When You Don’t Fit in At Church

Do you feel like a stranger in the very places that are meant to provide safe havens of familiarity, belonging, and friendship?

A few weeks ago a somewhat transient-looking man stood up in the middle of the worship service I attend. My attention wandered as he told a lengthy, meandering story (I’m not clear on the details, but I think it had something to do with evil land developers, a member of congress, and a crusade to save a small paper mill on the East Coast…). But then he said something that woke me up:

“I’m not a member of this church, but I am a member of God’s family.”

In those few words, he described the core longing we’ve all felt: We yearn to belong.

Fitting-In vs. Belonging

We’re born with an inextinguishable need to belong. When you belong, you can freely show up as your authentic self, imperfections included. In communities and relationships where you belong, you feel a deep sense that you’re not only acceptable, but that you’re cherished. When you belong, others stand ready to embrace, love, learn from, and enjoy you—not only for the ways that you’re similar, but also for your otherness.

Belonging is incredibly different from “fitting in.” Where belonging encourages authenticity, space, and freedom, fitting in implies having to conceal or constrain the expression of who you really are or how you truly feel about and see the world. Referencing this wisdom from a 12 year old, Brené Brown sums up the difference between belonging and fitting: “If I get to be me, I belong. If I have to be like you, it’s fitting in.”

We can all get caught in the trap of trying to fit in when what we really long for is belonging. Trying to fit in is a desperate, losing game of seeking approval by forcing yourself into the roles, attitudes, and appearances thrust upon you by others’ expectations and judgements. Even if you manage to hammer and contort yourself into those awkward shapes, it comes at a terrible costthe beautiful, unique contours of your soul were never meant to fit into a tiny box. As an unrepeatable child of the Divine with eternal possibilities, your soul needs a wide expanse where it can unfold, change, and grow.

Belonging Matters More in Some Places Than Others

We don’t need to belong everywhere. When you can’t find a sense of belonging in communities or relationships that don’t matter much to you, leaving (or just not joining) is an obvious and easy choice.

But in places or relationships that do matter, belonging is indispensable. Feeling like an outsider in your own church, marriage, family, or any community or relationship that you cherish isn’t just ironic; it’s devastating. We rightfully look to those places for connection, meaning, and identity. But when authentic belonging remains perpetually out of reach in a relationship or a community that you value, you’re left with pretty painful options: leaving or pretending.

A Raft of Divine Love

Most of us have felt the painful ache of not belonging. Notwithstanding being an active member of my church, I’ve often felt the loneliness of being a foreigner there. Although I’ve had some very encouraging experiences recently, I don’t know if I’ll always belong there, that there will always be a place in the church for my authentic self. I hope there will.

Whatever happens, I can take heart in what that man reminded me of during church several weeks ago:

 I’ll always belong to God.

Knowing that I truly belong to God means I have a place within the Divine plan. If God loves me so deeply, and if I truly am His (and Her) child, then whatever others think of me doesn’t matter so much, even if it hurts. If I belong to God, then His love provides a shelter of acceptance from the storms of judgement from  anyone who isn’t God—including myself. Knowing that I belong to God creates a raft of self-acceptance and Divine love that can carry me to wherever I need to go.

Some people might fear that this approach encourages laziness, promotes selfishness or hedonism, and generally points people toward hell. I say that’s nonsense.

I can only tell you what’s really happening in my heart as I experience God’s love and my belonging to Him. I feel encouraged to grow personally, and I’m finding more hope to work through the painful difficulties in my relationship with the church. Accepting my belonging with God guards me against despair, and promotes feelings of patience toward others, the church, and with myself. Feeling God’s delight in me fills me with hope and love, and invites me to reach out in compassion. Rooting myself in my identity as God’s creation reminds me that all of us are connected: we all share the heritage of the daughters and sons of God.

You belong to the Divine too.

You are a member of God’s family. No one can ever, ever take that identity and belonging away from you. It’s inborn.

You are so intimately known. God hasn’t missed a single moment of your life, and He lovingly watches over you still. You are so deeply loved. You are not a mystery to Him, even if you are a mystery at times to yourself. He is no stranger to how it feels to be left-out and alone. He’s experienced those things too. And compassion is His primary response to all those things that make you feel like an outsider—mistakes, sins, differences, quirks, whatever. He just loves you, and wants to create a raft of divine love, belonging, and acceptance that will carry you into the promise of your own divine potential.

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76 thoughts on “When You Don’t Fit in At Church

  1. As a man I honestly feel I don’t belong in church anymore. You pick up the church bulletin on any given Sunday and it is filled 90% with bible studies, activities, etc. for the benefit of women only.

    Sadly, as a result men are increasing being getting left behind in their spiritual growth in most churches nowadays… Yes, there is often a “Men’s ministry”, but for the most part men do not like to meet in such groups. Men like me anyways. I prefer mixed groups.

    I didn’t grow up in a time when there was so much “gender apartheid” going on in church like there is today. I can’t understand why the majority of bible studies , teaching sessions, prayer meetings, activities, etc. cannot be opened to all who has a desire or a need to participate in it? Those topics that are really only pertinent to one gender or the other, are far and in between, yet the church would have you believe the sexes’ needs are so vastly different that it warrants 90% of church activities to be gender based… Wow.

