I asked a few men what comes to mind when they think about friendship. One of them said, “That used to be nice.” Another joked about a newly appreciated “miracle” of Jesus: he was a man who had twelve close friends in his thirties. Our modern individualistic culture leads men to drift away from friendship and into loneliness. Many feel like Mandy Patinkin, known for his role as Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride. When someone asked how he would edit his past, he said, “I would have pursued more friendships instead of focusing so much on work and myself. I’m doing . . . that now, but I’m running out of time.”
Exploring a biblical vision of true friendship, this book demonstrates the universal need for friendship, what true friendship really looks like, and how to cultivate deeper relationships.
Men, you were made for friendship. You can forge deep relationships and cultivate a culture of brotherhood around you. Here are 15 strategies.
- Honor other men.
The New Testament is filled with commands like “encourage one another” (1 Thess. 4:18; 1 Thess. 5:11) and “outdo one another in showing honor” (Rom. 12:10). We’re called to cultivate an atmosphere of mutual honor, respect, and esteem among men. Rather than highlight failings with sarcasm and critique, celebrate the strengths of other men. Tell other men specific reasons why you thank God for them.
- Reach out in small ways.
You don’t need a good reason to reach out to a friend. One study found that we underestimate how much people appreciate friends reaching out.2 One man recently called me on his way to work just to say hi. He shared why he respected me, gave an example from my life, and then we went on with our day. I doubt he has any idea how much that meant.
- Open up with honesty.
Relationships stay superficial when we hide our weaknesses, failures, and sins. This allows us to appear impressive, but at the cost of being known. But 1 John 1:7 says, “If we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all unrighteousness.” Walking in the light is not perfection; it’s honesty—and it leads to two results: real friendship and felt forgiveness.
- Show hospitality.
Hospitality is about opening your heart and home to others, especially outsiders. It creates the context to connect and go deeper. Make hospitality a regular rhythm in your schedule by reserving one night every week for this. Invite a few others over for dinner, drinks, or time around a fire.
- Embrace small talk.
Small talk can be frustrating when people only stay superficial. But it’s an important starting point. Think about it: when someone comes up to you, he may wonder what you think of him. Especially in group settings, some men question if they belong. But through warm and friendly small talk you communicate that you want them there. A cheerful greeting and casual conversation relaxes people. It’s the best on-ramp into deeper conversation. We don’t want to stay on the surface, but we shouldn’t despise starting here.
- Ask questions.
The best way to drop conversations deeper is to ask good questions. Be ready with a few go-to questions that take conversations deeper. For example: What are a few themes in your life right now? What are a few things on your mind these days? What are you grateful for recently? Has anything been discouraging recently? How are things going at home (or at work, or at school)? After asking, stay curious.
- Get face-to-face.
The apostle John wrote, “I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete” (2 John 12). Why must he get face-to-face to complete his joy? Because God didn’t make us hard-drives, and communication is more than sending texts. Technology is a gift, but we were made for more. Whenever possible, prioritize being physically together.
- Don’t divide over differences.
We see how easy it is for society to fracture and polarize. Personalities clash, social media rewards extremes, and people start disdaining those who disagree with them. But Christians are called to “welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God” (Rom. 15:7). How has Jesus welcomed his people? Decisively, fully, and wholeheartedly—and he doesn’t wait until we agree with him about everything. Friendships thrive when we receive and extend the welcome of Christ.
- Draw near during depression.
We need friendship most when we’re depressed. Yet it’s at these times when we pull back. When we sink into sadness, we need to defy our feelings and reach out. And when someone you care about sinks into sadness, show up and stay close.
- Establish rhythms in your schedule.
We build our schedule around our priorities. If we value Bible-reading, exercise, or dinner with family, we need a clear plan with a schedule. Instead of relying on spontaneity, build rhythms for relationships into your schedule. For example, set aside every other Tuesday for coffee with a friend. Plan for a couple meals each week to eat with a friend. Engage in a sport or hobby with others.
- Invite others into what you’re already doing.
Your schedule may feel full, but what if you invited people into what you’re already doing? You can work with friends to finish home repair projects. Work out, go running, or take a walk with someone rather than doing it alone. Invite people over for dinner or to watch a game or movie together. Ask someone to read a book with you and meet a few times to talk about it.
- Get away together.
Go deeper by getting out of town. Invite a group of friends to join you on an outdoor backpacking, fishing, or hunting trip, and build it into a yearly tradition. Take a shorter, day-long or overnight trip to visit a city or see a concert. One friend of mine has rented a home every year for the past decade to spend a few days with close friends.
- Arrive early and linger longer.
Whenever you go to a group event, arrive early and stay longer. For example, rather than showing up to the Sunday service right on time (or late), come ten minutes early. Introduce yourself to someone you don’t know or find the loneliest person in the room and talk with them. Then after service is over, don’t walk straight to the parking lot. Share your response to the sermon with someone. Invite someone over or out for lunch. If your church doesn’t have coffee around, volunteer to serve it for the sake of fostering friendship.
- Don’t get lonely as a leader.
Leaders spend a lot of time with people, and yet many don’t have deep relationships. When a leader burns out or drops out due to moral failure, we often find that he didn’t have any true friends. One pastor said the sin that led to many sins in his life was preaching about community while living in isolation. True friendship is one of the neglected necessities that sustains long-term leadership.
- Combine friendship and discipleship.
We may wonder as we learn about Jesus’s interactions with his disciples, Is this discipleship or is this friendship? It’s both. They followed him, and he called them friends (John 15:14–15). He discipled through shared meals, extended conversations, and long walks. This is why, as we become more like Jesus, we will become more committed to friendship. Take a walk with someone and share what you’re learning in God’s word or another book. Share lunch on Sunday and discuss what affected you from the sermon. Meet with someone weakly over coffee to discuss a chapter of the Bible.