Attending a New Church or Going to Church Alone? My Top 3 Tips!
Hello and good afternoon my Friend!
Thank you for tuning in for yet another Sunday Series post! Today we are talking about how I got used to going to church alone. This was brought up by my Instagram story today actually! I posted on my story that I was at church alone because my husband worked until 6:00AM and had to sleep. I wrote that I was cheering for everyone who goes to church alone, and I know how they feel.
I immediately received many direct messages saying "you're never alone with God!" and "we're all part of the body of Christ!" I think people thought I was really sad about going to church alone, but I really wasn't. Going to church alone isn't some dramatic emotional experience for me; it doesn't make me sad, but it DOES make me slightly uncomfortable.
The fact is that church is a SOCIAL situation, and going alone to social situations will ALWAYS feel somewhat uncomfortable for many of us. This is especially true for visiting NEW churches. If you're going alone to a church you've gone to your whole life, that's a HECK of a lot different than visiting church for the first few times, or going to one you're not familiar with.
But regardless of that, for us sensitive or shy people, entering a social situation by ourselves is uncomfortable, regardless if we're at church, a party, the movies, or the gym.
People like to have their place; a group, a family, or a couple to belong to. When we're sailing alone, it can feel awkward and un-fun.
I know people who won't even go to the movies, a concert, or a restaurant by themselves! What makes people think that going to church alone would be any different? Sure, we're all Christians and it IS nice to have Christ in common, but it doesn't make it much less awkward to go alone when you're still new or unfamiliar with the congregation.
The thing is that I could live my whole life without frequenting the local movie theatre or tapas restaurant alone once a week, but I cannot live without church. I would never want my feelings of being uncomfortable prevent me from communing with others in Christ, or from worshiping God, so I had to learn how to get comfortable in a new church, ALONE.
Here's how I did it.
1. Go easy on yourself & do what you gotta do
Do whatever you need to do to get yourself through the door at church. If you need to sit in the back, DO IT. If you need to sip coffee and read the bulletin instead of introduce yourself to strangers, DO IT. Basically, do whatever you need to do to feel comfortable. This is especially true when you first begin going to church. Ease your way into it and don't push yourself too hard!
Some people thrive when they jump ALL IN, but many other people need to wade into new situations slowly and allow themselves to get used to things over time. Focus on the little milestones: getting through the door, saying hello to one person, picking up some information about church programs, or whatever. Just have the goal to get there.
For me, I had to blend in to feel comfortable. As nice as it is to have people greet you and be super welcoming at a new church, it's also kind of uncomfortable right away. I much preferred to blend in than be singled out and feel awkward, at least for the first few times I went alone. I sat in the back, slipped out at the end of the service, and basically got my lay of the land for a few weeks. Then, as I grew confidence, I was able to branch out a bit.
2. Join a group or get a "job"
This is stage TWO, and it really changed everything for me at church. After I got the lay of the land, I decided that I wanted a role or something to do so I wouldn't feel so uncomfortable. It's very easy to feel awkward when we feel like we have nothing to do but meet new people and stand around and chat. I don't mind networking, but I much prefer meeting people organically.
For me, the best way I met people at church was by joining a couple different groups and volunteer opportunities. It was so much easier to meet people in smaller groups like Bible study, or when we were preparing food for a mission's team than it was to just say hello on Sunday.
I joined a bunch of different things, and slowly began to meet more people. I would chat and learn names as we practiced our worship songs, or when we were trying to hush the crying babies in the church nursery. These were comfortable and organic situations where I felt like I belonged because I had a job to do. Also, because worship team put me in front of the whole church, a lot more people recognized me when I came to church alone.
Having a role or job to do at church or during the service can really help us feel like we're part of the church and that we have a place. Getting to know the ministry teams, the volunteer teams, and your small group members will DEFINITELY make it easier the next time you have to go to church alone. People will recognize you, and sometimes you will even have a job to do.
3. Make it part of your routine
As much as we need to go easy on ourselves, there also comes a point when we need to start pushing ourselves. After getting acclimated to church, I decided to force myself to go every single time I was in town, whether or not Grant was sleeping.
I realized that whenever I made it a "question" of whether or not I wanted to go to church, I would always choose NO! Going alone and feeling uncomfortable always scared me away from saying yes, even when I was more familiar with the congregation. But as soon as I made it non-negotiable for myself, something changed. It was no longer a question of whether or not I was going to go; instead, it was a question of what I wanted to wear, or where I wanted to sit.
Give yourself choices, but not the choice of whether or not to go. Instead, ask yourself whether you want to bring coffee or get some at church. Ask yourself if you want to walk or drive. Give yourself some choice and space, but absolutely make it part of your routine.
Remember, it doesn't have to be a depressing or dramatic emotional experience to go to church alone, but that doesn't mean it won't be uncomfortable. Don't reflect on all the cute families who get to go to church together. Remember that you are there for a reason, and you absolutely can use your gifts and talents to grow as an individual, and into your place in the church.
Again, church is a social situation, and attending social situations alone is ALWAYS uncomfortable. Don't be hard on yourself, but always push yourself to join new opportunities and to make it part of your routine.
All the best my loves!