    We’re all first and foremost human beings with the EXACT SAME spiritual needs. Please serve us all equally.

  2. It is a a shame that the family God intends us to be is not happening. I am struggling with not belonging too. Single,white,female, 53. Been divorced many years, would like to marry again but refuse to do it any other way but God’s way, which is not popular even in the church, It seems as though you go in sit down then go home that’s it. Married people shun singles and singles (many) are so lonely for companionship we end up making foolish mistakes. We are not supposed to be segregated in the church but we are. I do believe that separate ministry is ok to a degree but when the singles are the babysitters…(you get to eat the leftovers with the kids) after they have their fellowship, you are treated as second class. God made us all equal and man has decided in his own eyes who they value. While all of us know God loves us….Fri. and Sat….weekends sure get lonely talking to your cat. That is not his intention, we are suppose to have real fellowship together…all of us…single, married,white,,black,young ,old… together as a family. Pastors have gone way to far with small groups and created the division and can’t see it. When I mention segregating the singles I was told married people have different problems. It is just a social club. Several years ago before the swing toward so many small groups we all hung out together…(as I remember we seemed to have the same problems but what do I know) the shallowness of today’s church and lack of real teaching is appalling…now for the first time since I was 27 I have been hunting a church for 2years…instead of different personalities they all seem cookie cutter…..where is the family we long for?
    L

    1. Joyce,
      I’m sorry you’re experiencing this discouragement. I too am praying for connection. The modern Church is geared toward extroverts. That pattern doesn’t bode well for transparency and honest genuine interaction. I don’t know where the love is, I’m trying to focus on doing my part to love others. As a married person I also experience the isolation. People tend to seek others like them,it seems surface and country club. The small groups don’t always help. I’m wondering whether it’s worth continuing in one.
      Jesus, we pray in your name , that you touch each writer here and guide our steps, we ask you to meet our needs each day and that you answer our cry for belonging , lord help your Church. Thank you for bringing us to you oh keep us close and in forgiveness, grow us in love and grace for others. Joy joy thank you , in your precious name Amen

  3. I loved church it’s just recently I don’t want to go I believe it’s the people are upper class I don’t like this feeling at all i was in a cahtolie church all my life now I joined a chrstain church I am hurting have no get up to wan5 to go an I am a strong believer help me I beg u

  4. God bless you… When & how to handle spiritual rejection & not belonging in the place u believe God has sent & used me. I’ve been through spiritual abuse before & promised GOD that I refused to go down that road again. I must crawl up on Father, GOD’S lap and seek guidance, comfort & peace during this time. GOD just give me enough light for the step that I’m on…. YOU (GOD) know me … I was born “to fit” into YOU, GOD… HELP me to SEE ONLY YOU GOD…. I can not sustain another trip thru spiritual abuse….especially when it is done openly… “Speak GOD….THY servant is listening”..
    Please respond off-line to my email…

    1. It is good that you pray to Father God and I’m sure He hears your prayers.Just a suggestion, as Jesus said, “If you ask anything in My name, I will do it. It’s good to pray in the name of Jesus. He walked on this earth and understands us better than anyone. He is the way to reach God our Father. Also, I’m learning I must seek to please Jesus first and foremost, not to worry about what others think of me, and pray to be humble, as He’s the only One who can truly satisfy our hearts and our hunger for His Word. It’s good to have fellowship with other Christians, but frankly, most of the time my fellowship is not inside of a church. As Jesus said, “Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Mt. 18:20) You can worship Him with just one or two friends. I do understand however the need people have of going to a church on Sunday. God bless you.

    2. I understand where you are coming from. I’m still trying to steady up from the same thing… spiritual abuse…it is much easier to heal when we are able to find a new church and God uses it to help heal us ,but when you can’t find a church it is a huge struggle

  5. I was basically ignored by my church small group I am standing. Trusting God for marriage healing..i go to church by myself. I would literally sit by myself
    No one sat next to me. I asked people if I can sit with them .after awhile. I left the church. I ran into the small group leader. He ran out of the grocery store. Needless to say. The church does not accept those who are not like them .I realize I belong to god. I just have a lot of resentment toward the self righteous main stream church snobs

    1. I can identify with that. God bless you for not giving up on God even when His representatives, His children, are not always the sample they should be.

  6. Such an awesome help to me and my life at 1:30 am. I belong to God is just what I told my husband two hrs ago. I was struggling with issues hearing my heart. God is so good.

  7. No matter what though, I still feel a “calling” to come into the family of God, wether I feel awkward there or not because I’ve come to the conclusion we definitely belong to God and He welcomes us , no matter if people do or not. Almost to say we shouldn’t go to church because we feel a need to belong anyway, but more, as a need to Praise God, thank God , confess to God, and be amongst people who are doing the same. OUR comforts and our feelings aren’t so important as much as what God wants. And He loves us to Praise Him in a church, He loves who we gather together in His name. He wants us to pray every day as well. In our own homes and privacy, but He wants us to meet Him collectively as a group too. At least, that’s what I feel.

