You set your alarm to get ready and show up a bit early every week to church hoping that by showing up early, you can mingle as you see many people do. You look around for a familiar face and find none. Quietly, you take your seat in the middle back (because the back would be too far, but middle back lets you blend in and discreetly escape if you need to). The service begins and then ends. You slip out unnoticed. Next week comes and you repeat the cycle over again.
Can you relate?
You may still get a lot out of the message, feel a deeper connection to Jesus, yet something still feels missing. God created community to strengthen us, sharpen us, and grow us in our faith.
If you feel like a lonely person in the church, then we should fix it.
To the Church
Let’s not let these people slip us. For some, it may be their first time attending church in a long time…or ever for that matter. For others, trying out a church is a way to gauge its inclusiveness and we want to show them that while we have lasting friendships, we haven’t created these exclusive cliques that are reminiscent of high school.
Introduce yourself and don’t do it out of pastoral nudging (because those are usually awkward), but truly take the time to talk and know these people. A good question to start the dialogue might be “How long have you been coming to (church name)?” which is WAY better than asking “Is this your first time at (church name)?”. Imagine if they’ve been coming for several years and you were asked that…
Perhaps invite them out of lunch with you after service. Want to do one better? Pay for it.
To the Lonely People
Did you think I was going to let you off the hook? You, too, have a responsibility to make the most of your experience. Ask questions. Greet a stranger. Talk to church leadership.
I know having visited many churches myself that if you’re looking for a way to get connected, there are always opportunities. You can sit back and wait for them to come to you (wouldn’t that be nice?) or you can take the initiative.
Many people have stopped coming to a church and been disheartened by their experience simply because they didn’t feel connected or find the right fit. I encourage you, make yourself connected because I can promise you there are plenty of people who want to embrace you. Some easy ways include volunteering in the church or joining a small group- I’ve seen people quickly assimilate into a church this way, but I’ve also seen people who do these things yet stay within arm’s length. If you desire community, then you can definitely find it. (seek and find ring a bell?)
Are you in a church that is too big for your liking? Perhaps you’d do better in a smaller, intimate church. Or maybe you’re in a small church with little ways to be involved? Perhaps a bigger church with more programs may suit you.
It’s sometimes easiest to connect with people in the same life stage as you. There’s more in common and therefore more to talk about.
Have a conversation with at least one person you do not know this upcoming Sunday.
Make it a habit if you decide.