Me, the invisible woman in the church pew

Lately, I’ve run across a situation at church that baffles me. I don’t know if this is a problem in Christian churches overall, but here it goes.

People don’t want to be friends.

After our previous church split, we stuck around for several months until finally admitting that we were all miserable: we’d lost all our friends, the leaders made several decisions that didn’t work well for our family, and, worse, our children complained that they were bored and hated church. That is definitely not what a parent wants to hear.

So in January 2013, we started visiting churches. This is the Bible Belt, remember, so there are lots of churches to try. To date, we’ve visited six churches. Big churches, small churches, ones with lots of older people, ones with lots of younger people, ones that have multi-million dollar building facilities, ones that meet in elementary schools, even a house church.

We’re not church hoppers; we’re actively trying to find a home church. We’ve settled on a large church in our area, and our children have adjusted and even made friends. So far, so good. We’re okay with the music, the preaching, and most (but not all) of the theology. We don’t want to change churches again; our kids need consistency.

But the adults aren’t as welcoming to me and my husband. We’ve been in three Sunday school classes at this particular church, and no one’s displayed any interest in us. They ask three things:

What’s your name? (Laura.)

How long have you been in this area? (Twenty-five years.)

Can you fill out a visitor information card? (Yes.)

That’s it. Occasionally, they’ll ask where my husband works. (No one at any church we’ve tried has asked what I do. We went to one particular class for two-and-a-half months, including a couple of social events, and no one knew that I’m a writer.)

To a curious degree, they exhibit a curious lack of curiosity about us as people. I find this absolutely bizarre. I mean, if you meet someone new, aren’t you at all interested in knowing about that person?

This isn’t a “Very Large Church” issue. It happened to us at the small churches, too. Initially, they were extremely welcoming, did a little happy dance at getting visitors, all that sort of thing. We got more questions, usually directed at my husband about work and job-related things, and the marketing and sales pitch for the church. But as time passed and we continued to attend, the members went back to their familiar friends, and we sat alone and unnoticed on the church pews. People were friendly, but they didn’t want to be our friends.

I’ll note that it was typically the MEN talking. The women stayed quiet or stuck to their groups of female friends. The times when I tried to engage a particular woman in conversation, she answered in monosyllables and never bounced the conversational ball back into my court. Don’t tell me that she must be an introvert; as soon as her friends came along, she was a chatterbox.

I had women, including teacher’s wives, who never made eye contact with me—ever. We spent over two months in one class, and I don’t think there was a single woman in there who knew my first name, much less anything about my life.

Yesterday, I tried to talk to a lady near us in Sunday School Class #3. She was willing to talk about her kids, but never asked me anything about my daughters, even when I mentioned them. It’s as if the women are all “friended-up” and don’t want to meet anyone new.

Look, I realize that I’m an introvert and shy and socially anxious and bipolar. I’m not an easy person to befriend or be friends with. I get that. Still, I can carry on a conversation with reasonable proficiency when given the chance. But I can’t carry on a conversation alone. That’s a monologue, and I’d prefer to leave those up to the likes of Hamlet and Macbeth, thank you very much. It just baffles me that church people think it’s okay to ignore visitors or behave with only surface-level friendliness toward other attenders.

I feel like I’m the invisible woman. Believe me, invisibility isn’t a superpower I want to display at church. It emotionally drains me to go through this week after week. I’d rather curl up in the church library with a book than put myself out there yet another time.

Forget about fitting in at church: I know that’s not going to happen in a city as totally devoted to technology as mine is. There’s simply too many engineer-types for an artsy person to truly feel comfortable here. But it would be nice to have my fellow Christians show some interest in me, especially when I try very hard to take interest in them.

Is this something that other people have experienced?



61 thoughts on “Me, the invisible woman in the church pew

  1. I’ve noted this phenomenon too, and I think its a variation of “we’ve got our clique,” and it seems one more person to include is difficult for most people to do. I really don’t know what to do about this, since some people seem to be able to break in and others find it really difficult to do so. Personally, I slowly connect to people around me, as I find out their interests and attend several social events with them; and I make a concerted effort to keep connected to people and try to include new people in my group of friends. But, the old high-school phenomenon of “just us few” seem to keep turning up. The best remedy I’ve found is to be open to people, not to push them, and to keep going to social events of the church and trying to plug into the church and do ministry. Still, it’s not a perfect remedy and I don’t think it always works. However, my bet is that if one surveys the church scene over time, one will notice people who don’t seem to fit into the usual cliques and who are more like oneself (for instance, artsy rather than engineer) and one can start to build friendships with these people more easily than the ones who are “already friend-ed up.” And, I hate to say this, though, but cliques are stubborn habits, that humans find difficult to give up, even church people who know better from the example Jesus made in intentionally crossing group lines to befriend and help people.

    Paul Lanier


    1. Thanks for sharing, Paul. I think cliques are a huge issue in churches, both big and small. (I’ve noticed this a lot in women’s Bible studies, unfortunately.) I’d love to find some more artsy people at this church (with 5000+ members, there should be at least one other artsy person!) but I’m afraid that with that size crowd, I’ll never find that person. I’ll keep trying.