  8. Its all very deflating reading the majority of these posts, however I can identify with them because I am going through a very challenging time at my own Baptist church. I simply feel isolated in there and my current problems such as losing my job recently and having a suicidal 14 year old daughter which the ministry are aware of yet no one even asks me,texts or emails me to find out if things are improving and at church I am completely ignored.
    All I want is to find a loving,welcoming and warm spirit filled church but more and more I am beginning to feel like I do not belong,yes I am a christian and learning more and more about walking in faith,obedience but the church I am currently attending is leading me to despondency.maybe its time to look for another church,I have already started praying about this. God bless all of you.

  9. I am glad to know that I am not the only person who feels like I don’t belong or fit in at my church. My church is full of warm and loving people who work very hard for the church and love Jesus. But because of actions and behaviors, I still feel like I don’t belong and that my voice is not heard. Perhaps it is because the church is small and run by a few handfulls of people who want control of everything. My thoughts and suggestions are ignored because “this is the way we have always done it.” When I ask questions of my pastors about theology, I get no answers, only response is “those are very difficult questions.” And that’s where it ends. In my Bible study group, we hardly spend any time talking about the Bible in any great detail. It seems mostly like a social group with a superficial interest in the Scripture. I have so many questions about my faith. I am glad to have found this post, and I thank you for reminding me that I am a child of God. I also thank the commenter who reminded me of the scripture from Romans 12-2. I don’t hate my church, there are a lot of nice people there, but I just don’t feel the warmth that comes from being truly listened to and understood.

    1. I can identify with what you say. People, even church goers, are many times comfortable with the ways things are and satisfied with unanswered questions, whereas Apostle Paul exhorted us to search the scriptures: “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” Acts 17:11 and Jesus Himself said “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” Jn. 5:39 I know there are sincere believers out there who are not afraid to ask questions, like you, but too many times others interpret this as a lack of faith or they simply are not interested or haven’t enough Bible knowledge or interest to find the answers themselves. Paul also says: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 2 Tim. 2:15 Also, “Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” Jn. 8:31,32 So to be a true follower of Jesus and be truly free we must continue in His Word. It’s an on-going process. Many times we simply need to seek these true followers out, those who are hungry for the knowledge of God. I myself would like to meet more people like this who are open minded to the things the Lord would like to show and will acknowledge that His ways and thoughts are not our ways and thoughts: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.
      For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isa. 55:8,9
      I pray you can find the in depth fellowship you need.

  10. Dearest Brothers & Sisters in Christ! You are not alone! The Word tells us that Our Lord asks: Will I find Faith when I return?!
    What we are experiencing is the superficiality of people around us, especially in church! I too had an experience this morning with a Leader at my Church. I thought: REALLY???!!! YOU TOO???!!! I have been praying all day today about it and I even attended another Church instead of my regular one. Thank God I was able to!!! But, as I drove home, I began to cry… The sign of the times is here… This is where our foundation is being tested: Do you Love God? Do you really Love Our Lord? Enough to Love those that are blind? Enough to Love those that the Word tells us we must pray for? For those of us who acclaim to say we Love Jesus Above All, this is our time to be an example to others!!! Especially to those in Leadership. May the Peace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, His Authority and Strength be with us ALL!!! And may Wisdom be embedded deep within our Soul… That we may Glorify God with our Lives! For we go to God’s House to Praise and Worship Our Lord, not the people. Community comes second to our Moment with God. This is what I believe… May God give me the strength to face the callousness of others around me! In Jesus Name I Pray! It is difficult to Love in the midst of adversity. But, isn’t this what Jesus did?…

    1. Thank you for your encouraging comment. There are so few who truly follow Jesus and hunger for more truth on a daily basis. Sometimes we ourselves need to seek these special followers or would-be followers our, those who will listen, those who are like-minded, which isn’t easy, going against the flow of things. Plus, Christians are being maligned in the media and in the movies making many church-goers simply stick to their safe zone so as not to offend anybody. Lord help us to remain strong. And yes, I believe we are in the last days too as is evident in so many signs and ungodly laws that are being passed.

  11. I would like to join a church where I feel I belong but Ive been to two churches so far and I feel I don’t fit in nor do I belong there. I prayed that God guides me where to go and on that same day that I prayed I found an invite to attend (second church).First visit was OK but second was terrible. It showed that I am a stranger and invisible. But this is a lesson for me on how to show compassion: know who is new and welcome them with a friendly face. Because you don’t know what that person is going through in life & is in need of help in reaching out to the LORD. I hate when believers are mean-spirited & practice self-centeredness!

