Embracing the Lonely

I have written a couple of posts on the importance of welcoming visitors or strangers to a group. This is particularly important if it is a Christian group, right? Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.”

In this video I talk about the implications of a Christian group ignoring a needy stranger. If someone is lonely or needy, who better to greet them than Christians?

Fortunately, my friend Lisa wasn’t needy or desperate, but she was lonely at a Christian event she attended recently. And no one greeted her. Or talked to her. Or took her up on offers to go to lunch with her. Or dinner.

In fact, she told me that as she was sitting alone at a table in a crowded dining area, some ladies approached to ask if anyone was sitting at her table. For a brief moment she felt a ray of hope. But that was before they took the empty chairs to their overcrowded table, leaving her alone again.

You can read about her difficult weekend here.

And if you are a Christian, commit with me to seeking out the lonely and embracing them.

We are the light of the world, after all.

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Comments

  1. This kind of treatment hurts my heart and makes me want to reach out and hug the person who was tossed aside. Where is the sharing of God’s love and the fellowship with others?!

  2. Sometimes it can be one spouse that is lonely. My husband has had a hard time making friends at our church. People notice and talk to me because I’m the one with the lovely voice (relatively speaking–my voice really isn’t that good, but I sing from my heart with my diaphragm and people can actually hear me), and I’m also lately usually holding a baby, who has the power to singlehandedly keep me from hiding in a crowd! We are actually considering switching churches, not just for this reason, but partly because of it. My husband needs fellowship, and he’s not really getting it at our church.

  3. Connie you are absolutely onto something here. I attended a ladies night the other night and had no meaningful conversations with anyone. Whilst someone did ask how I was and I knew superficial I said I’m really tired (pregnant) the reply? Oh. And convo over.
    When I got home I told hubby that I was reminded how superficial those events can be. Speaker was amazing, as always ;)

  4. Stephanie says:

    I think reaching out and talking to new people can be a learned skill. I used to think “well, I’m shy, what if they don’t want to talk to me, etc” but then I realized that it could easily come off as rude and uncaring so I have to force myself to talk to others that are around me, even when it is hard. I have also seen a lady that can talk to anyone easily and really care about each person, she does a great job and I have learned alot from her about starting a conversation with a new person.

    • That’s me – incredibly shy! I have often thought about how I must seem rude to other people. I’m not good with keeping up a conversation although I do try. It can be learned, but boy is it hard! Good thought to learn from someone who can talk to anyone easily and really care about each person. I know someone like that and I so admire her!

  5. I’ve written about this before, too. And I think this problem starts at churches where people are so desirous of sitting and talking with their friends that they ignore the rest. They don’t mean to be mean, but it happens. I cannot tell you the number of times that my family has sat by itself at a church function (at three different churches where we were members) because our “friends” had better friends that they wanted to spend the time with. Sometimes it feels like you have to break into the different cliques within a church just to have someone want to spend time with you. And I agree that it should not be like this…but if people act like this at church, why would they act any differently anywhere else?

    This problem has happened multiple times to me; it happens to my parents; and it happens to some of my friends. It has happened to you and your friends, so it’s not an isolated thing. It appears to be rampant. It’s certainly understandable that people want to spend time with their friends, but in the meantime, others are being ignored and forgotten.

    Church should be different, better, than the world. But sometimes, it feels like being back in high school.

  6. I have pulled waaayyyy back at church. Why? Because I have already done 7th grade drama once, and I have no desire to do it again.
    And that’s what the female situation is at my church…7th grade drama. No thank you.

    I have sat alone and eaten alone at conferences. I am this huge EXTRA extrovert, so I go out of my way to talk to people, ask questions, get to know them. But seriously, it gets old. Much safer to be with my family.

  7. Connie, you’re such a cheerleader for the wounded! I love how God is working through these experiences to help us all grow and help others feel less lonely. What a blessing! Lisa~

  8. Donna Mac says:

    First, I am sorry. I know the conference would have been so much richer if you could have been included and to not invite you to dinner but reject you is so middle school.
    With that being said, after being at our current church for 18 years we felt we had to leave for reasons that do not really matter. We decided, to pray and visit wherever God led us to and we were not going to be denomination specific. We wanted to expereince everything. We went to large churches and small churches. We went to most all the denominations except the Catholic church (for no reason other than geography) and various independent and non denominational churches. We went to the wealthy elite and highly educated to small average local neighborhood churches and and everything in-between. We visited modern and conservative and stay for two services. I can say with certainty that at about 80%-90% of the church were very unwelcoming. Before I get into the rest of my story let me say we do not need the welcome mat rolled out and we have been in church for over 20 years and our faith in God is not based on how others treat us. However, we are not most people, what we kept coming back to is what if we had a need or was seeking God or had lost our way. We would have been really let down and disappointed. Here was our biggest issue, where to sit. I cannot tell you how many times we stood in the back or walking the isles searching for a place to sit and not one single person said, this is available or even motioned us to sit. It was obvious we were completely new and lost. Some of the larger churches had ushers which was awesome but for the most part little sister seat saver was not moving or giving up that seat for someone that may or may not show up even when directed by an usher. When church was over people headed out with no conversation. Most of the time we felt invisible or no one cared to extend a smile and handshake.