  2. Oh my gosh, yes! We moved to another state and left a church where we had and still have close friends. We were in our late 20s. Many joined at the same time we did when the relatively new church went through it’s first membership boom. We raised our kids together, has small groups together, went out to eat and camping together, all that good friend stuff.

    I didn’t think it would be so hard to make friends at another church. We get involved in service, not just show up and go away. Our first church in our new state was small and most people it seems were members of a few key families. All the women did things together but never included me. There was no formal women’s ministry. The men did a few things so hubby had some social time. Maybe because we were a little older than some of the couples but younger than the seniors. I didn’t know, After four years we left. No one ever called.

    Then we tried a larger church that I passed on the way to work. Four weeks and the only person that talked to us was a greeter. And a pastor approached us after service once. We had the opportunity to talk to the senior pastor (It was a multi-campus church) and told him about our experience and what we hoped for. He told us in a few weeks they were switching to TV like the other campuses except the main one where he spoke. That was it for us.

    Now we’re at another very small church that is trying to rebuild after a devastating scandal with the former pastor. We’ve been there for 2 1/2 years. People talk to each other, but there are the families and friends groups that we can’t seem to penetrate. It’s better than the other two, but I don’t have friends there that I do other things with. I made my friends from writer’s groups I joined. We’re not young or cute or wealthy. Hubby has a head injury and most men don’t know how to get to know him–they seem to move fast and leave him in the dust. I tried to arrange meals for an attender dying of cancer, and it was really hard. People don’t share a lot, like they’re hiding things we could be praying for with them. We could look for another church but I’m progressive and hubby is traditional and we feel it’s important to worship together.

    I’m an introvert too and often want to take a nap even after a 75 minute service and a little chatting if any.It shouldn’t be that hard to communicate with our brothers and sisters in Christ. I didn’t really appreciate what we had before we moved.

    In my series of novels I find my main character, a middle age woman, having difficulty making friends in her churches. I also address a few other church issues probably more our of personal frustration than anything else. The situation you describe sounds like the place my MC is currently at.

    If churches don’t address this, they will die. People don’t need one more place to be, we need connection.

    So here’s my blog post for your blog post, Laura. You’re not alone. God bless you, sister!


    1. Thanks so much for sharing your story! I’m glad that I’m not alone on this. Churches have to address this. To a certain extent, our current church has (see my reply to Laura), but the regular members (non-greeters, non-staff people) seem to feel that it’s someone else’s job to help newcomers assimilate. The one Sunday school class we attended for 2 months had a lot of visitors. I noticed that besides my husband and I, the only people who would talk to the visitors were the Sunday school teachers. How ironic is that? I’m new to the church and I’m greeting people who have been to church there only one less Sunday than myself.


  3. Laura I sooooo get it and relate to your post! I’ve blogged on this issue many times on my own blog, taking different approaches on it. I guess I hope that sharing in different ways will eventually make the point or help people get it! Sigh.

    I could elaborate on so many aspects. “It just baffles me that church people think it’s okay to ignore visitors or behave with only surface-level friendliness toward other attenders.” – Me too!! Totally baffles me.

    Yes, people seem all friended-up with no room for anyone new in their life.

    You state that no one displays any interest. Some people (who don’t get it) will say you have the problem – you are demanding, expecting everyone to be friendly to you! Sigh. But you have made the effort to attend, even Sunday school, and have tried approaching people.

    We are believers. Although this leaves us frustrated, I think sadly of unbelievers or nominal believers who are ignored like this.

    Here is another post of mine , you might relate to.


    1. Laura,
      I, too, share your concern for the unbelievers who encounter this. It’s not enough to invite people to church in hopes that they’ll “get saved”; we’ve got to develop relationships with them before and after they come to church (or even if they never come to church!) The interesting/ironic part is that our current church is actually really good with the first impression: there are friendly people in the parking lot helping visitors get inside, people to help newcomers find classes, a pastor called us the Monday after we visited, and we got a package of information about the church within a week. (Some of the smaller churches did, too.) But once we started being “regular attenders”, we were just one of the crowd. And even the greeters didn’t really try to get to know us. And the regular church people (non-greeters, non-staff) seemed to think it was someone else’s job to help visitors feel welcome. Strange.


  4. I feel like you are writing my story! We have been going to the same church for several years now. I know several people by name…very few of them know mine. The ones I “know” well share a only a superficial relationship at best with me. I pray often that things will change. I don’t like feeling like an outsider in a place you are supposed to feel wanted, supported and loved.


    1. Stacie,
      I’m sorry you’re going through this, too. You’re right: we should feel wanted, supported and loved at church. But so often, we don’t. Thanks for sharing and letting me know that I’m not alone!


  5. Yes, I’ve seen it, experienced it. Churches aren’t necessarily as conducive to relationships as people on the outside would expect. Despite having spent years in leadership at our last church, I don’t know the answer. Sorry not to be more encouraging, Laura.

