The Lonely Crowd: churches dying due to friendlessness

I’ve lost count of the number of Christians who’ve told me they either stopped attending church or left their church to join another one because they couldn’t make any friends there.

They report that the church people were friendly enough. They were hospitable and welcoming.

As one person told me, “They’re nice to you, but no one becomes your friend.”

And it hurts when all that friendliness leads only to friendlessness.

In the 1950s, sociologist David Riesman coined the term “the lonely crowd”, in part to describe collectives of people who live according to common traditions and conforming values, but who barely know or like each other. I fear the church is in danger of becoming just such a lonely crowd.

I know pastors think long and hard about how to be better preachers and leaders, how to calibrate the church’s ministries to meet needs and serve others, how to be more missional, more adaptive, more innovative. These are all good things. But is it possible that all that leadership development, visioning, and ministry planning might be wasted if people can’t find friends and just drift away?

Before hosting any more conferences or seminars on vision-casting, living your best life, or finding your spiritual gift, how about we start equipping people in friendship-making?

Becoming and being a friend isn’t easy. It takes intentionality and training. It might be your church’s next major challenge.



Before we start beating ourselves up about how friendless churches can be, we should note that this is a society-wide problem. In his book, Social, by Matthew Lieberman reports on a survey of people’s social connections that was done in 1985 and again in 2004. 

People were asked to list their friends in response to the question “Over the last six months, who are the people with whom you discussed matters important to you?” In 1985, the most common number of friends listed was three; 59 percent of respondents listed three or more friends fitting this description.

But by 2004, the most common number of friends with whom you would discuss important matters was zero. And only 37 percent of respondents listed three or more friends. Back in 1985, only 10 percent indicated that they had zero confidants. In 2004, this number had skyrocketed to 25 percent.

As Lieberman says, “One out of every four of us is walking around with no one to share our lives with.”



Like my first point, it might be fairer to say most people aren’t good listeners. The inability or disinterest in asking meaningful questions that indicate an interest in another person is a huge impediment to making friends. I wrote about this last year here.

Listening is key. When someone is a good listener they are able to seek similarity with someone else. It’s impossible to show empathy or celebrate the positive in a person without first hearing from them. And without an awareness of similarity, empathy and celebration, friendships just don’t get started.

Listening is not the same as hearing or waiting. Therapists refer to active listening to distinguish between giving someone your full concentration and just passively ‘hearing’ them.

Frankly, I think church people can be so bad at it they need training. Churches should run regular workshops in active listening. Good listeners know how to harness all the non-verbal cues that show they are listening, such as making non-threatening eye contact, smiling, maintaining an open posture, mirroring (reflecting facial expressions), and eliminating distractions.

They also need to know how to utilize verbal skills like remembering things that were said, gently questioning someone for greater clarification, and using reflection techniques (closely repeating or paraphrasing what the speaker has said in order to show comprehension).

These things don’t come naturally for most people. Train your congregation to be active listeners.



Friendship is more than just listening, although that’s an essential start. Getting close to people, becoming their friends, involves something more. It involves vulnerability.

Face it, people don’t become besties by only discussing the weather.

Allowing yourself to be vulnerable helps the other person to trust you, precisely because you are putting yourself at emotional, psychological, or physical risk. Other people tend to react by being more open and vulnerable themselves. The fact that both of you are letting down your guard helps to lay the groundwork for a faster, closer personal connection.

The great enemy here is shame. Nothing silences us more effectively than shame.

Sadly, church people are often the most shamed people. This could have come from old church patterns about needing to appear clean and tidy and always winning. Our church might have taught us to never show the parts of our lives that are messy, dirty or embarrassing. I think that might be because a lot of church unwittingly promote perfectionism, which a condition in which people constantly ask, “What will they think?”

But as Brene Brown says, “The irony is that we attempt to disown our difficult stories to appear more whole or more acceptable, but our wholeness — even our wholeheartedness — actually depends on the integration of all of our experiences, including the falls.”

Brown also writes, “If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive.”

It’s in the courage of vulnerability we find connection with another and then, potentially, friendship with them.



Friendships take time. It’s the thing spouses and friends fight about the most — unavailability.

In his book on friendship (helpfully titled Friendship), Daniel Hruschka reviewed studies on the causes of conflict in friendship and found that the most common arguments boil down to time commitments. Spending time with someone is a sure indicator that you value them, and feeling undervalued is a sure-fire friendship killer.