    1. Amen to that…i really thought I was the only believer not accepted by the church. My hope and confidence is in belonging and accepted by God😊

  12. I started going to this church maybe I don’t know. But when I walked in the door they said hi welcome to the church. I have been trying to leave the church for some time now. But for some reason if I can say God doesn’t want me to leave. No matter how much I try

  13. The Early Church was marked by discipleship, authentic community and mission up until the Church became institutionalised in the fourth century under Constantine. Ever since the fourth century then Western Christianity has been institutionalised. This causes a fundamental root problem because the laity become passive spectators because of an unbiblical interpretation of ministry.
    A book I would recommend is ‘A Churchless Faith’ subtitled Faith journeys beyond the churches’ by Alan Jamieson. In this book he interviews people who are either leaving church or have left. These people he refers to as ‘Disillusioned followers’; Reflective Exiles; Transitional explorers, and Integrated Wayfinders. It covers the experiences of people who have formed alternative versions of church that are intentional relational and communal particularly in the last chapter ‘Searching for a place to belong’. This is a huge topic, one in which I have struggled with for over 30 years. I do think there are a combination of factors that determine our interpretation of ‘Church’, upbringing, life experiences, suffering, identity, and flourishing in our gifting in the church and the world. I have found that theologically the professionalization of the pastoral ministry keeps people as passive spectators while the ‘experts’ give the ministry and the spectators receive, which is completely unbiblical. There is also a 65/35 gender split in the contemporary UK Church which keeps men in particular away from the church because it feels an emasculating experience deep down, for their is nothing required of core masculine qualities.

    1. Very insightful. I’ll check out the book. There is a lot of churchyanity that is not what Christ intended.

  14. Thank u for this. I have been struggling with this for a few months. I did not know if it was all the changes at church or because I am not longer allow to participate in church. God loves me even if my church doesn’t.

  15. I feel this in my church lately. I don’t fit in, neither do I belong. I never used to feel like this, but it’s such a strong inescapable feeling now. I rarely get included in anything that is happening, and I am not sure that anyone would really notice if I stopped going altogether. But, there isn’t anywhere else to go. I feel overwhelming sadness about this. I dread attending this Sunday, but I don’t have the courage to not go either.

  16. Bible tells us as we grow in the knowledge of Christ , we are sometimes given this gift of “discernment “. Everything looks in order at my church but still, something feels wrong . I’ve even happily gone to church and felt the need to run away before service began. Once I did…in tears. I don’t know if it’s evil spirits in me , or discernment. I only know I USED to feel so alive and happy there. I felt I was growing spiritually there. I was baptized there 2 years ago. It was wonderful ! But Now, there’s a feeling of foreboding to go to church. I’ve been there 7 years. I pray to ask God to help me understand why.

  17. I attend a good church , everyone loves it , they say it’s the best. The teaching is wonderful. But I don’t fit in. I’ve been here for 16 years. Been in this small group for five years yet no one will spend time with me/ us outside the group. I’m not hurtful to others, maybe I’m boring. To them…..I want to move on, my spouse doesn’t like change. He’s ok with the status quo but there’s no depth. It feels like country club Christianity at times. I don’t want to criticize. I just want more that’s real..I know the Lord has something more. I just don’t know where. Please pray

  18. If assembling with the saints wasn’t a direct order from the Lord, I wouldn’t bother. Been thinking of going to another church, but this is a small town.

  19. Praise the Lord.. this article is so close to my heart. I for some reason or other cannot seem to settle in one church. I start to see things that I am so uncomfortable with and when I would bring things to their attention I have been labeled a trouble maker. I was out in the world and no one would correct me with my sinful ways…in fact, most of he time I was promoted in it. The church assembly to me is where people are coming for the thoughts of changing their lives. I wouldn’t walk in a weight loss center unless I was considering at some piont of losing weight. So, our representation and lifestyles are crucial in our discipleship. The churches today has lost their flavor and purpose so I prefer to be a church within and visit churches. I have not left the Kingdom. I in realizing that I just don’t fit. Please give me some words of encouragement so I may not just be in my head.
    Thank you Stacy Chever.
    schever1954@gmail.com

  20. I saw you at church when you visited and spoke to the adults during a 3rd hr, I so relate to this post, I am having a faith transition and it’s made my spouse more sad and miserable than we ever thought possible. We are seeing a counselor, but maybe we should come see you… sigh…

  21. But what about if you wonder if your children are accepted? I know that I’m not in the popular group at church and it hurts me tremendously. I teach a Sunday school class which makes it impossible to be in a class with others. I teach because I can and because I want to make sure that I’m contributing. My children love the kids at our church. I go out of my way to have them to my house and feed them and their parents. My children are not invited to other people’s homes. I get the feeling that our church leaders don’t think my kids are good enough and that they are trying to make sure that their kids don’t hang with mine too much. The Sunday school class that is for people with families is quite close. We are never included due to the fact that I teach a kids class. My dh was told that he was too old to be in the class designed for people with children our kids age. We’ve give.n ourselves to that church. Our time, money, etc. The one minister who does the music won’t include my children in anything and they are both instrumentalists. When I see him, he turns his head the other way so he doesn’t have to speak to me. The pastor is related to nearly everyone in the church. We are not related. I don’t know if I would go to another church if things would be different or not. I’m the stereotype that was wiritten about in some comments as the kind who fits on, white, middle class, etc. and I’m not included. I’m ok with not being included even though I would like to be. I am not ok with my children potentially being hurt. My kids love the people at the church but it is evident to me that this is not reciprocated. What should I do? We are bible believing baptists. We take or responsibility to God seriously. I do my post stuff on social media to draw attention to myself as I do not have social media. Most others in the church do. Should I just keep praying and wait it out? I feel like the things that my kids do, the pastor takes on and has his kids do and then kind of makes it seem like his kids are the only ones who are accomplished in an area. All of this hurts me; my kids are oblivious to it. People like me elsewhere so I don’t think that I’m socially awkward. I bathe and practice good hygiene. I feed my Sunday school class each week. I work and contribute to society. Why am i, and especially why aren’t my kids embraced in church. -Hurting