    On the other hand, this post is excellent and it’s going out on my twitter feed immediately.


    1. Thanks, Tim. It’s encouraging to know that I’m not alone in experiencing this. After visiting 6 churches and experiencing the same issue in each, I was starting to wonder if it was just me! Thanks for sending this out on Twitter; I appreciate it!


  6. Fascinated by this post. I’ve seen versions of this in different places, but nothing so systematic as what you’re describing, which is part of what makes it so interesting You say you’re in the Bible belt, and in a technologically-oriented town, but you aren’t more specific than that. This is my first time to your blog (I saw Tim tweet about the article), so I went to your “about” page and there’s still no indication of where you are.


    1. Huntsville, Alabama, otherwise known as the “Rocket City”: lots of engineers. As my husband, a rocket scientist himself, says, “You can’t swing a dead cat around here without hitting an engineer!” Lots of Ph.Ds around here, too. Thanks for coming by and reading.


  7. This is definitely not a small issue. It is everywhere. I have seen the same thing. It is sad. We move quite a bit, being a military family, but now that we are in the Huntsville area, we actually plan on retiring here. I’ve visited a couple churches around the area, but I just don’t get that welcoming feeling. And frankly I’m not too anxious to join one. I’ve been burned by “church people” in the past. One particular time, there were serious issues going on. My daughter was being harrassed by a church member (even at work) and I was being lied about. When I brought my concerns to the pastor – well – I was shockingly given the “you’re not one of us” response. I read and re-read the letter, thinking that I had to be misreading it. But no.

    As a military family, this is something that I have seen often. People know you aren’t a “local” and that some day you will leave, so they don’t feel the need to invest in you. Heck, one church I was part of for 7 years!

    There is a song by Casting Crowns that reminds me so much of this – “Stain Glass Maquerade.” Listen to the words. It’s a sad state that we are in. I would really rather have honest fellowship over coffee with another believer, iron sharpening iron, than sit in a building full of plastic people.


    1. Constance,

      Thanks for sharing. I’m so sorry that you’re going through this, too. I’ve been through three church splits, and had an ex-boyfriend harass me at church for a while (though the problem was adequately dealt with by a pastor at a parachurch organization the ex and I attended), so I identified with your story. It’s hard to keep wanting to attend church or join one when I’ve been burned by the other members.

      We’re still going to the big church that our kids like, but we’re trying different adult classes. We found out (purely by accident) about another adult class and when we tried it, people were actually friendly. (Shocking! And yet it shouldn’t be shocking at all: it should be normal for Christians to welcome others into our fellowship!)

      I’ll definitely look for that Casting Crowns song.

      Sorry it took me so long to reply. My husband had surgery this past week and our daughters are starting a new school on Monday, so things have been hectic around here!


    2. Hi Constance,
      People have done some awful things in the name of Christ, and this is a hang up for many people that I’ve talked with over the years. I hope that people will remember me for being loving and kind and being a true reflection of Jesus. That’s just my hope…gotta long way to go!


  8. Well, in the UK, we might call this class prejudice or regional prejudice, and I suppose many other things too. Yes, slightly beside the point I know, but it has the same connotations: you are not part of the clique or somehow you don’t fit in, therefore people keep you at a distance. In life, this is part and parcel of the way things sadly are, but in church it should not be any part of the proceedings. It is only in my mid-40s that I have actually started to attend church, because in the UK there is a strong perception amongst Christians and non-Christians that the organised churches and churches in general are rather respectable, rather Middle class and should I say rather superior in their outlook, and they are not welcoming to ordinary people, or people with problems, or people who are socially awkward or perhaps poor people, unemployed people and people who aren’t smiley and perfect and ‘have it all together.’ Christianity, however, is not a social club or an exclusive clique that ‘belongs’ to this group or that group, it is a calling on our lives from Jesus. In some cases in the UK, church going and even being a Christian are just markers of respectability or part of being the acceptable respectable folk or family tradition, which often has little if anything to do with taking Jesus as our Saviour and Guide.

    When I first started going to a church a few months ago, they welcomed me and I felt accepted immediately. It is a church 12 step recovery program, I have no shame in admitting this, for people struggling with issues and addictions and emotional problems of all kinds; I have a number of issues I am getting help with. Like you, I suffer with depression, and I also have low self worth and issues about being accepted and perhaps I am socially awkward as well. But, I am university educated, articulate, well read, cultured and creative to the max, and like you pursue a writing career. Because many of the people at the church struggle with various issues, they are welcoming and friendly and open too. I sometimes struggle with the way prejudices operate in the US, because although you say you are ‘artsy’ and they are more engineers and so on, you are obviously Middle class and from a successful family. In the UK, these things pan out differently somewhat. Class is often related to accent, where you live, what job your parents did, how much money you have got and many other nitpicking things which enable some people to look down on you and feel superior.

    It is not you who is in the wrong, it is anyone who doesn’t accept another Christian. Even non Christians can be more accepting of other people than some supposed Christians.

