Why Feeling Part of a Church Community Varies From Person to Person
Many churchgoers will endlessly promote the importance of being in a church community, but the benefits can vary depending on the individual.
There’s a church I’ve visited a few times that likes to use the saying, “We’re Better Together,” but for some of us, it’s difficult to feel like we’re really part of a church community.
Don’t get me wrong: I really believe that most people get a lot out of church fellowship and that if you’re a member of a church family that you feel connected with, things are better when you’re actively enjoying that fellowship.
But for some of us don’t feel we fully belong even when we attend regularly week after week.
That’s a shame. But it should entirely be a surprise.
Those introverts among us — and I’m definitely included in this — find far greater comfort a few close friends and mostly in one-on-one time. Church has a harder time making this happen.
The large crowds church typically consists of isn’t the most comfortable social situation for us. People who don’t understand what introverts go through are quick to say, “It’s not about your comfort: it’s about God and worship.” That’s true to a point. But if you aren’t comfortable in a situation, how are you supposed to get the most out of it? How are you supposed to fully commit to worship when you’re anxious about the social situation to begin with? That’s not only a tall order for some, it’s nearly impossible.
Many contemporary services offer church community in the form of Sunday morning only. It’s the full-sized crowd with the outrageously loud worship music and light show. The pastor comes out and delivers his message with smart-screens that he can advance just by touching them. And in this sprawling church community experience, the only real one-on-one interaction is when the worship pastor, Mr. Skinny-Jeans, commands everyone to turn to the person next to them and greet them with a message like, “God Loves You.”
That’s about all we have with each other during one of those services.
That’s not church community. That’s forced interaction. It doesn’t build relationships.
If anything, it makes those of us who are introverts feel even more left out because we just assume that people who’ve been there longer than we have must know each other better than this.
Some of these churches offer “small groups” of multiple sizes. You can get to know each other better in those groups, of course, but even these aren’t always ideal for an introvert. For some reason, these groups of adults, ranging in age from their 20s to their 70s, almost always involve some inane activity called an “icebreaker.” The icebreaker is a little party game of some variety that has absolutely nothing to do with the topic of the night’s gathering.
I once realized that a group of this type that I belonged to was pulling their icebreaker suggestions from a college youth manual. Maybe that’s why some of the activities seemed a bit juvenile to me.
But these didn’t really build relationships or a sense of church community, either. Maybe for everyone else, it was just the perfect way to cement those bonds of community. Introverts like me couldn’t agree with that.
What makes it even worse is that people who lead these groups don’t seem able to realize that they’re making some members feel even more shut out.
That’s an even bigger shame.
I’m not saying that church community isn’t important. I’m saying that for some people, it feels nearly impossible to achieve. That’s probably mostly our faults, not those around us. I get that.
But everyone at church knows someone who seems introverted. If you go to church, you’ve probably spotted those people, the quiet ones to tend to sit in a corner and don’t have much to say. How often do you make a point to speak to them, to acknowledge them and to make them feel welcome?
Little things like that can make a big difference.