A while back I wrote a post about what it’s like to be a Christian, ENTJ female and it got a lot of conversation going on the topic. One of the most common comments that I got from other ENTJs in particular was “church doesn’t help me. It does nothing, and I don’t feel accepted or like I’m growing. So I stopped going to church.” And it broke my heart.
I’ve written extensively in the past about why you need to go to church as a student, why students leave the church, and about how the church can help with various issues we face. But those don’t really address the issue of what to do when your church doesn’t help you.
So I’ve decided to start to tackle this problem in a few blog posts. Like I said in my last post in this series, we go to church because God commands us to as well as for three reasons that benefit us directly. Obviously individuals will have extra reasons apart from these, but I think these are pretty global so these are the ones I’m going to mainly address. They are (1) to receive good teaching that helps us grow, which we talked about last time, (2) to become part of a community, and (3) to feel like we’re actually making some sort of a difference. Often when we get disillusioned about church it’s about one of these three things. The preaching isn’t great, I feel isolated, or I feel like I’m not able to do anything with my faith at the church that I’m at. At least, those were the comments that I got on my post.
Let me start by saying I have very much been there. I’m a very opinionated and outgoing woman in a church. Of course I came up against issues. So today I want to deal with the second problem: feeling lonely in your own church.
Problem 2: I feel alone in my church
This is one of the most tragic things I hear, I think. Church is a place to celebrate God’s community of believers, and it’s really discouraging to go somewhere you’re supposed to feel like a part of a community and just feel like you’re alone in a crowd of people.
Connor and I have been so blessed at this church that we’re at now to have found a really solid community. But that community didn’t just happen–we were pretty active in making church friends! My whole life I’ve had a hard time fitting in anywhere–that’s just a part of being an ENTJ female. But no matter where you are, there are things that you can do to become part of a community. And it might mean taking a few risks, but I want to challenge you with this post! So here are some solutions that I think might help if you’re feeling lonely and are sad that you don’t have any church friends.
Solution 1 to Making Church Friends: Join a small group
If you’re sad about not being part of a community, and you haven’t tried joining a small group, that should be your #1 first step. Connor and I were part of small groups all throughout university, both with our campus Christian group where we met and then with our church later. It is the single best way to become part of Christian community and to make church friends. Being a part of a smaller group within a larger church can bridge that gap between feeling like you’re just another person amidst a sea of people and knowing you have a place you belong in the church.
The great thing about small groups is that it’s a very non-threatening number of people to get to know. We’re only talking like 12 or 15 people maximum usually, and that’s a lot easier to get to know than 200 or more! Plus, you’re getting to know people in a setting that encourages spiritual growth and accountability. Learning about God’s word together is one of the best catalysts to making long-lasting relationships.
Solution 2 to Making Church Friends: Volunteer
Do you have a way you’re able to serve at the church? Then do it! I’m on the worship team at my church and honestly the practices are often the highlight of my week. Our worship team is filled with so many great people I never would have gotten to know if it wasn’t for volunteering, but are now great friends of mine. Plus, churches always need more volunteers, anyway.
The great thing about volunteering is that it gives you a natural reason to be there besides just trying to get more connected. If you’re on the worship team, you’re there to play an instrument and/or sing. So if you don’t click with anyone, it’s OK and not awkward–you have something else to fall back onto. It makes everything a lot less awkward than just going to a church social and sitting around a gym with a bunch of people who already know each other and gives you a natural “in” with a group.
Solution 3 to Making Church Friends: Go out of your comfort zone
The reality, is, though, if you’re feeling lonely at church you need to be the one to reach out. No one except you knows what you’re experiencing or going through and expecting that others will naturally be able to cater to your every need is just unrealistic. So instead of just feeling really sad that no one is asking you out for coffee after church, why don’t you just ask someone? Or better yet, ask a bunch of people and make it a fun gathering?
It doesn’t have to be anything too exciting. Why not just go up to someone you’ve been chatting with or the pastor and say “Hey, I’m new here and would really love to just get to know some people. Would you guys like to go grab a coffee or a bite to eat?” I think you’ll be surprised if you’re just honest how many people would jump at the opportunity to make you feel welcome. I think that a lot of the time people aren’t trying to be unwelcoming–they just don’t know how to welcome you.
Loneliness can be really hard. Especially at a place where you really SHOULD be accepted and feel like a part of something greater. Of course, if all of these tips really don’t work and the church is just kind of toxic, you should consider switching somewhere else and trying these points there. But give your church a good shot–I always gave a church a month before I left, but I’m extremely extroverted. If you have a harder time connecting, maybe give it two or three. Really put in some effort and if nothing comes back, find somewhere where you can feel like a part of something bigger while giving back to the community.
It’s your turn to talk! Have you ever felt alone at church? How did you make church friends? Let me know in the comments!
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