    ’10 Now while he was at table in the house it happened that a number of tax collectors and sinners came to sit at the table with Jesus and his disciples.

    11 When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your master eat with tax collectors and sinners?’

    12 When he heard this he replied, ‘It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick.

    13 Go and learn the meaning of the words: Mercy is what pleases me, not sacrifice. And indeed I came to call not the upright, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:9 NJB)

    ’25 And now a lawyer stood up and, to test him, asked, ‘Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’

    26 He said to him, ‘What is written in the Law? What is your reading of it?’

    27 He replied, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.’

    28 Jesus said to him, ‘You have answered right, do this and life is yours.’

    29 But the man was anxious to justify himself and said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbour?’

    30 In answer Jesus said, ‘A man was once on his way down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell into the hands of bandits; they stripped him, beat him and then made off, leaving him half dead.

    31 Now a priest happened to be travelling down the same road, but when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.

    32 In the same way a Levite who came to the place saw him, and passed by on the other side.

    33 But a Samaritan traveller who came on him was moved with compassion when he saw him.

    34 He went up to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them. He then lifted him onto his own mount and took him to an inn and looked after him.

    35 Next day, he took out two denarii and handed them to the innkeeper and said, “Look after him, and on my way back I will make good any extra expense you have.”

    36 Which of these three, do you think, proved himself a neighbour to the man who fell into the bandits’ hands?’

    37 He replied, ‘The one who showed pity towards him.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go, and do the same yourself.’ (Luke 10:25-37 NJB)

    Those who haven’t shown you warmth, acceptance and love may not have the love of the Creator in them. Perhaps they are Christians in name only, or those who are part of a religious clique, and not much else.


    1. Great thoughts, Tim. I’m always interested in hearing about how things are different in the UK. The class structure is different. Here, I can walk around in my middle class “bubble”–most of the people I’m around on a daily basis are middle class, like me–but every once in a while, I’ll be around people who are extremely poor (by American standards) or extremely rich, and feel uncomfortable in my own skin! I’m also in the Bible Belt, which is a really strange part of the country where practically everyone goes to church (at least once in a while) and can recite Bible verses and act “Christian-y” while at church. Yet, as you note, they may only be part of a religious clique.

      Sorry it took me a while to respond to your comment. My husband had surgery this week–he’s doing fine now–but things have been hectic around here this week!


  9. Oh, no, I hate that so many of you are going through this lonely pew experience. Our church family has made it one of our focuses to be welcoming to our visitors. I’m really outgoing, so it’s a little easier for me to meet and greet. We have a potluck every single Sunday so that we can feed our guests and meet them on a more casual basis. We also try to have a new ladies’ get-together once a quarter or so.

    Trust me, I’ve been worshiping with our Madison, AL church family for 15 years, and I wouldn’t be friended-up. I love meeting new friends!

    In our area of the country, people are constantly moving in. We were all newbies at one time…well, most of us under age 25. There aren’t many Huntsville “natives.”

    Anyway, I feel so strongly about this, and pray that God will lead you all to a loving, encouraging, welcoming church home.



    1. Thanks so much for the encouraging words, Stephanie. My husband and I have finally found a Sunday School class where we feel welcomed (and where people actually know my name!) I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to get back to you; I’ve been sick in bed. (These “snow days” for my kids have been a blessing because I don’t have to drive them to and from school when I feel yucky.:) I’ll email you sometime soon.


      1. I’m so glad that you’ve found a good niche for your family! I hope that you’ll be feeling better soon. Yes, I’m glad for the snow days, but I’m totally frustrated that we haven’t had any snow today…so far.


      2. I really like the pharse permission giving churches! It feels very freeing! I still value worship, groups, even committees for helping me discern my spiritual gifts, and motivate me. I also value organization and efficiency. How can we structure ourselves in new ways to get the same results with less committee work?


    2. We have experienced the same thing. “Friendly” in the way of saying hello … but that is where it ends … all small talk … never getting beyond “name, rank and serial number so-to-speak” … we have been in our current church for 12 years … and very little socializing with members … fellowships aren’t much different than our experience at church … no one really know us … and when I was in a ladies SS class I expressed the need for once a month socials … just a relaxed time of getting to know each other as one hour in SS is not enough time to really get to know each other … of course that meant I had to head it up … which I did with my whole heart and soul …but when you have a SS class of 50 women and socials have upwards of 36 people in attendance … it is just too hard … I am an introvert and was really stretching out of my comfort zone … I was trying to provide for others what was missing in my own life … but eventually I burned out … I was dealing with the possibility of dementia in my husband … and just couldn’t do it anymore … I was hoping the leadership would find someone to replace me and keep the well attended fellowships going … but she didn’t … her idea of fellowship was a mother’s day banquet with missionary speakers … how do you get to bond and develop friendships sitting at a table full of strangers with just surface polite conversation? … I am not young … I am married and my husband attends a men’s class that meets for dinner 4 times a year … not much in the way of fellowship there either … I am 62 and he is 70 … there is a senior ministry at our church … but my husband will not attend … and I am a fifth wheel if I go alone … so many of the seniors are couples … or really old widowed ladies … I attend Wenesday night services alone … I know that I am not alone as the Lord is with me … but also know we are not supposed to be “lone ranger” Christians either … doesn’t get any easier the older you get …