A New York Times report concluded “the leading cause of persistent relationships is reciprocity — returning a friend’s call.” The report cited research that said enduring friendships require friends to touch base at least once every 15 days. If we want our churches to be more friendly places we need to encourage people to create time for friends.

Churches are good at running programs and promoting faith. As a result, a lot of church conversations are either about serious matters of faith (Bible studies, workshops, etc) or focused on the practicalities of volunteering for a ministry or committee.

But many of us know that our really good friendships emerged not by being on a committee with someone, or even attending a Bible study group with them. Friendships are often forged in the conversations that occur when we’re ‘playing’ together. Hanging out, attending parties, camping, hiking, picnicking, goofing off — these are the occasions where people let their guards down and share more deeply.

If a person’s church schedule is crammed with attending stuff, no matter how good that stuff might be, there might be a problem. Validating the importance of play and encouraging people to share in good, fun, non-religious experiences is really important.



A lot of people have shared with me how tough it is to break into a new church. It’s the newcomer who has to break into conversations. The newcomer has to find common interests and angle for invitations. It’s often the newcomer who does all the hosting of people for a meal. I can relate to this. Since leaving the church we planted, my wife and I have attended two great churches, but in both cases we had to work so hard to make relational connections.

It really shouldn’t be the newcomer’s responsibility. Churches should be learning to embody the grace and hospitality of the gospel and striving to be more like Christ, the friend of sinners. Teresa of Avila wrote, “If Christ Jesus dwells in a person as his friend that person can endure all things, for Christ helps and strengthens us and never abandons us. He is a true friend.”

We can’t sing, “What a friend we have in Jesus” without his friendship affecting how we befriend others.



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98 thoughts on “The Lonely Crowd: churches dying due to friendlessness

  1. Thanks again Mike. I think every healthy family regularly and intentionally engages in the four rhythms of… Resting, Working, Eating & Playing with each other and their neighbors. I have often thought… If church is defined as a family what would it look like for each church to wrestle with restructuring community around these rhythms instead of current patterns. We might just have Jesus like people who first experience life and secondly change their cities.

    1. God’s will for our lives is about allowing Him to flood our heart. It’s not about what we do for Him it’s about what He does through us.

      1. Thank you for this article. Now I know I’m not alone. Me, my husband, & children have struggled for years to make friendships in church, resulting in a lot of church hopping. Over the years, I’ve invited other church women with their children and arranged socials for us and our kids. After the 1st – 3rd time, these women make excuses & say they don’t have time. One of them was a stay-at-home mommy like myself. No church people ever supported me as a stay-at-home mom. Me and my husband didn’t want our kids raised in daycare/after school care. And most were obsessed in asking where I was employed as if my identity depended on that. While my kids were school age, I was a school substitute & teacher assistant, but that never increased church friendships. Many church people coming to our home snubbed it because it was old, small, & in the process of repair. One of them was a preachers wife …that I will never forget because she shared criticism concerning the associate pastor’s house being small & that he wouldn’t have it if it weren’t for his inheritance. UGH!! Money-money!! One of the churches we encountered, were all wealthy homeschooling families and Bible college graduates. We didn’t fit in because we didn’t match their ideal. My husband & I don’t have big church talents, but we did nursery for years & this never sparked any friendships. I attended a women’s group in a church that had one. After 3xs, women stopped coming. But I persisted & months later 3 newbies came. When the leader passed away, the 4 of us met on our own until 2 yrs later it was canceled. It’s annoying now that one of the women doesn’t have time to meet up unless it’s at a Bible study, at her home, with her husband teaching it. We’ve been members of 5 different baptist/evangelical churches and what the people all had in common was: typically professionals & well educated, typically live in large or newer housing, most are either clickish or clannish, typically have deep admiration for people with on-stage or leadership talents, typically admire people with money that post fb pictures of all their many vacations & mission trips. Years later …our old house remodeled & me and my husband are empty nesters now ….and we’re still searching!! We are about to visit another church that we’ve been watching online. We always hope it will be better …just simply to be on speaking terms with the pastor & have some familiarity & conversation with people at least. It’s difficult to go to church just to hear someone preach or teach & step out & no one makes eye contact & their’s no -to- little conversation ….might as well stay home & watch church on TV!

