indicators that they had expected, in fact, the biggest predictor was proximity. Forty one percent of the friends lived next door to each other, twenty two percent lived two doors away, and only ten percent lived on the opposite end of the floor. They called this finding the ‘proximity effect’.
How does this work for us?
It is looking for ways to create intersection with people. In an apartment you might pass one another on the stairwell, in a local community it can be seeing one another at the shops, and each of these small encounters start to build on each other.
What if you organised a game of touch football every Tuesday night? What if you joined a coffee club where you caught up with others from Mosaic once a week? Perhaps organise an Organic event like a picnic to a local park, a games night, or a hike?
These are all about bringing intentionality to your life. Creating spaces where there are opportunities to bring your life into proximity with another persons life, and see what effect this has. Who knows, an acquaintance might become a friend.