Feeling lonely at church


(Victoria White) #1

Hey everyone! I’m back haha

I was wondering if anyone else feels lonely at church. Like, not many people make an effort to talk to you. Even though you may be going to groups, fellowships and church on sundays, you still feel empty.

I know that the answer will inevitably be Jesus is the only satisfying thing, but I think that might come off as cliche. I need some help here.

Thanks,

Victoria


(Warner Joseph Miller) #2

Hey there, Victoria. I totally get – or, at least, I believe I get – exactly what you’re talking about. As a slightly socially awkward introvert living in NYC (a place where greeting stranger’s isn’t really a ‘thing’) who attends one of the largest churches in Brooklyn, building relationships and community can be incredibly tough! I’m also a loner, by nature, so any relationship seeking has to be incredibly intentional and deliberate. For me – and this ironically was one of the truths I learned as a result of studying at OCCA – I learned that I NEEDED community. That community wasn’t just a good idea but rather was paramount; a necessary component of growth and maturity.

With regard to your question, a practical course of action I took was to look for ways to serve others in my local fellowship. I found that once I began to intentionally serve and get involved, the largeness of the church actually diminshed and relationships actually began to be made with a bit more ease. Even as an adult, it’s challenging for me to make new friends. So it helps to be in a situation where interaction with people (either the people you’re serving or are serving with) is routine. I mean…it surely took some intentionality on my end. But as I became more involved with my church body, I began to know people and people began to know me. Friendships and acquaintances began to develop. And this behemoth of a church actually began to get more bite sized. This has really helped me – even through my social awkwardness. That’s been my experience, anyway. Blessings to you!


(C Rhodes) #3

Hi Victoria. Warren offered a sound recommendation towards developing relationship within your congregation. I would only add a lesson the Lord is teaching me. When I relinquish my expectation of others, especially church and natural family members; then their ability to disappoint me leaves with my expectations. That’s not to say that I don’t have expectations of others; but when I insist that affirmation be found in CHRIST alone, then it lets fellow humans ‘off-the-hook!’

It makes all the ways that we fail each other places of forgiveness. Not places of building despair. I fully understand how it feels to set in the group and seem completely ignored. Usually, because I am socially awkard. But you are right. Until I can point to the time or circumstances where the Lord has failed me, I take those tears that seem born of loneliness and make them the sacrifice of my aching heart. I think you can be married and experience those feelings when other humans are just not enough. You need more. And the good news; you already have the more you need.

Cry if you must, we all do. But remind yourself that every moment of your existence you rest in the hollow of loving hands. That being the beloved of GOD is much more than a feeling. And those feelings they always pass. Stand firm Ms. Victoria, help embraces your every step. You are known, you are remembered, and you are loved.


(Brittany Bowman) #4

You bring up a good concern, Victoria. As someone who’s moved a lot for school/internships, I can relate. Perhaps one lesson I’ve learned recently is from Luke 15; amongst so many parables of Christ pursuing the one lost sinner, it does seem like he places an emphasis on pursuing. Recently, I was visiting a church, and an elderly gentleman chased me into the parking lot in his choir robe because he noticed from the stage I was new and had been too shy to talk to anyone before leaving. We each have that opportunity as Christians.

Per Sharon Dirckx’s suggestion, I’ve begun listening to Vince Vitale’s lecture “Conversations that Count.” His speech is both very practical (highly recommend it!) and also convicting: he describes meeting a man who had to attend several church services before someone (Vince) finally paused long enough to realize he wanted to give his life to Christ. Perhaps there is someone sitting by themselves, a home-bound congregation member, etc. for whom you could also shine a light? Some of my most loyal friendships have resulted from those rare instances where loneliness pushed me to finally do what God calls us all to do (shocker).

This Gospel Coalition article lists out some practical goals for building relationships at church, too, and I’ve found C.S. Lewis’ thoughts on humility helpful. In my own life, I often think my shyness is a sign of humility, when in reality it’s much more prideful than I’d like to admit.

