Well hiya, reading community!
After an intense 7 months of writers block and very little time to publish my thoughts, I’m making time to sit down and write. Because it’s good for my heart, even though I don’t do it often enough. I see it as a form of self-care. Because sometimes my mind needs to escape a crowded world in order to wander among empty space and time. Maybe you’re the same way with a different hobby. Never use the excuse “I’m too busy” to avoid being kind to yourself.
Tonight after work, I had a lot of time on my mind to process some recent events in life. One of them being spending some of my winter break back at home. And, to be honest, I stumbled upon an unexpected series of thoughts.
For a moment, while visiting my home church, I realized just how disconnected from church culture I really am now after having been immersed in school for so long. I was reminded of the close community that I was missing from this church that I had grown up in- and, even more than that, I’ve realized that I’m sincerely not okay with the church culture that we’re living in.
Our western church body, as a whole, can often times make it incredibly difficult for young people to make long-term connections. Since I left home, I’ve been “church hopping” for 4 years. Yes, that is the entire span that I’ve been in college so far, and I’m not done yet. Because every new church that I’ve gone to (despite how wonderful the people are) has had a serious lack in integrating new members with those who have been at the church for years. Yes- these young, hip, non-denominational, trendy, millennial, Hillsong & Bethel worship, hospitality-driven, awesome churches that I fully respect, can have a difficult time integrating outsiders into the community. Entering every new church, I’ve felt the emotional, “wow, this place is great!” high, being impressed with the outward appearance of how well “put together” these services are. Then, I feel the need (legitimate or not) to find a “group” to plug into, as the church encourages new members to do.
And so I give it a shot! I go to community / small / life (whatever you call it) group for a few weeks.
And so far… unfortunately, it’s been the same trend.
Meeting new people, feeling a little connected after learning everyone’s name. Coming consistently for several weeks, even months, without really getting a chance to know any of the group members one-on-one outside of the group or church. Awkwardly fading out when life gets busy, without anyone reaching out… And eventually leaving because of the disconnect.
And I don’t feel connected to any of them, no matter how many I go to or how often I go.
Small groups are designed to integrate individual members into growing church bodies. However- If that’s the case, then we are so many people, like myself, unable to feel connected to a small group after weeks of consistently going? Is it the individuals’ lack of commitment, or the group members’ lack of intentionality in fostering close relationships with new people? (Or both?)
Honestly, these days, I’d rather pick up serving shifts at my job on Sunday mornings and make money than struggle to show up at a church and slip out afterwards with no one to really engage with or intentionally reaching out. It seems that, no matter how hard I try to reach in, I’m being repelled away from spiritually connecting to others in a solid church body. And I don’t feel like this Sunday morning gathering is living up to the expectation that Christ has intended, in my opinion. What was meant for community has been watered down into clique-gatherings with retention and lack of intentionality to outsiders. And it isn’t okay.
If you don’t know me, at least know this: I have done church my entire life. I have encountered God’s Love in the deepest, most unimaginable ways. And I have a huge passion for worship. Playing keys, singing, and even spending time worshiping outside of church on my bedroom floor. I love working with kids. I love making coffee. I love reaching others and engaging in missions. And I want to use my gifts to serve at a church, but I feel like that power has been removed from my hands with this serious sense of disconnectedness. I’m in a dry and difficult place of wanting to connect to a church body while using my gifts, but feeling unable to do so.
I remember going to church back home and being excited to serve all day on Sundays and in the office a couple of times a week. But, being away from home and in college, I’ve been dreading Sundays as I’ve been struggling to figure out where to go to church, and a lack in spiritual growth outside of personal time being invested in podcasts, christian books, and time spent listening to worship music.
To anyone who is still reading- I would love to hear your feedback, ideas, and suggestions as to how to get out of this, while entering back into a place of consistently growing spiritually with a community. If you identified a flaw in my writing, offer something. If you’ve experienced this for yourself, what helped you out of it?
I have been praying and engaging with God daily. Heck, I even attend a Christian University. My relationship with God is good, but the quality of spiritual growth has been declining as this lack of community and engagement has made itself prominent more recently. I would love to hear your ideas.