I feel the most lonely at church

(Tabitha Johnson) #1

Hi everyone! :slight_smile:

For the past few years, I have been feeling lonely at church so much to the point where I don’t attend regularly anymore. The people are nice but I don’t have a real connection with anyone. There is sort of a cliquish vibe. Everyone has their close friends that they have known for years or their family members and that’s who they spend their time talking to. They talk to me sometimes but it’s not anything deep or personal. I try to have more personal conversations but its never reciprocated and somehow other people seem to find out my business. Thank God it’s not too personal or I would be embarrassed.

When I do decide to go to my church, I’m very disconnected now and no longer linger after service to have superficial conversations. I have given up on making efforts to connect with the people at my church because I can’t force relationships. However, I’m still in need of community and closeness with other believers. I have visited other churches and went to many connect groups and met some wonderful people but still no lasting relationships. I don’t know what to do…

Has anyone gone through this? What did you do?

Does anyone recommend any churches in NYC? or NJ?

Thanks!

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(SeanO) #2

@tabjohn0329 Sorry to hear that you are experiencing a lack of connection at Church. Praying that Jesus may guide you to a group of believers where you could find truth, love, grace and support and where you could also invest in others :slight_smile:

Have you tried different Churches already or have you been sticking it out at one particular Church?

I saw that you already checked out this thread, but I thought it would still be good to link it here as well:

Tim Keller’s Church is in New York - though I expect it is quite large, so you would probably need to join a small group to get connected.

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(Tabitha Johnson) #3

Thanks! @SeanO
Yes, over the years I’ve visited other churches and even joined many connect groups but have not made any connections. I’m willing to give Redeemer a shot!

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(SeanO) #4

@tabjohn0329 It usually takes my family 6 months to a year to really get connected at a Church and even then those connections are usually only meaningful if we are serving alongside others or leading in some way. I’ve always found that those I serve Christ alongside or those I serve are the ones with whom my relationship goes deepest.

May the Lord Jesus lead you to the right people and give you wisdom to know how to get connected if that is where He is leading :slight_smile: Don’t give up too quickly - sometimes persistence and presence pay off in relational dividends.

I like this quote from Lewis - praying God sends some friends into your life as you seek Him first.

“In friendship…we think we have chosen our peers. In reality a few years’ difference in the dates of our births, a few more miles between certain houses, the choice of one university instead of another…the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting–any of these chances might have kept us apart. But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking no chances. A secret master of ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,” can truly say to every group of Christian friends, “Ye have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another.” The friendship is not a reward for our discriminating and good taste in finding one another out. It is the instrument by which God reveals to each of us the beauties of others.” C. S. Lewis

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(Elizabeth Bays) #5

@tabjohn0329 Hi Tabitha, I understand what you are going through in the sense that I too desired a church family and deep meaningful relationships. God led me to a church family a little over two years ago. It’s a smaller church of 70-80 members, mostly senior (I’m 36) however, lately, because of outreach and change happening within this congregation younger people are starting to attend.
The people in this church made me feel like family right away so that says a lot. They are very loving and service based. The pastor is very relational and loves people. Having said that, I was still the main initiator in all of the relationships I now have within this body. And I don’t say that bitterly. These people had been there much longer than I and had a history with one another, there was also an age gap. However, God used me to encourage them in areas of change and He used them to give me wisdom, teaching and guidance in my Christian walk. God led me to ask one of the ladies there to be my personal mentor and walk with me spiritually. She is over 40 years my senior, but after a year of meeting together we have become very close friends. There are other ladies that go for coffee and take trips together and I have slowly built relationships with all of them and now join them on their excursions, some of them are much closer to me in age.
I believe most in this church were content with their church life and they were happy to say hello to me, check on me and give me a hug at church, but I came in hungry and seeking. I was looking to belong and be passionate about learning about Jesus and serving him with others. I will say this church was actively looking to change some things and they welcomed me and my ideas with open arms and were very patient and kind with me in my zeal. We have been a good body of believers together but it does take work and effort. Some people I would have wrote off in that church as not overly friendly or interested in me are now my dear friends.
I truly believe these things take time. We have to learn to accept others where they are at and just be a constant friend and fellow sister in Christ and be willing to serve in the body with our talents to encourage it and bring glory to God and not ourselves.
If you haven’t already, I would encourage you to read The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren. God led me to read it within a year of joining this church…this book talks about the very things we long for…relationships, church family, using our gifts and letting God fill the void in our life. I highly recommend it. I pray God leads you to a church family or guides you to develop within the one you have now. Blessings.

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(Kenny) #6

Hi @tabjohn0329, I think it is a very real situation not just in the church you are in, but also the same with many other churches.