      1. Kathy, I am truly sorry to hear of your church experience. I know that attending church alone, like you do if you go to the seniors’ group and on Wednesdays, is hard; I did that for a while during our church search. It sounds like you’ve done your part by trying to organize ladies’ fellowship times. As a fellow introvert, I sympathize with burning out! (I’ve gotten the impression that when leaders hear a request for a change–such as fellowship times, etc.–their immediate response is, “You suggested it, so you get to lead. The burden is on YOU for even suggesting it.” Never mind whether the person is spiritually gifted or led to do such a task.)

        I hope and pray that you and your husband will find people to develop friendships with.


  10. If LOVE is absent from a church, Jesus is absent too, and there’s no sense going. It’s cheaper to sit at home instead of paying bus fare or burning your gas to go back to a dead icy tomb where nobody cares if you live or die. I Cor.13 teaches that without love your so-called service to God is useless.


  11. Yes I know exactly how you feel I am going through a similar situation now. But to me it does not bother me anymore because I have put my faith in God. I always remind myself that I have to walk by faith and not by sight and to always love the Lord with all my heart and trust in him at all times. God will both place and remove people out of our lives as he sees fit. Keep your head up and always trust in him to direct your life’s paths! God bless you!


  12. Hello Laura

    I just Googled ‘cliques in church’ and found your post.

    This is something we struggle with here in the UK. We have recently found a new church to go to, and it does appear to be God’s place for us. It’s very community focused which is great and we are getting to know people of different nationalities, elderly people plus some people who have learning disabilities (all of those were lacking in our last church and all are groups who could be marginalised)
    I’m a good friend of the Vicar’s wife as she used to work with me before her husband was ordained and took on the church a couple of years ago.
    However there are still a core of people who appear to know one another well (they came from the church where the vicar was formerly, as a Curate, in order to ‘support’ him in this one) and they appear unwilling to speak to or befriend anyone outside of that category. I have never known any of them to speak to me in the women’s meeting or at coffee time after the service or at a fellowship lunch! I hate that this matters to me, but it does and it hurts!

    So my husband and I try to rise above this and carry on serving and befriending those that God puts on our hearts, and that’s fine, but I do sometimes want to shake up those clique members who persist in this exclusive and ungodly behaviour by loudly pointing it out! but of course I won’t … I suppose it’s like pack animal behaviour in a way. As a sensitive and intuitive person myself, I would cringe if I was behaving like that around new people (loud laughter, ‘in’ jokes, references to times they have spent socially together, all the while ignoring the newcomer)

    I am contemplating blogging about this, but need wisdom as anyone will be able to read it!
    Maybe I will just go and ask Jesus what I need to do instead ..

    bless you



    1. Allie, thanks for sharing your experience through this comment. What an awful position to be placed in: being permanently “outside” this group of cliquish people. I’ve seen similar behavior at church and within small groups, where a core group of people who have known each other for years exclude others. It’s usually unintentional–I hope!–which still hurts; but sometimes it is intentional, and that hurts deeply.

      Good for you and your husband to keep rising above that behavior and befriending others. I applaud you! If you do decide to blog about it, or even confront the offenders, let me know so I can be praying for the listeners’ hearts to be softened and receptive.


  13. Hello Laura, I really do understand your predicament; I’ve experienced very similar reactions here in Scotland! About 18 months ago I returned to faith and started to attend church again after many years of being away and I still find it impossible to feel at home and part of the church family which I find sad and a little confused about. It took a lot of guts to walk over the church threshold but I knew it was what the Lord wanted for me. Since then I have felt perpetually awkward and on the outside of the clique. It’s seems all the more incomprehensible because the church I attend was close to needing to fold due to declining numbers. Why folks are so content to be cold towards newer people baffles me.

    I know it’s alienating, but I feel the experience is of the Lord who I feel is calling me to trust in Him rather than anyone else.

    Let’s just pay that things improve. The Lord has brought us this far, we can trust him not to abandon us.


    1. Well, if you’re experiencing the same issue in Scotland, it seems as though this isn’t a uniquely American problem. I’m still experiencing the issue. We moved to another church, a much smaller one, and I still feel like an outsider to a certain extent.

      You’re right: we need to pray for things to improve. Thanks for the encouraging words, Ruth. I’m glad that I’m not alone in my feelings and situation.