    1. I feel you so much. Try to visit other churches while still attending the one you are part of, and be open to any signs from God. After visiting other churches, praying, and talking to a religious figure that you trust, I believe that the Lord will send an answer to you. Another tip is being open to other denominations of churches. This may seem scary, but this will give you a wider selection of churches in your area.
      The last thing you want is for your kids to be put down. Kids are like sponges, and if you continue striving for acceptance, then they will learn to do the same thing, and grow up begging for acceptance from society.

    2. PLEASE find another church to go to. You, your husband, and your children
      do not deserve to be treated the way that you are being treated. Your current
      church seems snobby and clicky. Spend time at a few different churches until
      you find one that your ENTIRE family feels comfortable in. Church isn’t just
      for kids, you and your husband need to be spiritually-fed, accepted, and able
      to feel like you belong. It’s time for you to RECEIVE from others now. Don’t
      Rush into volunteering to teach too soon at your next church. Please give
      yourself and your family the gift of time. This will be hard for you to do
      because you sound like you might have an overly heavy-duty feeling of
      responsibility to God. Relax for awhile in your next church, allow
      yourselves to simply love God, be loved by God, and get spiritually-fed
      yourselves. God wants you to enjoy Him, and He wants to love and delight
      in you.

  22. I have never felt I belonged anywhere, always searching for acceptance.
    I am even watching videos of people who have passed and come back. I have never known love or been free in my heart.
    What we have never had!!! How can we know how to find God’s love or love him back.
    I want to feel and know with out a dought.

  23. It is important that we know we belong to God and are in his family but that does not negate our responsibility in that family. If people don’t feel a sense of belonging, I would ask if we don’t take seriously our instruction.
    I had a friend say, this is how the world works. People have their cliques. I thought we were called out, to be different?
    Romans 12
    2] And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
    [3] For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.

    John 13:34 A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

    John 13:35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

    Romans 12:10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.

    Romans 12:16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

    Romans 14:13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.

    Romans 15:7 Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.

    Romans 15:14 I myself am convinced, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, complete in knowledge and competent to instruct one another.

    Romans 16:16 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ send greetings.

    1 Corinthians 1:10 I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.

    Galatians 5:13 You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.

    Ephesians 4:2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

    Ephesians 4:32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

    Ephesians 5:19 Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord,

    Ephesians 5:21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

    Colossians 3:13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

    Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.

    1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

    Hebrews 3:13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.

    Hebrews 10:24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.

    Hebrews 10:25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

    James 4:11 Do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it.

    1 Peter 3:8 Live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.

  24. The church is broken.its full of ppl trying to prove them self worthy and they forget we are all gods children..I will never fit in or be excepted..I have fundamental views but look like white trash dressed in Sunday best ( I am heavily tattooed) put a fundamentalist in a world view church it’s not going to work..put a world marked body in a fundamental church it’s not going to work…I remain alone without a church family

    1. Just passing by and read your comment. I feel for you that you can’t seem to find and fit in a church family. It is a shame that many churches can’t look past the trivial things and see the need for people like yourself to connect. Having tattoos myself, not to mention a whole lot of other baggage, entered a church that saw “me” and my need to grow in Christ. The baggage is not as important as the need to walk with Christ. when we are walking with Christ, He helps us with the baggage. I really hope you continue looking to find a loving church family that will welcome you with open arms. they are out there, I attend one.
      Regards,

  25. Thank you so much for encouraging me on how much god loves me even though I doint fell love in my church I can always count on the Lord’s love to never change for me.and that’s the most important thing to rely on in this world that I am important to him though church members sometimes treat me like a stranger instead of a member of the body of christ. Once again thanks for telling the truth.

  26. Thank you for this message. I am so heartbroken leaving my church I love and cherished after just 1 year of memories I hope never fade. I could not be myself. A Science of Mind church more interested in treating me like a rough draft English composition than knowing me. Felt like my attendance was a dress rehearsal. Stress and anxiety. I have been blocked on their Facebook page. Tears flow easily and often.

  27. I wish that I could accept that. I have been deeply hurt for not fitting the mold..i feel very alone in church..god loves me no matter what. But sometimes that sounds like a platitude and a nooby prize.