However, I’ve always believed that the size of the congregation never quite affects intimacy, but the people do instead. A large church can definitely feel intimate and close, whereas a small church doesn’t necessarily feel intimate all the time too.

If you would like a short answer, haha, I’d recommend that you consider attending Hillsong NYC for a couple of months and see where it leads you to. Do make the effort after the service to inform any server standing around, that you would like to be connected. I’d recommend that if you can, do try to attend one of their Sisterhood events as well. :slight_smile:

Link: https://hillsong.com/nyc/

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For a longer answer, I would like to touch on a couple of areas:

#1 - Not Everyone is a “Befriender”

In my church, we have people who act as “befrienders” - basically people who go out of their way to introduce themselves; get to know the newcomer; and follow up with them to ensure that they are well taken care of (e.g. to let them know about the upcoming church activities, etc).

However, it is key to note that not everyone is called with this gifting to serve in this area. Many church goers are like you and me, who came to church to receive rather than give… first. Therefore, it may take a while before you are kept in the loop. I believe for most churches, it will be the CGL who is tasked with this. It is good to let your CGL or a CG member know too that you would like to participate if there are any group activities coming up.

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#2 - Not All Cell / Connect Groups are the Same

It is common to consider that, if I didn’t enjoy my time with this group, every other group in the church would be roughly the same. I think it really depends on the church’s system, and also culture. From where I am from, the groups can differ vastly.

I have come across those who are very enthusiastic about diving deep into the word and explore Greek and Hebrew root words. I have also come across those who come to CG to talk about anything but work (“Why talk about work when I already had a whole day of it?”). Of course the general direction / theology / values might be similar, but I’d recommend that you take the leap of faith to explore more. :slight_smile:

Don’t be disheartened when you come across a cliquish group. They have likely been through a lot in order to form that deep bond between each other. It’s not easy to just open up to someone new because of fear about how they will be judged if you see all their ugly sides. There are going to be groups which prefer to remain smaller, and groups that will prefer to open up and be as inclusive as possible. It’s all about finding the right match that you are comfortable in. After all, you are looking for a place to plant yourself for many years to come.

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#3 - Connections Need Time

There’s this motivational speaker - Simon Sinek, who shared that consistency is so much more important as compared to intensity:

Going to the gym 8 hours in a row isn’t gonna make you fit the next day.

Brushing your teeth for 4 hours at one go isn’t going to make it any better.

But doing it just for a short while, regularly daily / weekly, will make all the difference.

I believe that the same goes when it comes to friendships, it is definitely going to need time for others to open up.

You don’t exactly meet a stranger and tell him / her all your darkest secrets.

It’s that stranger that you always meet at the subway during the morning rush hour at the same door; whom you gradually warm up to and one of you ask the other, “What are you reading?” And this leads to a friendship slowly forming, that you realise that you both are excited to watch the same movie. And fast friends eventually become close friends who gives you a hug when you are burnt out with life.

The desire for fellowship will definitely be great, but give others and yourself some time to ease into it, and you will be surprised where it brings you too.

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#4 - Communication Type Matters

This is just my theory as someone who has led a CG of 20+ people, as a sub-set to a larger group of 70+ people before.

There seem to be 3 communication types that people fall under when they are placed in a social setting:

A) conversation starters (people who open with topics)
B) conversation continuers (people who helps the conversation carry on)
C) listeners (people who are satisfied just listening)

It is key to note that not everyone are (A), and if you have a group of (B) and ©s at that table, there usually tend to be some sort of awkward silence at times. If you come across people who are not willing to open up, they might actually fall under ©. Or perhaps you fall under (B) and there aren’t any (A)s around to probe and get the ball rolling.

I just felt that it would be good to share about this, because I do sometimes make the effort to plant myself (I’m a self taught (A), haha) or a member who exhibits (A)-like communication type in areas where (B) and © are in abundance, so that the conversation doesn’t fall flat there.

Not to say you need to go through all these, but I thought that this will help you shed some light on another key reason why some people open up more and some don’t.

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If you would like to try something different, you can also consider Elevation Church’s new eGroups system where the fellowship is done online. It’s pretty simple, and you just need to look for those that would prefer to “meet up” online rather than those in person groups:

https://elevationchurch.org/egroups/join-an-egroup/

With all that said, I’d encourage you not to give up, but also don’t put too much pressure on yourself. There is nothing wrong with the churches, and there is nothing wrong with you. It is all about exploring and gradually finding what works for you. Good company is uncommon, but not as rare as you think it is. :slight_smile:

If it is not too much, do keep us posted on how it goes. If it works out well, praise the Lord, and we celebrate together with you. If there are issues, we are here to support as well.

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(Tabitha Johnson) #7

Thank you @Elizabeth_Bays! You know what I actually have that book by Rick Warren in my library. I will definitely read it again. Thanks!

