A Guide to Relocation

How to master the art of the transplant.

The first time I moved, I experienced loneliness and pain the likes of which I hadn't seen since the 7th grade.

Talk about a return to teen angst. I graduated from college and moved to Seattle to intern at a church. On Friday nights, I actually prayed my part-time job would schedule me to work so I wouldn't have to sit in my room alone.

Back in school we enjoyed forced community. Our classmates were just like us—the same age, same interests and oftentimes the same personality. We naturally built relationships.  But once we graduated, our friends moved all over. In the post-college world, we face people from vastly different backgrounds, of different ages and personalities.  

Even if you're the type who loves meeting new people, uprooting and moving to an entirely new place can be challenging.

Even if you're the type who loves meeting new people, uprooting and moving to an entirely new place can be challenging.

Since Seattle, I've relocated seven more times. It still stinks. It's hard and it's lonely, especially for a quiet guy like me. But after eight times, I know how to do it well.

These three steps will guide you into a loving community wherever you go. Remember, community takes time. It's ok to feel lonely. Just remember, it gets better. Each of these steps require boldness, but I promise, the more you practice, the easier they become.

Step 1: Ask for an introduction

You need a support structure. You may even need a job. You need answers to simple questions like, "Where should I get my hair cut?" "What's the best gym around here?" or even "Where can I find a job?"  

In Seattle, I made the mistake of relying on one or two people to help me through all of these problems. It takes a village.

So before you move, ask for an introduction. If you need a community of Christ followers, ask your current pastor, "Do you know anyone in [destination] who could connect me to followers of Jesus? Or if not, who might know someone?" If you need a job, go to someone in your industry and ask, "Do you know anyone in [destination] who has connections in this industry? If not, who might know someone?" Notice the question doesn't ask, "Can you give me a job?"

For ages, folks have smoothed transitions through introductions. When Jesus sent out his disciples, he told them to look for a man or woman of goodwill—an ally in a new place. In centuries past, nobility would request a letter of introduction from one mayor, baron or commander to another. 

I used this skill before I moved back to California, and it ultimately landed me a job in addition to wonderful friends.

Step 2: Commit to a group or two:  

When I moved to Washington, D.C., I visited many churches. As a result, I only experienced the Sunday service. By the time I left D.C. I had the same number of church friends as when I started: zero.

If you skip around to different churches, you'll spend months on your own, outside of community. So ask your pastor or friends for an introduction, do some research, and then when you arrive, commit.

Attend the same church (or two) for at least a month. After a month, you'll recognize people and they'll recognize you. If you fill out the white card in the back of the pew, you might just receive a couple event invitations. It can be scary to dive into a new church, but if you commit for at least a month, you'll be able to tell if it's a place you want to stay. And even if it's not, you'll probably have made some connections in the process.

When I moved back to California, I dove in to a church as soon as I got here. It's not a perfect community, but no church is. I would much rather stick with imperfect people than stick to myself. 

I also took up a hobby. If you're a cyclist or want to join a book club, use step one and Google to find meet up groups. If you climb, work out or run, visit a gym or running store and ask about groups you can join.

Step 3: If you're an introvert, find the other introverts.

While some flourish around strangers, others of us, the introverts who prefer peace and quiet, don't always do so well.

Whether you're an introvert or extrovert yourself, seeking introverts can be a good way to find friends if you're having difficulty in a setting with a large group of people.

Once you join a group, the introverts stick out like sore thumbs. They're the ones with their mouths shut. They're the wall flowers, hanging on the outskirts of a crowded room as the extravert dances around chatting with everyone. They tend to carry books under their arms.

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This step is hard because introverts can be awkward. Introverts look at you funny when you walk up to them and communicate stand-offish things through body language. Don't worry, you probably do the same thing, at times. Remember the TV show Lost?  "Live together; die alone." Press on.

Even with tips and tricks, relocating remains painful. Give it time, practice the steps and, I promise, everything will be OK.

As an awkward introvert myself, my best introduction is the horrific, "Hey I just moved here from out of town and have no idea what's going on. How long have you been a part of [group]?" Please share a better intro in the comments section below.

Even with a lousy intro like mine, people respond. They usually ask the same assortment of exhausting questions you'll receive dozens of times, "Where did you move from? Why did you move? What do you do?" Now you're in a conversation, and you might just make a friend.

