What To Do When You Feel Like an Outsider at Your Church
By: Jennifer Maggio
The Lord created us for community and relationships. We thrive when we are in partnerships in the workforce, our families, a robust friend network, and healthy church families. So, is it any wonder that Satan is masterful at creating opportunities to promote isolation? Isolation and loneliness are hard, no doubt, but it’s even harder, when you feel isolated within the church walls. Feeling like you don’t fit in at your church? Here’s what you need to do:
- Consider why you feel like an outsider. There are many reasons why you could feel that way. First, there may be a past experience or an offense that has gone unaddressed that has continued to grow and fester. Perhaps there is a current life circumstance that has been particularly challenging, making it even harder to feel a part of anything. The fact is there are many reasons for the “why”, but making a conscious effort to recognize what it is will make it far easier to move past.
- Pray about it. You need to allow the Holy Spirit to determine if you should be in that church in the first place. Sometimes, the discomfort we feel is due to the Lord shifting us into a new season which may require a new routine. Sometimes, that means we transition to another church that is a young church plant or maybe a different size or end of town. This is an important part of your life and hearing from God clearly on this issue is important. You need to go to a church where you can thrive, be fed spiritually, and also where you can be involved in service to others. While it is important to find a place to be planted and “church hopping” isn’t fruitful, at all, make sure you are praying about where to be. Once you hear from the Lord, then do it.
- Commit to it. Once you’ve prayed about the church that is right for you, commit to being there. Often, when we’ve struggled with something in the past, it’s easy for it to continue to fester. For example, if you have felt like an outsider because you weren’t included in an event or program, it may be easier to continue to focus on all the ways the church has “failed” you. Focus on the good that is in the church and the positives. Do you have a pastor that preaches powerfully each week? Do you have outreaches that minister to the community? Do you enjoy the service times? Focusing on the positives will make it much easier to create spiritual family within the church.
- Bring a friend. Let’s face it. We all like to be in environments where people look, act, or feel like we do. We all want to feel part of a crew, a team, a family. If your church lacks people that are in your life season (single, millennial, retired, etc), then commit to bringing friends with you. Maybe there aren’t many singles in your church, right now. You could be the catalyst to growing that within your church.
- Start something new. The Lord gives us creativity to use it. There’s nothing written anywhere in the Bible that says we have to do things the same way that they have always been done. Maybe your church has always had a youth group and women’s ministry, but has never been part of a men’s ministry, single mom’s support group, or widow’s ministry. Maybe you are just the one that God would use to create a new ministry opportunity within the church. Consider how you may be able to be part of the solution for someone else’s loneliness or lack of belonging.
- Serve. Volunteering does two things. First, it meets the needs of those around us. Serving meals to the poor, visiting a nursing home, or washing cars for single moms are great ministry ideas that meet a need for those who could use a hand up. But serving goes beyond that. It provides us with ways to mingle with others, get our hands dirty, and have a commonality among our peers. It gives introverts a reason to “talk”. When we have our hands busy, it’s amazing how friendships form.
- Resolve conflict. Often, the source of our feeling of not belonging is offense. Someone has done or said something along the way that has caused us pain and it’s been hard for us to get over it. It isn’t uncommon. It’s important for you to resolve the conflict. Whether it was from years ago and it has simply festered too long, or whether it’s a new offense that has caused a wedge between you and a church member, commit to resolve it. Conflict causes division, isolation, anger, and ultimately bitterness. No one wins. Most of the time, conflict is rooted in misunderstanding or a past hurt that someone else has experienced that has now been the source of hurt for you. Do all that you can to resolve it. There will be great reward for such a commitment.
Jennifer Maggio is an author, national speaker, and Chief Executive Officer for The Life of a Single Mom Ministries. She is passionate about loving God and loving people, while teaching others how to ensure no single mom walks alone. For more information, visit www.jennifermaggio.com.