  28. Sometimes the one place in which we expect to feel accepted, appreciated, like we are a part of, that we long; is the place where we gather with others to worship. This comes easy for most. For me, wow, it’s like sending a man to the moon!
    I really do sincerely try but I still remain feeling like a visitor rather than a part of the family of God.
    I go to church alone because I am the only Christian in my home. This in itself makes it difficult but I don’t let it stop me. However being a church on my own can really hurt at times. It’s very sad and though I try hard each time to just block out everything else and focus on God, eventually it comes back to the surface.
    I KNOW that I am a child of God but I long to feel like I belong while here on earth and not feel like I am just an ‘outsider’ or ‘visitor’.
    Sometime, just sometimes it’s easier to find a friend in the world than in the Body of Christ. On one of the most recent occasions I felt a knot in my stomach even before getting to church because I knew that it being a special service, everyone would be there with someone. Every year I keep praying and hoping it would change for me but it hasn’t just yet.
    Once I got there, I kept praying to the Lord ‘Lord please help me not to feel alone, help to handle this without falling apart on the inside.
    Well at the end of the service, everyone, and I mean everyone was huddling and greeting someone.(If you are asking why I don’t be the one to mingle, believe me I try) . I kept my eyes closed thinking God if I opened my eyes, I would burst into tears…Well, I had to eventually leave, and I did so with a broken heart. I cried all the way home unable to brings words out of my mouth to the Lord.
    I won’t apologize for how I feel. I am only human and though I agree the root of the problem is within myself and not anyone else, it is a real battle and I just thought that being a part of Church would help in some way to bring healing.
    I remember on my very first day of high school, I was so nervous because I didn’t know anyone. But once I got there, I realized hey, everyone here is new! So we were all in the same place! On the other hand, today, joining an existing group of people, being the new one, could be hard at first, but it should eventually become easier…..For me, this hasn’t happened and I still feel like the ‘new’ person, hard to fit in, to connect to belong. Maybe some day??? Maybe when some more years have passed and I have been there for a long time, maybe then I’d become part of the family???? I sure hope so.
    Until then, I am so thankful that God has opened wide His arms and accepted me. He hides me in His embrace because He alone understands my struggle. Over time I pray that God would fill the void and heal my brokenness so completely that I won’t hurt anymore.

    1. I get you. I’m a Christian in a home that is not. I have people in the church who love me but don’t have the inclination of involving me because I come alone but am married. It sets up pain on pain. Isolation is the enemies tool to separate us. I know God is mine and I am his but having a flesh person walking faith with you is a luxury. Just know that although you feel alone you are not alone. The emotions are valid but they’re not the entire truth. Fight the good fight with those of us in the silent fringes. Hugs blessed

    2. Thank you for this. Right now I’m am going through the same. I go to a lovely church full of lovely people, where I have been for 10 years, and I know I would miss a lot if I left. My family are non-Christian so I go alone. Everyone asks each other about their children when they have grown up in the church and are known by everyone; no-one asks about my children, as many people in the church don’t know I have any. I avoid church BBQs and days out because it will be a constant challenge to find people to talk to and sit with. I am quite quiet but sociable and don’t have a problem getting on with people, but most people just like to hang around in families and cliques. I chat to people a lot, but I’m not one of the “populars”. I think I’ve been struggling a bit lately as my Mum died last year; at that time people were very kind and seemed to have time to phone or have a word with me. But now, a year on, I’m feeling better and would love to spend time with these same people to just enjoy their company, but they don’t seem to have time for me now. I’m feeling a bit lonely and invisible in church. The sad thing is I never feel at all like this in any other area of my life.

  29. Today I was just crying out to God because I feel like a opran in my church and it hurts been going for almost 8yrs don’t understand the feeling but reading this helped a little

  30. Today I was just crying out to God because I feel like a opran in my church and it hurts been going for almost 8yrs don’t understand the feeling but reading this helped a little

    1. That’s because it’s all a fake; a nice little club where people can pay themselves on the back because they once have 50p to a beggar so therefore they’re looking after the last the least and the lost. Present them with a real life ‘my partner tapes me and I sleep in the car’ situation and suddenly you get no reply or they are busy.
      The church is a reflection of God. Leave your church; it’s a pack of lies.

  31. I have been looking for a new church to call home for 3 years now and it goes from bad to worse.My wife of 33 years up and deserted me with no warning 1.5 years before I was to retire and travel together.She comes from a family with a history of mental illness and refused to get help along with being in a leadership role in my ex-church her two best friends [also church women] deserted their husbands for health reasons.One guy had Parkinson and the other had a brain tumor removed leaving him with short term memory issues but fully functional.The church was complaisant and no discipline was carried out with the offenders as they retained their positions like nothing happened.Great role models for young women coming up in the church. It took the pastor 2 years to call me and said to move on. Amazing advice there Sherlock.As a separated male in his mid 50’s I fit in nowhere.Former friends vanished as they were all couples .Single people I know [not friends] are running around pretending they’re 20 again,liquored up chasing skirts half their age.Don’t want to go there at all.I am an outdoors man that doesn’t smoke ,gamble or drink. I go to bible studies and sit by the fireplace with my dogs reading the Bible.Eat sleep work…I feel like I’m in a prison with a small exercise yard doing life. I have a new 30 year mortgage on a home I once owned and will work till I die.A square peg in a round holed world. The rapture can’t come soon enough to suit me.