    Now, I feel I should say we had one local church (Presbyterian) knock on my door on Sunday evening thank us for coming and hand us a loaf of bread. They did not want to stay or visit just thank us for coming. We did have one minister (Lutheran) come and visit which was a not necessary but we appreciated the jesture. One very large church (Baptist) did say a welcome to the visitors and if you were new please stop by this desk for a welcome pack. We also did go to another large church (Episcopol) that had a meal afterward and they were gracious and offered us meal ticket for first time visitors and were just lovely. Those are only 3 – 4 instances I can think of out of the 20 or so we visited. It was not one denomination was less friendly than other or based on size most people just went about their business and most churches just seemed to be happy with what they had.

    I think you have hit on a problem. If you are at church or christian conference I would think those would be the places you would have fellowship. You should be with like minded people that want to be there and want to hear what is being said. My camera club does an awesome job greeting visitors and people talk to new faces all the time. We add new people all the time. We do small field trips and invite whoever wants to come regardless of skill level. It would be nice if chuches could learn a few things.

  9. Charlotte says:

    Many years ago I visited a church. I went to the Ladies only Sunday School class and after attending for about 8 weeks finally a woman said hi to me. Didn’t mean much after 8 weeks.

    My class would let out earlier than my teen age daughters class. So I would stand in the hall waiting for her so we could go to Worship service together. Not a soul would speak to me.

    Frankly I think the church was so large nobody knew if I was a member or a visitor. Still doesn’t explain why no one would even say Hi.

  10. Hi Connie:
    I have been reading your blog for a LONG time, but never commented.
    Thank you for bringing this to light. I am an almost 56 yr old homeschooling mom of 3 and grandma of 2. This has happened to me PLENTY over the last 20 years. And my two grown daughters. We struggle to find a church home. (We live in rural NY State). As mentioned above, some of it is like high school drama. Luckily my girls and myself have each other, but I know some of these ladies don’t have a momma or sibling nearby. When I read that young woman’s post a little while back I just cried. I know EXACTLY what she was saying. It is elitism and clickiness in the Church.

    Another issue for us is finding family integrated churches, especially where we live. My youngest is 14, but my daughter has a 3 & 4 yr old and it is so hard to find a church that doesn’t pull babies and children from their parents arms. Or they will at least give you the evil eye. Imagine having a 4 month old baby sound asleep in your arms and being told no children in the sanctuary and to bring them to the nursery. So now we
    have daycare at church? Maybe I am old fashioned. I was born in 1957 and I do not remember any of this growing up. If you had a noisy kid, mom, or better yet, dad (or was no fun!), took them out of the service.

    My 3 kids were all introverted and they were perfectly content to sit with mom and dad during church. Very rarely did I have to get up and leave
    because of squally kids. But boy or boy, some churches just do not like it…….

    Four excellent DVD’s we purchased (through Vision Form) helped us understand what is going on in the world/country. Agenda, Indoctrination, Divided, and Captivated. They are all excellent.

    Well, thanks Connie for listening. A mom

  11. Thank you for this great post. I prefer being home and am an introvert at heart, but in social situations God has helped me to step out of my comfort zone and to be friendly. Women have told me that it meant so much to me that I would take the time to greet them by name when they were new. I have a gift with remembering names. Thank you for encouraging me to keep on keepin’ on, and that it matters.

  12. Happy Geek says:

    I have moved a lot and so have been the new girl in many a situation. I know what it is to have no one talk to you. So this introvert will RUN PEOPLE OVER to get to the person standing alone by themselves and talk to them. Be it the park, church, playgroup, I cannot stand the thought of someone else feeling alone. It is so hard to do, but then I remember how awful it is to have people choose any pew around you, but not the pew you are sitting in all by yourself.

  13. Tasmanian says:

    I totally relate to the importance of this. I went to an inter-church meeting last week, with 70 % of people being from our church. At first I sat down with people I knew, then saw a very underpopulated table. I quickly changed tables and had a great night with new friends.

    I heard it said once that if a person doesn’t feel welcomed in a church in the first 15 minutes, they NEVER COME BACK. Think of all the non-Christians who would fit into this category. It can be a make-or-break opportunity, even if you or they are introverted.

    I went to a church event where I knew one person. I went up and asked “is this seat taken?” and she replied “no” then turned her back on me and continued her conversation with her best friend. It is so easy to pause your conversation, promise to continue it later, then include the new person. “Have you met my friend…”

  14. Rach DeBruin says:

    I wouldn’t be at my church today if it wasn’t for their genuine friendliness and care…
    I wasn’t raised as a Christian, and coming from a VERY mixed-up place in life, my neighbor decided to extend an offer to his family’s home for dinner…over the years came small group invites, caroling, fun nights with the youth…and so forth. This is an example of the opposite, but once I began visiting other churches (whether on vacation or for special events) I did see what you are talking about. It is fairly common.

    I am guilty of overlooking people sometimes too (so I cannot say I am never part of the problem!), but I often try to imagine what new people must be feeling. We do need, as a church overall, to make ourselves available to demonstrate the Lord’s love :)

    Thanks for sharing your heart with us. Much appreciated :)

    Rachael @ Diamonds in the Rough http://parentingandhomeschoolinginfaith.com

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