  14. OK, I wish I had time to read all of the other replys, so I could see if my comment was a “repeat”, but I don’t, so here I go jumping head first into waters that I KNOW that I should check before “diving into”, but don’t have time to worry about being “politically correct” or not, so here I go diving head first! I live in the heart of Silicon Valley and belong to a very loving, caring church; one that welcomed my partner and I immediately into their fold on our first visit. (The fact is, I would latter comment to them that I was a little overwhelmed with their “welcome” that Sunday!!!)Being of Italian ancestory and all, I was brought up and baptised a strict Roman Catholic.Being the “questioning soul” that I am,though, I never could quite understand all the guilt, etc associated with my Catholic upbringing, so I stopped attending and wondered aimlessly until the 9/11 event found me, once again, searching for answers and looking in a community that neither accepted me or made me feel welcomed…Any way, long story short, I attended up in a Unitarian Universalist church here in Northern Ca. that absolutely makes my heart sing! The people are writers, engineers, lawyers, “techies” from Apple, Facebook, etc and I couldn’t be happier! Are all UU’s alike? No, have been to a number in the area and don’t “connect”. I just know that this church (my church) “felt right” and it continues to “feed my soul” most every Sunday. I’m happy that my Mom brought me up with “some kind of religious roots” and am grateful for my background, but as a free thinking, loving, kind woman who sooo found it wrong trying to be a “square peg in “church of circles”, I’m happy that I “left” and found a church that met my “spiritual/heart needs”…I sincerely wish for you, Laura, the same “connection”, Sweet Pea, with whatever church you end up connecting with….That being said, I sincerely hope that my feelings or comments have not been “offensive” to you or anyone else. I truly, sincerely pray that you “find YOUR connection”, soon…


    1. Not offensive at all, Lucie! And I don’t think any of my regular readers would be offended, either. I’m glad you found a place to feel connected that feeds your soul. My family is pretty conservative in our theology, so it’s a bit different for us. We’ve finally “landed” in one particular church, but there’s always some adjustments to be made in any new environment.:)


  15. I can totally relate to your experience. While my church is very welcoming to newcomers, that “loving feeling” only lasts a few weeks, and it only goes so far. We have been attending two years, and still feel like newbies. We have yet to be invited to anyone’s home for dinner, or anything else not specifically church-related, though we have tried innumerable times to volunteer, serve, be part of classes, etc. In our church, there even seems to be a hierarchy of serving/volunteering, i.e., you sign up for the meals list, but never get a call, or sign up for the nursery, and never appear on the schedule. I can’t even tell you how many times this has happened to us! So very strange! When we ask it is always that some mistake was made. I am shy and introverted and I wonder how many others this has happened to, who just gave up and left ! And yet over and over, the pastor preaches on how if we feel “left out” we must volunteer and serve!! It does make me sad to think that no one seems to want to get to know me either; I agree with your observation that there’s been no interest in me or my husband beyond the basics. On the few occasions that someone talks to me, it is always very shallow and surface talk, like the weather, what curriculum we’re using, etc. It really is as if the few “core families” don’t want any more members beyond people sitting in the pews….. Unfortunately, we have visited multiple churches in the area and find either the same thing or doctrine we can’t agree with at all. What a sad state.


    1. Joy, I’m really sorry that you’re experiencing this issue, too. If the answer isn’t to “volunteer and serve” (which can make me feel like I’m being used, especially if I’m dropped from the social scene when I quit serving in that capacity), then I wonder what is the answer. I’ve experienced the shallow surface talk in so many different areas, not just church, that I have to wonder if somehow our society only values shallowness and not depth in relationships. And, if that’s true, I wonder why the church follows the society’s example rather than setting a better one and swaying society to follow the church!

      I hope things improve for you and your husband soon. Hang in there!


  16. Just this Sunday I experienced a lack of connection in a new church I was visiting. From the
    time I got out of my car and walked into the church I passed a minimum of 25 people lingering
    outside (I imagine they were coming out of Sunday school classes) and NOT ONE of them
    said hello or even smiled at me and my adult son that was with me. When entering the foyer,
    there were 7 or 8 “greeters” and not one of them greeted us, except for one unfriendly woman
    that handed us a bulletin. We sat in the back of the church and since we were a few minutes
    early, we were able to observe the members as they all hugged each other, engaged in
    conversations and made small talk with each of their familiar friends. The associate pastor
    went up and down the aisles shaking hands with the members and smiling a big charismatic
    smile, making a big show of how friendly and personable he was. When he got to us, he
    looked at the “new people” and simply walked right past us and out the back door. Later
    during announcements they made a big deal out of the luncheon they prepared each week
    for newcomers and how they’d like to meet each one and give them a free gift. My thought
    was the best gift they could have given us is to make us feel welcome from the time we
    walked up to the doors of the church. Just to say hello, introduce themselves and ask
    our names would have been a tremendous improvement. I feel like true expressions of the
    love of God are not put on a schedule, they are spontaneous. When I attended a church
    for over 20 years I was always looking out for the newcomer or the loner to say hello and
    introduce myself. I truly don’t understand what’s going on in the church these days.
    My son and I are already saved. We did not attend the luncheon because by that time all
    we wanted to do was leave. I don’t think God approves of much of the activity in the churches


    1. Your story is heart-breaking, Loves God. That behavior from so many people is baffling. I hope that you and your son find a friendly church soon, where you can be included and loved.