“Do not imagine that if you meet a really humble man he will be what most people call ‘humble’ nowadays: he will not be a sort of greasy, smarmy person, who is always telling you that, of course, he is nobody. Probably all you will think about him is that he seemed a cheerful, intelligent chap who took a real interest in what you said to him. If you do dislike him it will be because you feel a little envious of anyone who seems to enjoy life so easily. He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.”

Hope you can get plugged in. You’re right in longing for community- it’s important in the life of a Christian, Hebrews 10:25. I’d love to hear your ideas for getting plugged in!


(SeanO) #5

@Victoria_White Yes, I have definitely felt that way - I’ve gone to the same Church weeks in a row and left with zero people going past polite hellos even after I initiated conversation. And in a way, I think that is okay. People have busy lives and oftentimes, if we really knew their story, they are just trying to keep their heads above water. Not everyone has the bandwidth to build relationships with us. In addition, each Church is composed of certain types of people and whether we like to admit it or not, Christians struggle with tending to like people like themselves too. It’s always easier to hang out with people the same age, who think the same way, etc. So on one level we need to remember that Christians are people too and they have their struggles.

I think @WarnerMiller’s advice is very good - serving in Church can help us build stronger community, but I think it is more complex than simply serving too. Relationships are organic - they cannot be planned - they happen when we do life together. So I think the best way to find Christian friends is to persistently pursue community.

  • pray daily for the Lord to provide community
  • consider switching Churches to find a singles group or some folks who are more able / willing to connect
  • find a Church / ministry where you can use your gifts and dive in head first
  • be intentional about community - try to go out to eat with folks after Sunday school or stay after small group to chat with people (assuming the other people are interested)
  • be patient as you prayerfully pursue community - it can take months for relationships to form

I think finding good community is no easy thing - it takes effort and sometimes sacrifice - and because relationships form organically it cannot really be planned. We must just jump out there and try to find a place where we ‘click’ as we serve Jesus and hang out with other folks in the Church.

May the Lord Jesus provide you with good community and give you wisdom to discern where you might find it. The grace and peace of Christ be with you :slight_smile:


(LaTricia J.) #6

This is a very good topic of discussion and consideration @Victoria_White and I’m glad you brought it up.

I spent three years at a church feeling lonely, and for the first two years it really perplexed me because I didn’t understand how they could happen or why it was happening. I was a new believer, and I didn’t hesitate in finding a church home and thrusting myself in to church life. I got over myself to do so. I typically have a lot of time in solitude outside of work, and when I have it at work, I relish it because it can get so crazy and busy in the office. I remember sitting on the edge of my bed several times truly lamenting about the level of loneliness present in my life. In a moment of vulnerability, I remember addressing it in a post-service conversation with a fellow member of the same church. I told her that I was shocked to find that I was more lonely as a believer than I was as an unbeliever. She took it as an opportunity to later come back and ‘prophesy’ over me in a class.:roll_eyes:

I truly did my level best to make connections and build relationships. I served faithfully, I made myself seen, I talked to strangers, I was on the altar prayer team, and I didn’t allow myself to be shy. My thinking was that as a believer, I’m supposed to put myself out there for fellow believers who are my brothers and sisters in Christ. I took to heart the teachings of bearing one another’s burdens and meeting together for fellowship and all of that. The only way that was going to happen was if I put myself aside (introvert, awkward, quiet observer, and so on) and jump on in.

I left that church. It was like being in a one sided relationship where I’m doing most or all of the work and the other always has a reason for not contributing to the health and survival of the relationship.

