Earlier this week I received an email from the last church I was attending. They were conducting a survey to determine how friendly they were. It took me a couple days to re-open the email and actually take the survey. That happened this morning. I was surprised by the feelings that were stirred up inside of me.
Was this church friendly? Oh yeah, everyone there was always friendly… but after a year of regularly attending Sunday services, Wednesday night small group meetings, and other special events throughout the year I had yet to make even one new friend.
People were nice and friendly and I even believe truly genuine when asking me how I was… But I was never invited by anyone to hang out, get lunch, etc.
Eventually I quit going to small group. I expected someone – maybe the leader – to call and inquire…. But that never happened. Not long after I dropped small group, my attendance on Sunday mornings became very irregular, and then stopped completely. That seemed to go unnoticed as well.
Should this church be so concerned about how friendly they appear? Or should they focus more on what it is to really become friends to the people that walk through their doors. And not just the people that look like them, dress like them, and have a similar lifestyle. But are they making an effort to be a friend to the one who is different from them, who is lonely, the one who looks like they feel out of place. Are they inviting these kinds of people into their homes, into their lives, looking to spend time with them outside of church services?
Okay, so maybe I shouldn’t wait for others to invite me into “friendship”. Maybe I need to take the initiative. And normally I probably would have. But being one of few single people in the room surrounded by young married couples… Well, I just don’t feel the same level of comfort stepping into their pre-existing cliques or circles. I’ll own that I wasn’t more proactive. I’ll own that I didn’t reach out to be a friend to anyone specifically. And maybe, if I decide to walk through the doors of another church again by myself, I will step out of my comfort zone and try more proactively to connect to someone.
As I’m providing this feedback in response to the survey I’m overcome with sadness. It surprised me… I have missed going to church, but I haven’t missed how lonely I felt sitting in church. I’m quite content not feeling like such an outsider as an old(er) single mother in the midst of so many young married couples. And I really don’t miss the feelings of loneliness that seemed to be magnified on Sunday mornings.