      1. Oh my goodness, Loves God, I know just what you mean! I’ve been ‘visiting’ a church for a year now, and you’ve described just what it’s like. I’ve filled out their forms and given offering by checks but have never heard from anyone, including the pastor. One week my husband was able to come with me; the pastor came down the aisle shaking hands, but when he got to us he just kept going. If I knew where else to go, I would. Thank you for sharing, and thank you Laura for your original post.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I am truly sorry to hear of your experience, Sad Lutheran. I wish things were different for you and your husband at church. Praying that things change–radically!!–in the Christian church, that we would feel welcomed and be welcoming to all people.


  17. Laura, thanks for writing this. I thought that maybe something was wrong with my husband and I that we could not find a church to fit into. After visiting several churches in our area and being asked the same questions about where my husband worked and how many children we have, we often sat in silence. We decided we just needed to give a particular church ‘more time’. We stayed at one church for 13 months, faithfully attending Sundays. We even volunteered for the worship team and played/sang on the altar once or twice each month. Until the final straw. During Sunday morning coffee hour two different people in the church who we spoke with several times asked us if we were visitors! They didn’t even know us after 13 months and this was not a big church, approximately 300 attenders. Were they just on autopilot when they shook our hands each Sunday morning and asked us how we were doing? Those coffee hours were excruciatingly uncomfortable for us both but we endured the silence and desperately tried to connect with people who obviously didn’t care to make new friends. We tried to smile and make eye contact, be friendly and happy, asked people about themselves. We just eventually stopped trying and didn’t go to church anymore, anywhere. Too painful and anxiety ridden. Lately, at the request of our grown daughters, we have been occasionally attending a local church. We like the church but still have not made any friends. Same story as usual, we meet people and engage in conversation but it never goes anywhere. We wondered if it was our age (old but not too old😉 or if we were socially weird or something. Anyway, thanks again for writing. It helps to know that there are real people out there with the same issues who still love Christ and His church and are tying to work it out.

    Blessings to you and your family


    1. Kimberly, thanks for commenting. Your story sounds painfully familiar to me. We’ve been attending a church for an entire school year (approximately ten months), and I feel no closer to making friends with anyone than I did in August of last year. Small church, too. Oddly enough, my older daughter, a twelve-year-old not known for her social skills, has made friends; my husband has a few friends; but me? I can’t seem to relate to the women in the congregation. I have an easier time talking to the staff at my local bagel shop than I do my fellow church members! (They also know more about my writing than the church does.) After reading the comments on this post and a follow-up post I wrote about two months ago, I’ve concluded that this issue is present everywhere and that all kinds of people (differing ages, races, income brackets, geography) are affected. So we’re not socially weird, thankfully, just fellow strugglers against church apathy. It’s so sad.


  18. My wife and I certainly can relate to all these stories.My question would be, Would Jesus Christ even be welcome into these fellowships. A big problem I see is the leaders are not leading, they are busy with ministry, but not ministering. They like the the congregation are too concerned about the roast in the oven, the sports events and countless other distractions. We can count all the fingers on our hands of the people who can text and view Facebook while church is going on. I most certainly can assure you that this does not go on in the underground and persecuted churches in the world. There is a lack of prayer, a lack of love and humility in American fellowships. Most importantly if those are missing, then I can conclude that there is very little of Jesus in our churches and individual lives. We are all missing the mark. This last week we watched a family that has been coming to our fellowship for a few weeks and no one went over to them. The woman was dressed with little modesty, but that did not matter to my wife and I. Christ would have gone to her and countless other social outcasts. So, why would we with hold what Christ put into practice? We had a great conversation and we came to find out that they recently left church that did not preach the Jesus of the bible and His wonderful salvation plan. They are new believers and very well may never have come back because of the lack of people paying them any mind. One other thing happened that really irked me. An elder was more concerned about why the pastor went ahead and developed a church webpage without approval. He complained to a number of people about this matter. Really, does this really matter? I say not when our brothers and sisters in the world are being persecuted for their faith and may American Christians are clueless and indifferent. Wow we truly need help. This is not a petty matter.


    1. Great comment, Rob. You’ve made a wonderful point about this aspect of Western Christianity not being present in underground/persecuted churches. It would be impossible to withhold genuine care and concern for fellow believers when one is constantly threatened with jail/torture/death.

      I’m glad that you and your wife talked to this new family at your church. They sound like people who need guidance and mentoring, as they are new believers, and it would be truly tragic for them to walk away without meeting and being befriended by those who are more mature believers. Thank you for your willingness to initiate the conversation and show Christ’s love to others. It’s encouraging and challenging.