To me, it’s a given that Christ can only fill certain spaces in our heart and satisfy certain longings, but to dismiss the real loneliness or disconnect that people experience inside of an active congregation, I think, does a disservice to those who experience it. It is something that needs to be addressed not only through prayer but in a very practical/tangible way as well. It can be downright discouraging to continuously experience loneliness and not make loyal or compassionate connections with others. It doesn’t even have to be bff-like connecting! However, it can be a connection filled with compassion, care, and tenderness. Yes, we’re in Christ and that’s the best thing ever; however, we are also physical beings with real physical needs and part of the those physical needs are companionship, whether brotherly, romantically, or both. Hugs, handshakes, warm smiles, inside jokes, laughing, shared moments that create beautiful memories, and all of those other wonderful experiences are, in my opinion, used and orchestrated by God. How do we not have time for one another? Even if we are going through ‘it’, whatever ‘it’ is, there’s something about sharing a burden with someone who’s going through similar or something else that’s difficult - just being a support by being there and allowing Christ to be in the midst of it all.

It would take another two years before I would come to a church that it seems like a better fit for me. I started making connections almost immediately. Again, I jumped in and started attending classes. The environment is different and the leadership is also different than the first church. I don’t know what makes my personal interactions with people different at the second church. Honestly, I would have expected them to be more of a labor at the second church because I was a bit jaded and standoffish from my experience with the first church. But, how could I really be that with people who are persistent in engaging with me and reaching out to me? Like really persistent - even the pastor and his wife …

I think I’m rambling. I have so many thoughts on this topic probably because it’s near and dear to my heart. But all of this is to yes, I do understand and have experienced this. :slight_smile:


(Carson Weitnauer) #7

Hi Victoria,

I don’t have an answer for you, but I wanted to briefly comment that I’ve experienced this as well. When my wife and I moved to Atlanta five years ago, it happened that the apartment we rented was next door to a well-known, highly respected church in the city. So we literally walked to that church for the first year.

We’re both relatively friendly people, but despite our best efforts, and living next door to the church itself, we did not make many friends there. My wife did make some great connections in a women’s small group, but I was unable to find a similar group of men (or a couple’s group). In the church context, it was a pretty lonely year. I think we did all the right things to get plugged in, but… it just didn’t work out.

When we moved, this led us to think, maybe we should try another church… we did our google searches, listened to the sermons from many churches, checked out the websites, and decided to visit one of them. That church instantly became our new church home. We are now members, we help lead a Sunday community, and it is a place of belonging and growth.

I don’t know why it worked out this way. But I thought my experience could offer some encouragement.


(Eric) #8

Yes, I have. I had actually been going to a church for a few years and stopped going just two or three months ago. I couldn’t stop thinking that I could sit at home and be just as alone as I feel in this room full of people. I wish I had an answer, but I’m in the same boat you are.


(Bill Brander) #9

Interesting Carson… you Googled various churches. That is a growing trend in our context. But getting the ‘leaders’ to buy into that investment I find is an uphill battle.
You being an ‘innovator’ and all, would it fit under the RZIM umbrella to open an Information Communication Technology aka ICT forum, with an apologetic approach?
Have a blessed Christmas


(SeanO) #10

@FallenEmbers Sorry to hear that - may the Lord Jesus provide you with some solid community as only He can.


(Rebekah DeWitt) #11

Totally.
It’s hard enough to go to a strange/new church alone…
I have had “older” people say friendly remarks but in the end, I think we want to be included. I have yet to find that in any age range near my own.
To be fair, one sweet older lady did invite me to her Bible study group but at the time I visited that church , my job then conflicted with the time of her study and I was unable to go. She said there was one person who came who was closer to my age.
I think it would be nice for churches to have more “fellowship dinners” after church for visitors to have the opportunity to stay and mingle and get acquainted. This might not be feasible but I think it would be nice. I have visited one like this while visiting relatives out of state and I thought how nice it was. They were an extremely warm and welcoming church.
We can all learn from this to one day be the one to make sure the lonely visitor is attended to!


(Victoria White) #12

Thank you everyone for your responses! It really helps. I also think this needs to be mentioned as well. Sometimes friends can be scattered and I can tell you, that not everyone one of my friends goes to my church. In fact, one of my closest friends goes to another church! Social Media is a huge factor too, because you see everyone posting pictures and moments where you wish you were there. However, social media doesn’t show everything either. It’s so easy to get caught up in what others may or may not be doing that we lose sight of the blessings we already have.

