In March of 2020 we stopped going anywhere we didn’t absolutely need to be. The kids stopped school, I went to the grocery store once a week and we stopped church and social outings. We learned how to see friends and family on zoom and spent a lot of time hanging out as a family. It was a weird time. It was welcomed for a while, everything that’s novel is interesting at first, but then our world fell apart on April 24, 2020 when our daughter passed away in an accident. After that friends and family came and brought us meals and it was the first time we had seen many of them in weeks. We had a very small funeral outside with family only, and even that was welcomed at the time because I wasn’t sure I could do the whole large funeral thing. I just wasn’t sure I’d make it through it emotionally. As time passed we continued to see people as little as possible and go out as little as possible. A year went by and in March of 2021 my husband suggested we go back to church again. I was resistant and had a full on panic attack when he suggested it. I was terrified to walk into a group of people. I hadn’t been in a group like that in a year and to add to that I hadn’t been back to church since our daughter passed. It was a place full of memories and I wasn’t sure I could do it. He insisted so we went. I didn’t want to be there and it was uncomfortable. That whole year had been a place of growth for our family and healing as we gathered each Sunday morning and had a bible study as a family. We talked about hard things like grief and loss and pandemics. Why did God allow such things? And how do we move forward? It was what we needed at the time, but as we were growing together we were also growing apart from others. We didn’t realize it, but we were. During that year there was a lot of political division happening around masks and vaccines but also the election. We saw the division and it’s easy to get sucked into the lie that when we think differently than others we can no longer be in relationship with those people. It divided and continues to divide the church based on who you voted for and if you got vaccinated or not. We are missing the point of Christianity though if we allow those things to divide us, we are to love others not segregate based on beliefs on political ideology. At a certain point it can become political idolatry and not political participation. We are to be involved with the electing of our leaders, but we are not to be so concerned with those elections and what those leaders do that they become more important to us than what Jesus says.
As we eased back into church we felt lost. The roles we used to fill had been filled by others in our absence. We just kept going week after week, but we didn’t feel connected. Why? Because we had lost our small groups, if you will. We had been youth leaders and involved with music before the pandemic. Those provided connection with other people on a deeper level than just walking into church each Sunday, saying “hi, oh yes we are fine” and leaving. That’s attending church but there’s no connection. If you are just attending church that’s a great place to start but at some point if you want to stay in church you have to get connected on a deeper level. You need a small group to be apart of so you can do life with other people. You need relationships to help you want to stay in church when times are tough, as they have been these past couple of years. We are seeing so many people content to do church “differently” and stay isolated on zoom, but where are their relationships? Where is their community that will sustain them in hard times? If you have physical challenges that prevent you from actually coming to church and you have no other choice but zoom then you do that, and that’s wonderful, but I would challenge you to find a small group to connect with via zoom. Many churches have small groups on zoom. It’s the connection you need. We are working to find our smaller groups again at our church. It takes time to find where you feel connected. I wasn’t sure I wanted to keep working hard to make myself come to church this past spring. It was hard, my anxiety was high and it was just easier to find the differences between me and others than it was to find the commonalities. But there is this wise group of older women at my church who drew me in and asked me to pray with them on prayer team. I had been doing this alongside Glenn before the pandemic but they were asking me to serve with them by myself. It was very intimidating but I felt God telling me this was where he wanted me. Each week I would go and they would encourage me and we would build community. It was my smaller group. You need a place you can feel purpose and connection within church or else you will give up. We aren’t meant to be in isolation. Now I go each week and I pray even though I feel like a junior member next to these ladies who are such spiritual powerhouses, but I keep learning and growing. And I’m slowing realizing why God has me there. I’m able to bring a unique perspective with my youth, my experiences good and bad, and my continuing education in counseling. I feel purpose and that brings connection that I was lacking a year ago.
So how do you find this connection in church? Well, first you just reach out to those around you. You don’t need to look for those who look similar to you, God can bring connection with people you never thought you would find anything in common with. Keep trying and get involved with a small group that’s already at your church. Don’t have any? Maybe God’s calling you to start one. Be the change you want to see in the world. Don’t isolate yourself. Invite people over to your house or to an outdoor setting if that’s more comfortable. It might feel awkward at first but keep trying. To have a friend you must be a friend. Look past political and social lines and find people’s hearts. We are so focused on our differences lately that that’s all we can see. Let’s make church a place we come each week and put down our political and social differences and just be. Take a breath and seek God. Jesus was friends with so many different people, who no doubt thought differently than each other about different things going on in their world and time, but they were all united under the leadership and purpose of Jesus. We should be as well.
If you are feeling disconnected at church, ask yourself what you can do to fix that? Don’t be a victim, make yourself available to others and be in community. Satan wants nothing more than to divide and devour us, that’s the only way he can stop the church from it’s purpose of spreading God’s love.