It doesn’t matter how big or small a “church” is, it’s easy to feel disconnected and alone. I have been part of a number of churches, all different sizes. One was 15,000 people, and another was 30 people. In both these churches I felt connected and a part of and in both of these churches I know of people who felt disconnected and alone.
Church is all about relationships; relationship with God and each other. Many people see church as an organization, and while there is some organization needed, it is primarily a family. That means that relationship should be the thing we value the most, and relationship should be the thing that holds us together, not organization. I am all for being an organized family, but sometimes we can mistakenly value structure and order, or even worship style more than friendship and love.
Ephesians 2:19, (GOD’S WORD® Translation), “That is why you are no longer foreigners and outsiders but citizens together with God’s people and members of God’s family.”
The church should have a culture of “hanging together in the living room” and of doing life together. We should not have a boardroom mentality and treat each other like members of a club. We’re a family. Whether you like your family or not they are your family. Many people don’t see church like the Bible describes it and as such they do not enjoy the many benefits of church.
There are many people who don’t have mothers, or have lost their fathers. Church should be a place where there are mothers and fathers – godly men and women who will serve as role models and pillars who can offer advice and input into people’s lives. Church is full of brothers and sisters for us all. We should be seeing each other as such, and treating each other as family, not as members of the same club.
1 Corinthians 12:27 (New Living Translation), “All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.”
1 Corinthians 12:12 (Living Bible), “Our bodies have many parts, but the many parts make up only one body when they are all put together. So it is with the “body” of Christ.”
The Bible also shows us that the church is the Body of Christ. I like that. A body has different parts all with different functions but all towards the same main goal. Your body was created to function in unity. You don’t find one part being jealous of another or wanting to fulfil another role.
- 1 Corinthians 12: 14-21 (Living Bible), “Yes, the body has many parts, not just one part. 15 If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And what would you think if you heard an ear say, “I am not part of the body because I am only an ear and not an eye”? Would that make it any less a part of the body? 17 Suppose the whole body were an eye—then how would you hear? Or if your whole body were just one big ear, how could you smell anything? 18 But that isn’t the way God has made us. He has made many parts for our bodies and has put each part just where he wants it. 19 What a strange thing a body would be if it had only one part! 20 So he has made many parts, but still there is only one body. 21 The eye can never say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you.”
That pretty much explains it. In Christ, we are one and we are a part of each other, and we each have a special place in the body, with a special role to fulfil. Many people don’t enjoy church for a number of reasons, but one of the main reasons would be that they don’t know what church is. They don’t know that they have a place in the body, and they don’t realize what their special role is.
The worship service on a Sunday is not church. It’s a gathering together of the church. And it is a vital part of church but it is not all that there is to church. Church is believers doing life together, building strong deep relationships to support one another and bless others, while we together fulfil our commission from Christ to reach the world with the gospel of grace, make disciples and change the world.
Many people feel disconnected in church, and I am convinced it is not because of the size of the church. The size of the church is irrelevant. I have felt connected in churches with 1000’s of people, but disconnected in churches less than 100. I have spoken to many people who have felt disconnected and alone in church and I have heard their reasons and I find many similarities between each person. One person told me they loved the church but were very lonely and were not making any friends. They realized that is was not the church or the leadership at fault when I pointed out that they were too busy to attend Sunday services, they hadn’t been to their LifeGroup in months and they were too busy to get involved. Their desire to be connected was not a priority for them with regards to their time. They soon made adjustments to their lifestyle to make community and family (of church) a priority. However, not all cases are like this. Sometimes people try their best to be involved and they just don’t get connected. It might be a personality issue or maybe they don’t have anyone in the church at the same life stage as them. I don’t think either is a valid excuse, but they are reasons. Family is family. You don’t have to be the same age and like the same things to connect with someone, or support and love each other.
Here are a few tips I offer for those who are feeling lonely or disconnected:
1. Attend church services regularly.
If you’re part of something, be a part of it. It’s popular culture to attend church only when it’s convenient, and for many people that comes to once or twice a month. I’m sure that you are glad that your arm doesn’t decide to stop working on a regular basis. If you heart did that, you’d be dead. Remember that you are a vital part of the body!
Sundays are a great opportunity to meet people, connect with people and reconnect with people you do know. But attending is not enough… step out of your comfort zone and greet people. Go up to them and talk to them. Come earlier and stay longer afterwards. Be brave! If you don’t know what to say, here are some conversation starters to help you. http://www.conversationstarters.com/101.htm
2. GETTING INVOLVED is a great way to use your gifts, meet people and enjoy being a part of the behind-the-scenes stuff. Remember that you have special gifts which will add much value to the family. There is a place for you to help us fulfil the mission to reach people and help disciple them.
When I was in the 15,000 member church, the only way that I didn’t feel lost was by being involved through serving on a Sunday. I got to know people, make friends and knew that I was helping to add value to the bigger picture.
We could always use a hand with set up, pack up, hospitality, greeting people and especially worship on a Sunday. If you want to get involved on a Sunday, contact your campus pastor or the office. We can also always use help administratively in the week if you could spare a few hours. Most importantly, ask God to show you how you can be involved, use your gifts and add value. You may not feel that packing out chairs is a good use of your time or gifting, but it is a great place to connect with people! Don’t wait for an invitation. Get a hold of your campus pastor and don’t let them go until they help get you involved.
3. Join a LifeGroup.
LifeGroups meet weekly to get into the Word, pray together and fellowship. It’s the best place to meet people and do life together. This is family within family. I was a part of 5000 member church once, and the only way I didn’t feel lost was to be a part of a LifeGroup. Each week at church, I sat in the same area with my LifeGroup – this helped the auditorium feel smaller. This group of people became family to me, and yet everyone in the group was more than 15 years older than me, with the oldest being in her 70s. If you are not in a LifeGroup you are missing out. To join a LifeGroup you can chat to your campus pastor.
4. ASK SOMEONE TO DISCIPLE YOU… discipleship is the process of being established in the Word to enable fruitfulness as a believer. This happens in many different ways (church, Bible Study, LifeGroup, etc) but is also happens one-on-one. All you need is to give an hour or two a week to do “Rooted” (discipleship course) with someone in church. You can ask any leader to go through it with you, or contact the office and they will help you out. Not only will you grow in your relationship with God but you will also get to know someone quite well.
5. SAY “YES!”…There is no better way to meet people and connect with them if you start saying “YES” regularly. When there is an opportunity to serve or go on a mission or attend a social or have coffee with someone… say “YES!” You may not feel like it. You may prefer being by yourself or staying in your comfort zone, but I promise you, if you just go for it, you will connect with more people and grow. But don’t just wait for people to invite you! Take opportunities to go on trips and camps and serve, and then give others opportunities to say “YES!” bu inviting them for meals or coffee.
If you have been trying your best and have already been doing all these things, and yet you still feel disconnected, then I am sorry! The only thing I can think to say is “don’t give up!” Just keep on doing the right things and trust God! As Galatians 5:6 says, “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”