  32. I kind of don’t know where to start, but I have struggled with belonging to a church for years. I understand what you mean about uniqueness. And I’m 43 single male, which usually most Christians I know feel that I need to find someone to be married. I always find it funny that I get invited to the Men’s Bible Study at the same time that people find out I’m single. Lol. But I never felt a need to solve the loneliness of being single in the church was marriage. I can’t say that God’s plan for my life is always to be married. But the churches I have gone to over the years, from 8 different denominations, don’t seem to know what to do with single people. It’s either get married or what I usually fall into is get them involved with every ministry under their roof. I actually have no issue with being single except one, being lonely in the church. Single outside of the church doesn’t feel like a problem for me. So last year I ended up burning out, not just from church activity but some stressful life events as well. I ignored God telling me I needed to rest and listened to others telling me to keep pressing on. I’m now in a new city, with a new job, and currently looking for a new church home. But honestly, I’m not eager in trying new churches, I know I have baggage with being single in the church, and diving into ministry when I still need to rest. I hope this makes sense, I’m running on 3 hours of sleep. However, that has been my struggles with belonging to a church. As for being single, I become interested in marriage when I see a compatible Christian woman for me. Then I have an interest in marriage. Otherwise, I’m not really interested.

  33. You are right. But many times I do not fit in. But I belong to God. I am a male who is standing for my marriage
    I have had people ask me if I am going to remarry. To me
    That is none of them business
    Many in the church can not accept you as you are. If you do not fit their mold

  34. I am poor, black, disabled, with a brain disorder, and a woman. It seems all of the stereotypes are against me. No, I don’t fit in with the stereotype of the white, middle class Anglican. I tried a white church. They said they loved all colors. But I was never asked to be included in anything, my pastor never encouraged me or said anything positive about me, and I was ostracized by the women in the church who were young, white, middle class, stay at home moms with a husband and several children. I had one older white man who wanted to date me. I felt like the other white men were afraid to talk to me or even touch me. I am 42, and i have never been married with no children. The women my age were very family oriented. I did not have a family. I felt left out. At one point, the few black people sat together in the back of the church, and the whites sat in the front of the church. Welcome to the Deep South. I felt like the whites thought that the blacks only came to church to get free groceries (because they bussed in inner city people out of low income apartments as part of their outreach program.) Yes, I needed the groceries because I was on food stamps. But I always felt like a charity case and ostracized. And yes, I do have a college degree.

  35. I needed to hear this-I’ve felt like I didn’t belong in my church ever since I joined-Thanks for your writing. I may not fit in with the church family, but I fit in with God! There so many in my church that click together and have family of family members that has been there forever, and they seem to think not another source for this church should have any part of service, or a say on anything! I feel judgement by them, like I don’t deserve to be aquatinted in the church at all! I put my tithes and help with building up the church. I have tried so many times to help in a lot of areas. I’m turned down each time

  36. Hi, Right now I am battling with feelings of loneliness and inadequacy as my Daughter has cut me out of her life simply because I had an “opinion”. She threw every maternal mistake I made with her as a teenager, mistakes confessed and apologised for into my face and made me feel like the most rubbish Mother in the world… My son backed my daughter and now I am not allowed to see or interact with 5 of my precious Grandchildren. Through tears of regret and repentance I told her I was so sorry but her answer floored me. Now I am trying to rebuild my relationship with my son but I am still only allowed to see my Grandchildren including a new Grandson or have photos or Skype time with them when he and his wife say so. I have had one Skype time to meet my new Grandson and see my two beautiful Granddaughters once in September when my Grandson was born. A brief glimpse of him and a very controlled glimpse and talk to my Granddaughters. No photos allowed and yet I have nothing to him that hasn’t been humbly confessed and apologised for. They say I have their forgiveness but that was a year ago and their idea is to drip me back into their lives whilst keeping me out of it. Both families profess to be Christians and indeed we brought them up in the Church. Both families are so hostile to me they make me feel like rubbish. I am not a bad person, just a person who has made mistakes. But my sins and mistakes have been thrown at me by them time and time again.. My younger daughter knows me far better than they profess to know me and I am now happily living close to her, her lovely husband and two boys. I have so many health problems and this last year I developed a great deal of mental health problems to go with the physical ones.. I have lost all faith in Churches now but continue to have a deep faith in God. Without it I would have gone through with the suicide i felt was my best option last year. Thank you for this piece and I am praying that one day I will feel I can belong in my family again as my younger daughter has made me belong and as God makes me belong. Maybe even find a Church I can feel I belong too.

  37. Hi Paul.
    Thanks for this. I can really relate to thus at the moment. However, having been a part of the same local church for almost 27 years, I have to say that it’s only a season. I have been here before over the years, and come through to a sense of belonging again.
    I don’t understand fully why these seasons happen, but they do seem to strengthen my relationship with God my Heavenly Father.
    Simply by the fact, as you say, I have fall back on His acceptance and belonging to Him, which is a real comfort in these times.
    Thanks again.
    Stewart

  38. Thank you so much for writing this. I feel blessed. I do agree that feeling that you don’t belong to a community where you’re supposed to belong is really devastating. It actually made me wonder if I’m not trying hard enough or not good enough at all. This made me reel back to Whom I do belong to. I believe, from there, everything else will settle in time.

    God is wonderful in every ways.

