Number one. I’ve written that I’m starting a new novel. It’s going well, in case you were wondering, but it’s also exhausting: pouring all my creative energies into a first draft doesn’t leave me with enough creative energy to blog several times a week.
So I’m cutting back on my blog until I finish the first draft of The Color of Bones. (That’s my tentative title. Please don’t tell me if some other novel is named that! Or please do, because then I can rename it.) At the rate I’m going, I should hit my goal of 80,000 words by the end of June.
Until then, I’ll blog once a week. You can use all that time you’d normally spend reading my posts doing something meaningful. (Like watching cat videos on YouTube.)
Number two, on a more serious note. A year and a half ago, I wrote a post called “Me, the Invisible Woman in the Church Pew.” I received quite a few comments. I’m still receiving comments on the post and even the occasional private email, many of them telling heartbreaking stories of being rejected in church.
(PLEASE NOTE: For the past four years, this post and others on the topic have generated a great deal of email for me. Please know that, while I care about hearing your stories and sympathize with the pain of those of you who feel invisible in church, it’s become emotionally overwhelming to respond to individual comments and/or emails about this post. I am NOT qualified to give advice or counsel. You have my sympathy & prayers. You are not alone.)
(I don’t fit in at church is one of the top searches that brings people to my blog. Variations include cliques at church, church cliques, and invisible at church.)
Today, using the information made available by the commenter, I made a chart of their demographics: gender, age, marital status, and whether the person was an introvert or extrovert. I was trying to see what, if any, common denominators they held. Geography didn’t seem to be a factor. Most people didn’t mention denomination or theology.
Out of twenty commenters, sixteen were female, four male. There were a variety of ages and marital statuses mentioned; some mentioned children, others did not.
I had to do a little guessing about the introversion versus extraversion trait. Not everyone mentioned it. But of those who did mention it, a significant percent said they were introverts. This included people who said they had actively tried to participate in church activities, even when they were uncomfortable in groups or were rejected.
These were not passive, sit-on-the-pews types of people who waited for others to come to them. They volunteered. They did Bible studies, led Bible studies, organized fellowships. They did things that many introverts would be exhausted by doing and may or may not have been gifted and called to do.
Yet they still identified with being invisible at church.
Something is wrong.
I know that many pastors and church leaders would recognize this as an issue in their church. But recognizing a problem and finding a solution are two different things. To a certain extent, this problem won’t be resolved in this life; some people are going to be cliquish and unfriendly and show superficial concern for others no matter what. But that doesn’t mean we can’t try.
So I’d like to hear from those in positions of power (and influence) at church. It doesn’t matter what position, whether you’re paid staff or a volunteer.
- How do you perceive this problem? Is it a problem in your congregation?
- What are you doing—or have thought about doing—to promote a genuinely friendly church atmosphere? Beyond friendliness, what do you do to promote genuine, deep relationships between the people in your congregation?
- Finally, what would you like to see the “invisible people” do? In other words, what do you expect from us, particularly those who have been in the church for years and still don’t feel accepted?
In my experience, it’s relatively easy to help first time visitors feel welcome. (Note “relatively.” I didn’t say it happened often.) They’re more easily identified, for one thing.
By comparison, it’s much harder to help those long time church attenders or members who feel excluded, even after years of attending the same church. They may be involved in volunteer work, etc., and still never feel a part of the church body.
I welcome your thoughts, whether you’re a church leader or not. If you have ideas, please share them.