        1. Thank you for being so articulate around this issue and expressing what I believe so many are experiencing – how is it a Church cannot accept ‘outsiders’ into their fold when it is the very reason for its existence to model the very behaviour of Jesus himself?
          We know that if our Lord were to return to Earth now he would be appalled and ashamed at human behaviour still and his sorrow would only deepen over ‘man’s inhumanity to man’*.

          *mostly it is the men waging war though increasingly women are called up to take part as their patriotic duty. Women invariably want a peaceful world.

        2. Lisa – your thoughts are just gut wrenching, and sadly the norm. The last church I visited was very small. They all pounced on me upon arrival making me feel very welcome. After the service I overheard many of them discussing where they were going to eat afterwards. I was thanked by many for coming, yet I went home alone, having not been invited out to dinner. That was a year ago and I haven’t visited another church since.

    2. The first problem is the word “crowd” when two or three come together in Jesus name there is fellowship. But people don’t want fellowship they want crowd. Teach people the value of fellowship that can happen anywhere there is believers.

    3. Bless you. I moved Southerly for Southern Hospitality found total utter rejection for not liking football, and being a childless homemaker. Oh and most unforgivingly nasty cat preference over dogs. Churches divided into age groups. Which is surefire to way to cause antifamily, disrespectful atmosphere. So much noise pollution and blinding lightshows. This total nonscense. Church is now a joke in my opinion so don’t expect Church to thrive let alone survive. I don’t have it in me to withstand it anymore.

  2. Sorry for the length of comment :-/. Mike this is so good. I bet many people would say that this is an area of great struggle, sadness and desire. And you touched on this for yourselves when you guys ventured away from your church plant.

    You are dead-on Mike. Folks don’t listen because we are too busy and mostly, we are afraid to be vulnerable. But if, in and through Christ we are fully known and wholly loved, with all our broken bits and quirks, then shall we not allow that commonality to be the driving force to grow deeper in relationship? Is it not an imperative that we love each other deeply?

    For myself, this is what almost made me leave the church right when Jesus had grabbed a hold of my life. I didn’t get it. But my tenacity and curiosity wouldn’t allow me to give up that easily. I made a point of inviting a different person to tea every week. Sometimes there was reciprocity, but often not. I became known in my church community for being the person who “knew” people, but that was because of the weight I put on knowing people. I don’t settle for the superficial discussions about weather, I desire to be known and to know others on a more intimate level. What I learn is this, the folks that I would have tea with only one time, would tells me all sorts of stuff about their lives that I would have never known otherwise. I began to know them and could—if only a wee bit—relate to them.

    Yes, it would be helpful for the pastors and leaders in our church communities to model and teach on this; to address our atrophied friendship muscles. But is it so hard for each and every one of us to carve out the time, to understand the essential nature of friendship? Might we start asking people to grab a cup, or go for a walk? Make time for friendships? Isn’t it something we owe one another?

    1. I think it is something we owe one another. Love your tenacity!

    2. I think it’s especially hard for men to find a friend.

      1. I agree 100% especially if your interests don’t center around golf, football or sports in general.

        1. I have a lonely to say the word life. I moved because I had not much choice. I thought has I came from a large church I would be ok. I knew some folk where I am now moved from another.

          I go in a morning when well been here 6 months. My son found his church where he’s happy and has 3 friends he went school with when we was here before.

          I’m a wheelchair user so I can not access a home group well.

          Have suggested that be at the church instead of my house. Dought people who have a car would come anyway!

          I have to get on a bus to church.

          A ladies tea came up I thought here I could at least try to make conversation. Sadly up steps to get in.

          I no I’m saved I pray everyday for change of finding me a church that’s a bible believing church on my doorstep I can go on my chair.

          I joined a Christian charity too. To help raise awareness that all churches need to be inclusive to all sinners. Either with additional needs or not!

          How can a church grow if say I invite a nonce belivers I have but they come and don’t return regularly because they realise!

          I’m also autisic I brought a person from other group I attend in the community. I would like to invite more but if no change it’s hard.

          I got a sensory box I have asked for the drums to be has drums in the back ground.

          I found also in the evening children was sticking fingers in there hears I emailed the church about this drum kit heard nothing.

          If church the people too busy and doing other things seems like there’s no real trained pastoral care either.

          Usually I’d let folk no I’m not well but this time I left it.

          I see more people from miles away where I use to live more times than I hung out with brothers and sisters.