  39. Such an interesting piece! I wish I could agree with it more.
    My (ex) church was always keen to say that it accepted differences and I thought that I might ‘belong’, but it turned out that the priest thinks my differences were ‘attention seeking behaviour’ (yes he told me that in public) and other members of the church were keen to tell me how delighted they were to see the changes God was making in my life when I was able to participate like everyone else (e.g. Shake hands during the peace, talk to people, help with coffee afterwards).
    The practical reality is that anyone can belong until they’re considered part of the regular congregation; but once you’re a signed up member you’re expected to ‘improve’ and fit in.
    If God accepts me as I am then he also accepts me FOR EVER as I am; whether I change or not.
    Church – It’s simply not worth it; church sucks (but God is good).

    1. Hi Kate,
      I’m saddened by the response that you received from your priest; people of the cloth should be the last to judge or label others. I think the great call of Christianity is to learn to love and be in community with others who are different than ourselves — but so often, churches can end up judging, excluding, and burdening people instead.

      I agree with you: God IS good! I hope that you can find a place of communion that embraces all of you.

  40. Thank you so much for these words. I REALLY needed them. I’ve been attending our church from the day of its conception and currently serve on the pastoral team. For the past 2-3 years I’ve served faithfully and have been my pastors “right hand man”. Recently our Pastor (my mentor) relocated and our Asst. Pastor took over. I really enjoy him and have a good relationship with he and his family however from the moment of the transition I have felt like I don’t fit in or belong. Every responsibility I had has been past on to others and I can’t find my place now. For the first few months I looked at it as transition within….I mean how will others grow if they aren’t given the same opportunity’s I was (not to mention the Asst. Pastor just simply didn’t need my help). Day after day….I feel more and more like I’m not a part of the family. I’m not including in ANYTHING! It’s difficult going from the “go to” person to the church member that’s last to know….it hurts. I fully understand that I belong to God and that I’m never alone. But the reality is we are Tripartite beings so emotionally and even physically it’s difficult at times…very difficult no matter how “strong” people think you are. The two most difficult things are that I don’t understand why? My spouse once stated, “everyone has seen how much you’ve done, maybe pastor is purposely taking some of the load off” and that I don’t have any spiritual guidance or leadership to go to so I’m continuously in prayer for some type of revelation.

    1. I hear your pain, Eld. Feeling misplaced and underutilized is certainly difficult! I wonder if you’ve shared your desire to continue to be of meaningful service to the community? Strong bonds can be formed by having difficult, vulnerable conversations. I hope that you can find your place in community.

    2. I pray that the Lord would use you in a mighty way, and when that occurs, that you will remember this time and how you feel now. Then hopefully you will help others to not feel so lost in the church because you yourself have experienced it.

  41. Thank you Paul :) After dragging my family from one church to another & feeling like a jig saw piece that just won’t fit into any of the puzzles- I am a member of God’s family! Thank you for revealing the truth.
    I’m sure most readers will realise this but how you feel in church often reflects how you feel in your family of origin (birth family). I come from a highly dysfunctional family where I was the scapegoated child. I am currently low contact & geographically very separate from them (for the benefit of everyone, but I have forgiven them & regularly pray for them).
    After a period of introspection & prayer I realise I may never “fit in” to a church or indeed anywhere, but as this article so eloquently states I am am an indisputable child of God and nothing can change that:)

    1. I’m glad you found this helpful, Vanessa. I agree with you — family of origin dynamics can have such a powerful impact. I’m glad that you’re finding a place of peace, and that you (like me) find meaning and belonging as a child of God, even when it’s hard to find a community that feels right to you. Best wishes to you!

  42. So glad I found your post! I have been attending the same church for a year and a half. Always learn from the preacher, never feel like I fit in. Thank you for your words.

  43. Thank you, for this message, I love God and love what he does through me, sadly I don’t like church, the U.K. Seems to be stuck in a religious time loop to which I don’t fit in anywhere, I have a lot to give but no church wants me as I do not fit the stereotype of a middle class chirstian , it’s hard having no fellowship when you seek it.

    1. Totally agree with you. After 3 years I too feel that I don’t fit the stereotype of white, middle class Anglican – but rather a clumsy, “drops her H’s”, liberal. I’m sure my priest has even avoided me in town! The same “conservative” clique run everything and make it difficult for others to contribute. We have a mission to outward looking, but I don’t see this in my parish. Your article was helpful though. I take comfort knowing I’m a valued member of God’s family.

  44. Thank you very much for articulating so well what I, and what must be many others, feel. What a marvelous reminder of our divine belonging.

    1. Thank you, Kathleen. It’s so easy to get distracted by human judgments, including my own–but when I still my mind and heart, I’m called back into that sense of divine belonging. When I’m centered in that, I’m more able to see things in their proper proportions.

      I hope you’ll enjoy my upcoming posts… Stay tuned!

  45. I was just trying to explain to my husband that I didn’t feel like I belonged at church. He replied that I wasn’t trying hard enough. This blog post hopefully will help me explain how I feel to my husband, and maybe even my Bishop!

    1. I hope it will be helpful, Heather! I think many good and loving people get scared when we talk about these feelings, so they start giving advice or evaluating our efforts rather than seeking to understand. It’s a huge (but worthy) challenge to create a church environment that is welcoming to all people.

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