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(Tabitha Johnson) #8

Hi @Kyrie. Hillsong is one of the churches I visited many times before and I’ve been to quite a few of their connect groups. I didn’t make any lasting friendships.

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(LaTricia) #9

You definitely aren’t alone in experiencing this @tabjohn0329. This is something that I have experienced myself. Below is my response in a similar thread asking about the same.

I’m still attending the church that I last mentioned in the post. It really is a different group of people who are fair more relationship oriented and inclusive than the first church I attended that did have that cliquish feel - which is not something I ever want to go back to. I haven’t even been there a whole year and if I miss a class or a worship service, there are people who’re checking on me, including the pastor. I’m actually building friendships. So, there is hope, it just may take some time and more searching.

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(Kenny) #10

I see. But that’s alright @tabjohn0329. Do keep searching, I am sure you will find a place to plant yourself. :slight_smile:

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(GUY G YASIKA) #11

I know in NY things can be a big hustle bustle. I worked there. It is hard to connect and need to work harder to try. Sometimes it is just not our personality. I am a hard guy to like. So I can certainly relate. My wife and I attend a large church in SNJ. While the sermons are spot on. The relationships did not really happen being attending for about 4 years. Recently I have gone way outside my comfort zone. I decided I need to open myself up more that I was the reason I was not connecting. I have joined a men’s group and a mini group attended other things at the church. While I would not say that I have a ton of relationships the seeds are there and I need to keep pushing myself outside my comfort zone.

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(Alycia Wood) #12

Tabitha,

I am saddened to hear that this is your story. I have not read all the responses to your post, so I’m sorry if I repeat anything people have already said. I too have struggled with loneliness in the church. I have done the things you mentioned such as initiating conversation and joining a community group. I have even taught Sunday school. Still, I felt that for whatever reason, people had their own groups and while they were cordial to me, there wasn’t anything deeper. No investment in me. I remember one time standing there while two women standing with me started talking about how they were getting together that evening and what they were doing. They said all this in front of me and didn’t invite me! Seriously?!! I was so hurt!

I think the reality is that one of the things that is hitting the current church hard this generation is a lack of community. There are many lonely people in church. I have met many people who tell me they are lonely in church. You are by no means the only one. It has been my story at previous churches for years. I think it truly is a call to all Christians to take a look around and see who is new that you don’t recognize or who is sitting by themselves etc. and to reach out to them. People need community and relationship and the lack of it in many churches does make people leave.

All that to say, I don’t have any immediate solutions for you. Perhaps going to a smaller church would help, perhaps not. Perhaps switching to a church in a different area will help, perhaps not. Regardless, I think it is worth forming a community of friends outside the church who are Christian so that you at least have the opportunity to have community somewhere.

I do hope things change for you, but even if they don’t, I hope that you are able to find a church that enables you to grow in both your knowledge and relationship with Christ.

Blessings,
Alycia Wood

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(Sarah) #13

Just wanted to say, you’re not alone in feeling those things.

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(Billie Corbett) #14

Hello Alycia,

Churches can be extremely cliquey.
From my perspective, it appears to be something that church people are quite unaware of.

I am sorry that you and Tabitha have experienced this difficulty.

Many church going people seem satisfied…
if they find a niche where they serve…
and then, they connect with those who also serve in that area.

Personally, I don’t try too hard to form friendships in the church.
The goal seems to be to get people to serve…
I’ve never been given the impression (during almost 50 years of church attendance) that being good friends was a priority.

I would encourage you to ask God for a genuine friend in the faith.
I would also recommend asking God to provide a prayer partner for you …

Meaning…someone who sincerely wants to spend time weekly in prayer with another believer. It covers a lot of bases…

You naturally develop some intimacy in this context…unless, you are only praying in a superficial manner. (Commit to not talking about concerns…but, only praying about them.)

If you want a deep friendship…be open, honest and real. It will put off some people…but, there are quite a few people who are craving openness…sincerity… truth.

Try something more personal and fun…Don’t do everything through the church.

For example:
Start at dinner club…or a book club, or an art night, or a music group …or walking group…host an apologetic night…

Host it… keep numbers small, (so it is manageable)…
Even if you just have 1 or 2…

I prayed for a prayer partner and God gave me one.
I wanted to start a book club…and couldn’t get traction with people at church…so, I joined an established multi denominational one.
I’ve hosted art nights for people secular and Christian. (Unfortunately, the secular people were more interested and more fun.)
I have joined writing groups…(secular) but, no reason why Christians can’t encourage this creative talent.

“Ask and it shall be given,
Seek and you shall find
Knock and the door will be opened to you”… Jesus

Wishing you much success and joy in adventuring and exploring.

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