Even with tips and tricks, relocating remains painful. I miss my friends from Dallas, Seattle and D.C. I have to talk to strangers, and sometimes I'm lonely. But, because of the steps described above, my most recent move has actually been fun.  

Give it time, practice the steps, and I promise, everything will be OK. You will make friends. You will find community. And if you ever need a connection in a new place, who knows? I've moved enough that I might just know someone.


Danielle Paventi


Danielle Paventi commented…

Great article, also good timing for me. I relocated to DC from Chicago recently and have been thinking a lot about how I built up my community over my two years in Chicago into something I was so sad to leave, and how to replicate it here. The Church piece is key, and patience. Even though we may want it to, it doesn't all happen over night!

Eric McClellan


Eric McClellan replied to Danielle Paventi's comment

Thanks for your comment, Danielle. I actually just attended a going away party last night. I talked with the husband who is moving about finding someone who "knows everyone." Those type of connectors usually enjoy introducing us to new friends, and they're typically easy to spot. Just ask, "Who around here knows everyone?"

I'll pray for you today about your move.

Andi McBride


Andi McBride commented…

Good stuff. Hard stuff, too, for introverts like us. New to Tennessee, and you'd think that with this being the 25th house I've lived in, I'd have it figured out. But nope! Wish me luck with my awkward intros. :)

Andi McBride


Andi McBride replied to Stephanie Sneller's comment

Yeah, Nashville is a very cool place. I visited Crosspoint a few weeks ago! Some friends go there. Awesome place, but the place I've felt most at home thus far is Oasis Church. Starting to sort of feel settled. :) Haven't heard of Plan B. I'll check it out!

Stephanie Sneller


Stephanie Sneller commented…

Great piece! Wish I had this several years ago when I made my first big (I married a soldier and since that initial move we've relocated another 4 times in 4 years!).

Typically the number 1 thing on my list whenever we head somewhere new (after figuring out housing) is getting plugged into a church. And I absolutely agree, commitment is key. Barring any major theological disconnects, there really isn't any substantial reason for one being "better" than another.

Since arriving at our latest place, we've had a kid and that does make for an easy in, but honestly, even as an introvert I would simply make that extra effort those first few months to meet new people. From church to just looking around the local community for other groups/gatherings (I try to find groups/classes that focus on hobbies/activities I already enjoy like photography or fiber arts). Meet up is a great resource, and I will admit that since we're typically moving from military community to military community we also have some easy ins as most posts/bases have local facebook pages we you can ask about who's the best doctor in town to where can you find decent sushi, etc.

But it's always an adventure and now that I consider myself an old salt at the process, I kind of look forward to each new move.

Eric McClellan


Eric McClellan replied to Stephanie Sneller's comment

Awesome, Stephanie. I like your caveat "barring any major theological disconnects." It's also cool to hear how you use meetup.

After moving to a new place, I definitely am more exhausted the first few weeks cause of all the meeting and greeting. But it pays off in the long run, right? You reap what you sow?

Stephanie Sneller


Stephanie Sneller replied to Eric McClellan's comment

Absolutely. I figure for every awkward thing I put myself out there for, there's another that actually is fun and can lead to new friendships.

Kitty Robinson


Kitty Robinson commented…

This was so unbelievably helpful. I just moved to CO last week, and have just felt like such a fish out of water. This is my 4th move to a new place in the past 2 years, and it does not get easier each time. I feel like in each place I have built a community, only to have it get ripped out from under my feet again. Now that I am in a more permanent position, I am anxious to build that community similar to one's I had before. But I can't "recreate" the same people, the same setting. I need to be excited for something new.
I went to 4 different church services on Sunday just so I could compare and contrast which one would be the best fit for me- but reading this article reminded me I just need to calm down, relax, and just pick. Thank you so much for this!

Eric McClellan


Eric McClellan replied to Kitty Robinson's comment

Awesome, Kitty. I'm excited for your move. It's so difficult because we forget how hard it was to build community the first time. We forget that it took years to get to where we are now.

Typically, settling in takes 6 months to a year. Similar to a culture shock curve. Thanks again.

Chelsea Beachem


Chelsea Beachem commented…

Good stuff!
I'm new to the Bay Area (I'm from the South) and living out here has been a bit...challenging.
I think once I find a community to be a part of things will smooth out.

*Santa Cruz is beautiful*

Eric McClellan


Eric McClellan replied to Chelsea Beachem's comment

Where in the South? And where in the BA? I'm interested to know what church you're becoming a part of.

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