I was surrounded by people. Why did I feel lonely?
Maybe you’ve had that feeling before. For a long time, I felt lonely while sitting in a church pew.
Most of us have this idea that church should feel welcoming, so we decide there must be something wrong with the church or us if we feel lonely while inside its walls.
My first day at Council Road (my now home church) was my first day on the job there. I had accepted a Children’s Ministry Intern position before I had ever been to one of their church services. My now husband, Brennan, grew up at Council Road, which was how I got connected to the church. Walking in as an immediate staff member and being connected to all of Brennan’s friends and mentors really put me in the path to meet tons of people my first few weeks. However, I was still lonely.
After a few months of struggling to feel connected to the church, I had to look into my heart. I mean, I was at church all the time, why didn’t it feel like home? I realized that home isn’t a place, it’s a people and these people were not yet my people. I served these people every Sunday & Wednesday, but they did not know me. I had not opened up to anyone. I was not in a home group with them and, for my first few months, I didn’t even get to attend church services because of serving the kids. Then when we added a third service, I had sat in the back and snuck out at the end without even engaging in conversation with others.
I could have deemed this church as unfriendly, unwilling to reach out of their friend groups, unaccepting. I could make the excuse that I just “didn’t fit” with these people. Or, I could own up to the fact that I wasn’t putting in the effort to build community. Luckily, I chose the latter.
I decided to dig in—force myself to stay after service, introduce myself to others, open up to people, and finally actively join a small group. Let me tell you, it wasn’t always comfortable. I didn’t quite click with my small group right away. There were weeks I didn’t “feel” like going to church. I remember hearing my coworker greet every family by name in the children’s building and thinking to myself that I would never get there. I would never remember all the names or recognize all of the people.
It took a little over one year for me to work past all those bumps. Finally, I could call the people in my small group my friends. I greeted the families on the third floor by name and even knew what was going on in their lives at home. I felt like going to church. I wanted to be there. I still do!
Building my church community has been the greatest gift. I have been at Council Road for 5 years now, and there are not many places in the world that feel more like home than this church. It isn’t because I don’t get lost in the building anymore. Well, maybe that’s part of it, but it is mainly because of the people who I have chosen to be vulnerable with. The people I have served with, prayed with, grown with. Those who have loved me endlessly in this day-to-day life. That is the church. That is home.
So to those of you feeling lonely in the pew: keep on persevering. Put in some effort to build your community. Get out of your comfort zone, because that is when growth occurs.
To those who have a church home: Remember to keep your eyes out for new people! Greet them. Make a personal connection with them. Show that you see them. That can be enough for someone to come back another week.
Did you ever feel lonely in the church? What were some ways people made you feel welcome?
Meet the author!
Becca Walker is a 2nd grade teacher in Edmond, Oklahoma. Her passion for kids mainly comes from the fact that she herself is still just a kid at heart. She and her husband, Brennan, love to serve in the church in many ways. Whether it is children’s ministry, youth, worship, or leading a young adult small group, they love it all! Becca’s main loves are her family, her pups Wrigley and Rizzo, her Savior, Old Navy, and of course, the incredible community at Council Road Baptist Church.