          I’m just doing everything bible lesson on line often praying and reading my bible daily.

          So now I’m waiting a sign. To point me in the right direction.

          Giving is not just about tithes offerings. It’s about friendships we will be in heaven with who are our brothers and sisters. And encouring others in our churches.

          I’m vunruble and banging out with none believers can lead astray so I just see in groups and community choirs.

          I sit at home all other times. At Christmas not long after I moved I had COVID so me and my son was in alone all Christmas we had no Christmas dinner or support.

          New year’s Day no church service so I thought I go to the see front lots there! I got a cob and a seagull came down and stole it!

          I drove home to make a sandwich and went to bed and found a church service online.

          I been in hospital no visits. No one visited hospital you have to drive bus train or taxi. No one asked if I needed anything. My son who has his own needs came in a taxi costing 80 pounds there and back! Because I needed few bits and my wheelchair he struggled and forgot some important bits! And I left in a taxi alone in them blue gowns alone nothing eles on! He did not understand.

          That week out budget ran out the window with bills. We lived on sandwiches and tin bits a week or 2. Awful time.
          Every one has to drive or people who can not drive needs taxis to go miles when you live in a place everything spread out.

          I look fawards to being with my support worker and carers such a lot. They listen rare id find a Christian.

          So I joined none Christian band to play my guitar. And a 2 none Christian choirs. Um…. Just so at least I’m doing something or I will be isolated too.

          The bibles tells stories Jesus left no one out! Gathered disciples from different backgrounds.

          Luke 5 even shows some friends I assume believed in Jesus a none believer up on a roof and lowered him down to meet him on a stretcher maybe to crowded to get him in or the doors to narrow.

          So lowered him through the roof he forgave the man. And said take up thy bed and walk!

          Jesus even said let the little children come to me. Too so even if there’s a child adult who has development issues can still or should be included in churches too. Disabilities blind deaf health mental everyone has a rights to go to church hear the word and be saved baptisted. And be used how ever educated or not uses gifts even a smile at a door is serving. And have rights to Access more even a friend or to to guide us in our walk. And we grow. If we not growing and seeing odd families lots of older people and singles but we should go in a cafe need up speak to others out and about and re grow our churches.

          There’s a reason behind everything if you ask me!

      2. Try being a childless woman amongst a sea of young moms and grandmothers.

        1. That’s hard, Kimberly – The Church is full of people who are full of themselves and wear blinders. They literally cannot stop to see and think about what they’re seeing. Some pastors are the same way. Keep going, ask God to open a door of ministry through your interests or talents. Meet with wives of leaders, take seminary/Bible College classes, go where you do feel at home. God will provide the right place for you.

    3. The problem is when ego being the biggest and best in central to a church. Now the operating system is the same as Walmart. Jesus needs to be center for a person and a church and the leading of the Holy Spirit.

  3. Additional deterents to churches fostering friendships: 1. The focus in seminaries on “content” (theological and Biblical) to the overlooking of “connection”, so our pastors come out thinking that what makes a great pastor – and church – is being right about things. (I speak from the perspective of the American conservative church.)
    2. The focus on “being right about things” to the overlooking of “connection”: This is what causes us to hide the sides of our lives and the questions of our hearts that might not be “right”, and also causes us to focus on trying to convince (read: “argue with”) those who disagree that they are wrong and we are right. The two great commandments have the same verb, and it is not “know” or “believe” or “be [right]” or even “obey.”

    1. Yes!. Im on the Pastoral Council at our church and have heard many times from our Pastor that they dont teach leadership in Seminary or even through the Parish. How can a Pastor of 7000 lead if they dont know how?

  4. Oh Mike, you could have been writing about our last 9 years! People, including me unfortunately, just don’t seem to want to go out of their way for others.

    1. Hey Steve, I appreciate your honesty. May I ask you why? What do you feel are the stumbling blocks or reasons? I have a few ideas, but I’d really like to know why folks (using your words) “just don’t seem to want to go out of their way for others.” I hope you are willing to share where you are coming from.

