I love that I got to grow up in the same church from third grade until my senior year of high school. I had made so many friends and I had great relationships with the pastors and leadership staff. I was on several ministry teams and I loved to help out in almost every way that I could. Even though my church was fairly large, it never seemed too big because I always felt like I had a place. There was always someone I knew that I could talk to or something that I could do to help. I belonged and I had a purpose. I thought this feeling of the church being “home” would never go away and would translate to me moving to Denton but with my challenge to find a church here, I found that I had over stretched my expectations.
I guess that I went into the whole thing pretty naïevely. I was under the pretense that if I felt at home in one church, then I would feel the same way in all others. (Even if I didn’t come right out and say it that’s what I thought.) I was ready to find my new church in Denton with the first week and be completely sound in my faith. This was my first mistake. I doubted the actual challenge of needing to actively search for a church. I thought that the first one I went to would be “the one.” It turns out that I was not mentally prepared to go off and find my church.
Unfortunately, the process of finding a church home in a new town requires lots of “church-hopping.” This is, in my case, a very tedious process of going to a different church in the area for about a month and a half until you hit all the ones that are within city limits. Then you think about all the factors; Do you like the pastor? Is there a good small group that you can get involved with? Is the worship good? Et cetera. But the reason why I hate church-hopping is that it makes me feel very unstable. I am not getting a consistent teaching every week, I am not seeing the same people every week to start building relationships, and I am unable to get involved with a single church for the time being that I am touring different churches. I know that Jesus is the only constant in my life and even though he’s still there while I’m going to multiple different churches, I feel distant from him. And not only am I feeling distant from God, but distant from people. While I was church-hopping, I was out of community. The scariest part of it all was that each church I went to didn’t feel like home. And that’s not to say that they weren’t good churches but I just didn’t feel like I belonged there. That was probably the first time I felt alone in a church.
I had never experienced this before; There were people sitting on beside me, rows in front and behind me filled with people as well, but I felt alone. I didn’t know anyone or have anyone to talk to. This is the opposite of what I’m used to church feeling like. I used to always have a friend to talk to, I used to have a purpose or a job or something that I could just check up on so I wasn’t sitting by myself waiting for the service to start. Since I wasn’t involved in anything, I wasn’t a part of a ministry team, and I did not have any friends in the church yet, I felt like I might as well just have been sitting alone in an empty building.
After about a month and a half of stressing and feeling apathetic towards just about everything involving church, I finally planted myself somewhere. I am now a proud member* of the Village Church in Denton.
The very first thing I did once I officially decided to go to the Village was get involved in a small group. This has been, by far, the most beneficial thing I have done since joining the church. Although my small group was nothing like I expected it would be, I know without them I would still feel completely alone in the church. It is not a group of 18-year-olds, like myself, who have just joined the church and have also just started college. I am in fact the youngest in the group. My group is filled with juniors, seniors, grad students, and even some who are out of college who are all greatly wiser and infinitely more knowledgeable than myself. I have to admit that at our first meeting, I wanted to back out immediately because I felt entirely inadequate by comparison. Even though I was terrified from my first impression, I’m so glad I stuck with it because without this small group I probably would still be searching for a church home. So if I have any advice to offer someone who is searching for a new church; once you find a church that you think you might want to go to, get involved in a small group as soon as you can! The sense of community you will feel is so comforting, even if you are a little (more like very) intimidated at first.
What made the biggest difference for me after joining a small group was that the church didn’t feel so big anymore. I felt so much comfort in the community that they offered me.
Some other helpful things to know if you still feel alone in the church, try joining a ministry team. If you like kids you could help in the children’s ministry or if you are technically inclined then think about helping with the lighting and sound department in your church. If neither of these is your thing, there are so many other ways to get involved within a church, trust me. Whatever spiritual gifts you possess can be used in the church whether you believe they can or not.
It can be relly hard feeling alone in the church, a place where you should be welcomed and accepted with open arms. I’m so grateful that I found community within my church and that I have that feeling like I belong again. Church is a place that feels like home again. I only hope that everyone can have that same feeling of being safe and encouraged within the church.
Love and hugs,
Another wonderful photo thanks to HKF Photography !
*Not an actual member yet, because I haven’t taken the class, but I have good intentions to take it and become an official member!