How to Avoid Isolation in the Church – Intro

isolated, adj. –

Separated from other persons or things; alone; solitary (Dictionary.com)

1. Far away from other places, buildings, or people; remote.
2. Having minimal contact or little in common with others. (the almighty Google)

synonyms – alone, closed off, disconnected, disengaged, kept apart, removed, separated (Thesaurus.com)

Have you ever felt this way?  I’m pretty sure we all have at one time or another.  There are always places where we feel like our opinion is not really valued or that we are not an integral member of the group.

There are many single women, unfortunately, who experience these feelings in the church.  Many of us feel superfluous, as if no one would really notice if we stopped showing up and that it wouldn’t really make that much of a difference if we were no longer a part of the body.  I know I have, especially in the years since I graduated from college and no longer had a group to belong to.

Because here’s the thing: the American church seems to love niches.  Human beings are hard-wired to classify everything, so it only makes sense that we would do the same thing in the church.  There are children, and youth, and collegians, and young marrieds, and young families, and parents with adolescents, and empty-nesters, and all kinds of combinations and things in between.

And many churches have a singles ministry, although it usually falls into one of two categories: a meat-market or a support group for the socially awkward (as someone who has been known to be socially awkward at times, I say this in love).  Neither of these are exactly ideal, and Justin Campbell has a great explanation of why singles groups, and other divisions as well, can be detrimental to the church here.

But that’s not what I want to talk about here.  In the midst of all these classifications and groups, many single women (and I would assume single men, too, although I cannot speak for them) find it difficult to figure out where they fit in the church structure.  It is scarily easy to show up on Sunday morning, sing, listen to the sermon, take communion, and then leave without ever actually talking to another person.  I know; I’ve done it.

After graduating from college, I moved across the country to a city where I knew approximately one person.  I did this because I believed God was calling me to teach in Memphis and to be a part of a particular church in the city.  I absolutely love my church, and I have since the first Sunday I attended, but it has been three years, and I am only now beginning to feel like I belong at this church.  In those three years, I have spent many weeks sitting by myself, praying by myself, and taking communion by myself.  I still do sometimes.  It can be very lonely and can make me feel like going to church is an exercise in discipline rather than a joy.

In those three years I have learned a lot about what it takes to truly become a part of the local body, particularly if your local body is a large one.  The truth is, as much as we would like to blame American culture or church culture or whatever, we often marginalize ourselves.  The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that true life-giving community very rarely just falls in your lap.  And even if it does, it takes hard work to maintain it.

Each day next week, I want to lay out some things that you can do as a single woman (or anyone, really) to move from being on the margins to a full-fledged member of a vibrant community.  It takes effort and it may require you to get out of your comfort zone, but it is totally worth it.

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7 Comments

  1. Well, I’m excited to read you next week!
    Thanks Love, because after 6 years her at dbc I still feel small, unnecessary, & not missed when I’m gone because someone else can always fill my spot. I’m shedding college ministry this year & I’m terrified because it’s a lonely path put there.

    Reply
  1. How to Avoid Isolation in the Church – Part 1 « Why I…
  2. How to Avoid Isolation in the Church – Part 2 « Why I…
  3. How to Avoid Isolation in the Church – Part 2 « Why I…
  4. How to Avoid Isolation in the Church – Part 4 « Why I…
  5. How to Avoid Isolation in the Church – Part 5 « Why I…

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