      1. Excellent article Mike!

      2. Shannon, I’m not sure if it’s a cultural thing an age thing, or a mindset thing – perhaps a bit of each. We did not experience the same disconnection when we moved to Ipswich – we (our youngest was born there) were 20 years younger and were expecting to be there for many years (it turned out to be less than 3). When we moved to Sydney, we expected it to only be a few years (it ended up being 6), we were no longer young. I suspect that most people figured we were able to figure things out ourselves, or did not want their comfortable cliques disrupted. We should have linked into a small group sooner – that made the most difference. We should have sought to serve, even for a short time. Neither the leaders, nor the people seemed to notice or be concerned that we were not using our gifts to serve in the local fellowship. In six years we never had a pastor, elder or anyone seek us out to find out our story, or to try work out how we could add value to the congregation.

        1. Hi Steven. Many gifts can lie dormant, as mine did for years! I grew up in my church and I participated in many activities as a kid. But as I got older, I stopped doing those things in the church cause of fear, & insecurities. Went so far to not attending church at all cause of fear and insecurities.

          As I got older, God dealt with me to get back in ministry. And by his grace, I did! Not cause I’m so brave or because someone offered me to join in, but because God was tugging at my heart so much I couldn’t no longer resist anymore. When I went back to church I felt like I was a new member because I had been out for so long. I felt alone, and it was hard.

          Sharing my story to say, I can relate. Many seek invitation and some dive in head first to offer their gift to God. As “brother” and “sisters” in Christ, I agree there ought to be a Elder who notices hesitancy and lack of participation, and encourage us, but thank God for his Grace!

          Its 2023. Hope all is well with you. God bless.

          1. Thank you for sharing this. I too returned to a Church that I had been aware of as a boy and now I am an Elder and by the grace of the Almighty I can offer the wisdom that comes with age, maturity is the Word, to encourage those who, like me,
            like anyone with a humble heart, may have the fears and insecurities grounded in any soul seeking the truth of things, as they are.
            It is surprising how this subject of the difficulty of making friends at a Church continues to resonate with readers. You would assume that any Christian Church worth the name would have as a first founding principle that of extending the hand of friendship to the lost and lonely and the ‘outsider’. However, as we know, being ‘Christlike’ is a difficult work in progress but a heart can turn around at any moment, as with Saint Paul.

      3. It’s been a while since this article, but I would say that for me it is the fear of rejection, hurting someone’s feelings by saying the wrong thing, being an introvert at heart. My best friends were not made overnight, over one lunch, over one month. It took time, understanding, and perseverance. That’s why they are precious to me.

      4. Their own needs are met and they are comfortable. Don’t need any more friends. They have achieved a level of satisfaction that they like – education, career, family, perks, look good in the neighborhood – including church membership. Matthew 23:27-8: “whitewashed tombs which outwardly appear beautiful but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”
        It just feels so good because everyone they know is like them. We should kneel and ask God to not let us be so, but with humility, not like Luke 18:11. Disabled people laugh at those who disdain them, calling them Temporarily Able Bodied, as they once were. God has His plan to make us like Him, and worth something to the Kingdom.

    2. Not everything has to fly under the umbrella of a local church program or event. Churches that try to make everything under the canopy of church organization have an ego problem.

  5. This is a very interesting article and true to life. For myself, I think I used to be better at friendship and real interest in people Being in lockdown and not meeting in Church certainly has not helped. There is much more to the problem than that and it started much earlier. I am aware of ageing (I am now 73) and poor health, without (i hope) moaning too much. I think that probably many older people limit their circle of friends, and certainly those with whom they can share at a deeper level, to long-standing friend and family. That is certainly true of grieving people, in many instances, to my observation. It is not helpful but is an understandable reaction to their circumstances. How can we help? Here are some suggestions. I don’t necessarily comply with them myself! Keep up social contacts, and that would certainly include church attendance when possible and safe. It may be possible to have ‘serious’ conversations after church; others are usually sensitive and will keep away if they sense a confidential conversation. If necessary, arrange a further conversation by a visit if appropriate – phone may be OK, but generally less satisfactory. Meeting for coffee in a shop somewhere may be better than in someone’s home, and less threatening. I am sure that newcomers to a church are not content with superficial chat, but listen first before jumping in without sensitivity. Find out more about the person. People are interesting!

  6. This is so true.
    After many many years a a few different churches we found the same thing. All churches need to have social events as well as Worship Sundays.
    Hillsong has Sisterhood on Thursday’s. This is great and gives woman a time to relax and socially get to know each other. Woman need it.
    They also have Men’s nights, involving activities and food. It’s bonding and great.
    Citipointe Church also have similar fun activities.
    This is the only way people really get to connect as everyone is do serious on a Sunday and go to Church just to Worship.