  19. Hi Laura, I was raised in church and have always seen cliques in every single church I’ve ever been to. My experience is eventually the church will split and this process will start all over again. I’m not shy by any means lol..
    The church I go to started off as a transplant, was small and welcoming but now 5 years later it’s 600 congregation..2 services, several small groups (cliques). Welcoming new comers and greet, like you experienced. I don’t attend very often any more, No longer serve in music ministry, puppet service, cleaning the church…main reason..the cliques.
    Imo..ALL CHURCHES have them and refuse, deny the problem. After all what can they really do to change human behavior.
    I understand, be like Jesus..but we are sinners saved by Grace. I’ll keep attending once in awhile but we are all called to be desciples. So now I use those talents volunteering at school, library..greater blessing.
    Reminds me of that song..If we are the body- Casting Crowns
    (Be the change you want to see)
    Good bless you and your family : )


    1. Mattie,

      I think you’re wise to use your talents with other opportunities. It’s a shame that churches descend into cliques and that they miss out on your (and other people’s) unique gifts. But others can be blessed, now that you’ve chosen to use your gifts in different areas. Bless you!


  20. I just came across your blog. My husband and I are looking for a different church. He has been attending his church for over 30 years as he grew up in this church. When I first started going to this church- shortly before we were married in 2002, the people were friendly, and genuine. I didn’t notice any cliques. I tend towards being an introvert, but I felt comfortable talking to these people and didn’t feel like I was intruding. But, in the past few years, our church has been absorbing people from a church in another community that had a reputation as being, well for lack of a better word, stuck-up. Now, we can go to the fellowship hour and have no one talk to us! My in-laws have been members forever who were involved in many things and they are experiencing this as well. My husband was very sick in 2013 and we missed 9 months of services. No one noticed, or called to check up on us, with the exception of my mom-in-law’s best friend at that church. Except for the fact that I work at this church a few hours a week as a bookkeeper, I think no one would have ever even noticed we were gone. The business manager, who is my boss, was genuine concerned and let the pastor know what was going on, but I guess our needs got lost in the shuffle because we were forgotten. Considering that we were going every Sunday, but one a year ( when we would take a week of vacation somewhere) and that we sit about 5 pews back from the front of the church, I was shocked that no one said anything. So, we are trying to find another place to go. We did possibly find one smaller church that appears to be friendly like our church used to be. We will have to visit again and see. But, people actually came up and introduced themselves, asked us where we were from, etc. and I didn’t feel like I was an intruder. I am starting to feel that way in our current church.
    It’s sad how things are changing. I don’t expect to be asked to lunch, just having some small talk is enough, but we don’t even seem to have that anymore in our church.


    1. Your comment makes me sad. It also reminded me of how my husband and I knew when it was time to change churches. The first time, I was pregnant with our first child and had just been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I told a handful of people (who gave the standard “I’ll pray for you” and got off the phone ASAP). Then we were gone from our Sunday school for several weeks. Up until that point, we were there every Sunday. No one called. No one asked. No one reached out. No one seemed to care that we were gone or even curious as to whether things were going okay in my pregnancy or if the baby was okay. On our last Sunday at that church, I felt like a stranger. We were fortunate in our church search that time; the very first church we went to was the one we stayed at for the next ten years. God’s mercy, I think. I was very close to giving birth and I needed a supportive place for the postpartum period.

      The second time was after that church split. We’d been members for ten years and suddenly, one Sunday I realized that I didn’t know anyone anymore. I was a stranger in my own church. It’s an awful feeling. I’m truly sorry that you and your husband are going through this. I pray that you find a place to belong. Best wishes.


  21. Laura’s story and the replies made me so sad. And yes – we have felt this way for some time. The past couple of weeks, I finally voiced my feelings to my husband. We have gone to a church for coming up on a year now and I only know maybe three names. I doubt anyone knows my name. Today (Sunday) we almost didn’t go. We went and I did feel alone and invisible. My husband is much more outgoing than I and he was off shaking hands. I stood there with my hand out, smile on my face, and people literally walked by me. I thought to myself, “I must be invisible.” I event went outside and stood in the sunshine while they finished their greeting time so I could soak up the sunshine and positive effect it has on me. I did not want to feel so depressed in church. I can’t stand the superficial nature of it all and know that no one inside knows anything about me or my family. I know they don’t know how hard some days are to even carry on after losing a child in a wreck. No one knows. No one cares. And I am a Christian who feels this way. How sad to think of a lost person who turns to the church for answers and hope. It breaks my heart to think that someone like that would feel as lonely and invisible in church as I have felt lately. We were looking for a new church after our rural church closed due to lack of members. We drive to the nearest city to attend this one. I have to pray before the service just to get enough strength to walk inside. The atmosphere is not very nice. How sad. Breaks my heart. So very sad. Again, thanks for the story and all the comments. Now I know it’s a pretty wide-spread problem. This is something the church needs to address. I believe I remember reading something in the Bible that in the last days, people’s hearts will wax cold. Not sure if that applies here, but it might.


    1. Lynn, I think that verse does apply. Some hearts are very cold, unfortunately, even in the church. I had no idea what a widespread problem this was when I wrote this post, but it’s brought me a little comfort to know that I’m not the only one who feels invisible!

      I am so sorry you and your husband have been through such heartbreak: losing a child and feeling that no one understands or cares how hard it is to carry on afterward. My heart hurts for you. Please know that you are not alone. I’ll be praying for you that you find some church where people care about you and want to know you.


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