Just a few more thoughts to add to this.

Thanks,

Victoria :slight_smile:


(Andrea L) #13

Dear Victoria,
What you have described very well fits the experience I had in my first church here, after relocating literally accross the Earth with my family. It was tough, and many times it was difficult to make myself move and drive to church on Sunday morning (back then my family did not come with me). At the end these challenges not only helped me to get better at perseverance, but taught me to go for the Lord, not for the people. And God used that few years to prune and upskill me - through different situations, people, and circumstances. Looking back He prepared me for my next big step and what was waiting for me there - being resituated another church in town. As some time has passed by now I can see how crucial it was to start off at the right place, even if it felt lonely and sometimes lost - my path is in God’s hands as He knows it better what’s good for me. Yes, sometimes these things hurt - but will bear fruits long term.
I would like to encourage you: God has everything in control, He knows every thought of you and I am sure He uses this time for your future benefit.
A worship song popped into my mind as I was writing:
“In the crushing
In the pressing
You are making new wine
In the soil I now surrender
You are breaking new ground”
New wine
I pray for peace in your heart and keep being strong it the Lord!
Blessings,
andrea


(Susan Baker) #14

Victoria and friends, this is a key issue for our Christian walk. Speaking of “walk,” I’m going to walk this back to the meaning of “church.”

Is it a building? Is it where you go once a week for a couple hours to get Christian cred? Is it a social club? Is fellowship with others only expressed at “church?” Did Jesus spend His short life setting up a new hierarchy of religious organization with the commission to go build buildings and contain yourselves therein?

I loved the responses to Victoria’s lament about how lonely it is in church. I’ve had similar experiences! In this world we will have troubles, and the world is our church. I believe Jesus taught that church is everywhere, everywhen with everyone. This radical reorientation requires seeing through the eye, beyond appearances and LIVING the truth wherever we are…particularly to love and understand those we meet wherever and whenever. Wasn’t Jesus amazing in His repsonsiveness to others?!

We are not God, but He kept teaching His disciples and those He encountered how ANY of us could be alive with the living water of God’s Spirit: For we have Father God’s kingdom for us after we fulfill His purpose and honor His glory here; Jesus’ salvation so we could enter that eternal realm washed free of sin; the Holy Spirit’s little light shining within to walk by God’s guidance as we journey through this troublesome world. What a gift of grace to help us through!

I am not an introvert who has difficulty seeking out new friends or getting involved with missions, yet I’ve had many disappointments in the lack of intimacy with Christians. I realized after a few years that Christians are no less human than others, while holding to God’s highest standards. That can get translated by Christians as the need to be hyper critical of others, and can be resented by others as more discipline than their natural impulses prefer. Either way, the Christian course is fraught with difficulty. It is not unrelated to the challenges of being an American and living up to our principles. After all, our foundations are in Biblical truths. Double-whammy. No wonder there is so much deception and temptation to ridicule both.

After a few years of serious Christian study and disengaging from any particular church, I realized what I’d already known: my mission is everywhere because humans and human nature is everywhere, and life is happening every moment. Recently I’ve found a lovely Christian congregation and will attend in the ways that God—not others speaking for Him— directs me. I cannot do that if I’m not daily tuned to Him.

God speaks to us as individuals first. I encourage all of you to listen daily to God, read His Word, and after essential time alone, get out and live church everywhere, everywhen with everyone. Wear the armor of God and share His fruits of the Spirit. Do not schedule your love in time and place, but encourage others to do what God calls them to do.

As Ravi says, may God richly bless you…for your going out and your coming in. We are FREE! Our church is everywhere…inside designated buildings, at study groups, at work, in prisons, at parties, with our families, friends, strangers, on social media sites (where the mission field has wandered, virtually though not often virtuously) and in our quiet times with God. Make the most of your life whereever you are because God designed you for His special purposes that can’t be replicated by others’ lives.

And that’s my sermon on church! :latin_cross::pray::sparkling_heart:


(LaTricia J.) #15

I don’t think I really understand what you mean by this. Can you elaborate, please?

Thanks!


(Tim Ramey) #16

To be honest, it breaks my heart to hear that so many of you are lonely in a place where the love of Jesus should abound. It is a topic that really grips my heart.

My burden may even take a little different tack. It bothers me that when we have a prayer time at our church, only the “safe” issues are mentioned. This is not an attack on our church or any as I feel that it probably pervades all churches. We can pray for broken bones, and safe travels and checkups for cancer etc, but out in the congregation sits hurting people. An example what I am referring to took place last Sunday.

I feel the time to talk to people after the service is essential. Don’t get the idea that I am building myself up and saying what should took place. But each Sunday I trust that the Lord will lead me to the right person to converse with. Yesterday, I sought out a woman about 40 years old whose glance was downward and her eyes were dark. I asked her how she was and of course, the reply was “Fine.” So again, I said “No I’m asking you how you are truly doing.” What followed was a “real” conversation, where Lindy literally brightened up. "

I don’t mention this to say anything about me. May I decrease so He can increase. But what I think is a key issue, which she brought up, is trust. Each week I realize the pews are filled with hurting, lonely people who feel vulnerable. They aren’t about to spew out their whole life to just anyone.

It is each of our responsibility to seek someone out and really listen to them. Lindy knew that I was truly concerned for her. We are getting her over for a meal and we are having her join us in an intercessory prayer group.

I’m going on too long but I think as we seek out the broken, light is directed to our own lives as well. If you are lonely, seek out someone else who seems lonely and you will often be filled by the love of Jesus. I think that you’ll realize that so many are hurting and need the love of Jesus to touch them. One post accurately mentioned that we should ultimately get out fulfillment from Jesus but sometimes that means that He uses us to have His love pour out to another.

I’m reluctant to post this as it appears that I’m saying that I know how to do it - that I know how to fix this problem. I don’t, but as we venture out, Jesus gives us what we should say to love a person and eventually help them realize that they can trust us. This whole post is intended to give glory to the Lord as I could never truly help another without Jesus.

We have a whole mission field right in all of our churches. So if you are lonely, please seek another who seems ignored.


(Susan Baker) #17

Thanks, La Tricia. Let me just say that God is our guide, and we need to be careful not to get in the way of the Holy Spirit’s guidance whereever church is. If I live by that standard generally, I can apply that to the specifics as they arise and also not be misdirected even by well-meaning human perception, my own or someone else’s. God bless and merry Christmas!


(Susan Baker) #18

Tim, I thought you clearly gave glory to the Lord in your response and are applying Jesus’ model of love which can only happen when He is the center of our lives. :latin_cross::sparkling_heart:


(Bill Brander) #19

Tim you speak of ‘after service’ fellowship. What about before service?
We serve coffee (if you want tea go to the kitchen and make it yourself!) before the service begins.
It works for us.
Blessed Christmas
Bill


(Valerie ) #20

It’s a hurtful thing to feel invisible. Those feelings lead us through several churches until we landed where God wanted us to be then everything started falling into place. I’m at a church that is growing in the Lord where I can serve and be served. Minister and be ministered too, stretch grow and be pruned.

We’re at a church where we can invite anyone and know that they will not feel invisible. Friends, we need to do better! Some people don’t keep trying churches and may miss Jesus.

Be a man or woman of your word. If you promise to call someone, then call them. If you tell someone you will invite them to the next ____ event, follow through, please please keep your word. If this happens to the same person multiple times it can send them into a depression feeling rejected.

Learn peoples names and a detail or 2, Take notes, Take a phone number when appropriate, and invite them into your circle of friends, again, as appropriate using wisdom, discernment and common sense while at the same time embracing Grace for that person.

I want to start to look at people and see them the way I imagine Jesus sees them and do all of these things above. No more excuses!