    1. I don’t think social events are the key. The problem with events is that we tend to stay in our own comfortable groups. So the same people socialize with the same people all the time. Also structure is the enemy of friendship. Because structure equals time tables and agendas not freedom to just be with people.

      1. Oh thank you so much for saying that you hit it right where the truth is.
        In socially events everyone always sticks to their own groups or clicks. I try so hard but I always feel like the odd man out. It’s really sad because I feel like I could learn so much from others and they from me and maybe they would see that I am just like them. I have my struggles as they do but I also have a sense of humor and I don’t think anyone in my church group has experienced because I never really had a chance to., oh well I know that Jesus loves me and that’s what counts I just Forja head.

        1. I experienced cliques in church and I am never going back. I realized after going for awhile that this group of women all know each other (for years!) and only hang out with each other, while I am a newcomer, and to them, I guess, a stranger though I am very friendly and kind. I went to a bible study and they all sat in one round table while I entered they barely said hello while I sat in a round table by myself, it was so uncomfortable i felt like getting up and walking out – I should have. I never want to feel that lonely or left out again. THIS is why people stop going to church for people who “don’t get it”.

  7. Thank you Mike for such a great article. I have been struggling with ‘church’ and making friends in church for a long time. Making friends is extremely hard work. My husband and I are now retired from full time ministry and moved to a new area to retire. It’s taken us 4 years to make one very solid friendship. Like you mentioned, the newcomer has to do all the hosting… Hard work.

    1. Hello Beth. You’re absolutely right. We’ve had the same experience, been here about 4 years after returning from o/s work, just now starting to feel like we might just belong. Trouble is, people in churches don’t seem to need anyone new in their lives, so they smile and chat about trivialities after church. We desperately needed friends, and had to do all the hard work. Thank God for Facebook & Zoom – we were able to maintain the close friendships we’d made o/s and that helped get us through.

    2. True Story. People are just unfriendly at church. Been attending about 3 yrs now NO FRIE NDS. CAUSE I DONT FIT IN CLICK I GUESS. I HAD MADE FRIENDS IN BARS THOUGH AND PEOPLE LOVED ME FOR WHO I AM

  8. An excellent topic and article Michael…

    Singles & Formerly Married’s yearn for both Friendship and Relational Connection…

    Over the years, we have had Singles travel long distances within NSW and interstate for our 13 Residential Singles Conferences and major Social Events…

    Many have made lifelong friends and hundreds of others met their Spouse, and whether a first or second Marriage been Married 10 to 30 years, 50% having 1-4 children, 40% Blending Families of up to 7 children…

    I have intentionally made time for Single Friends, Partnered & Married Couple Friends, whether Christian, Agnostic or inbetween..Phone Calls & Diaries helpful, especially if they say we must catch up…Diarise it!
    Normally I suggest and Diarise it!
    Be Intentional with Friendships!!!!!

    At one stage, I found some Married Couples who met through Singles For Christ and were friends, I decided to start a Married’s Group to meet socially twice a year…At the first BBQ event, a Guy stood up and expressed what a great night he and his wife had, and proposed we meet Quarterly; so we did for many years!

    However, in local churches, new Singles or Couples can either just meet the right people; or feel very much alone and invisible…

    I suggest having a Comprehensive Pastoral Care Ministry, to increase the chances of new attendees becoming part of your Church Community, making Relational Connections and Friendships…

    On a personal note, I have a close friend since childhood, Danny, a Jew, in Melbourne, we keep in touch, and another, Brian, a Jewish Christian, since 18yo who I call, fb text or whenever visiting from Melbourne with his wife, Maree,
    we get together, chat, support each other through the great, fun and difficult times!

  9. Our culture and churches are addicted to friendship. I would say that friendship is the biggest issue in the church today. It is our go to supportive relationship even beyond family. Jesus was clear on this pointing our relational hunger to neighbours. Neighbours as a supportive social relationship rarely get the focus they should as a vital “relational nutrient”. It is easy to understand why we are addicted to the relationship that is predicated on “sameness” or affinity rather than proximity where you get diversity and all the challenges that come with it.
    Lots we could say about what a shift in the church from friendship to neighbourship would bring.

  10. My husband and I frequently have people over for a meal, however rarely receive an invitation back, not that we do this for a return invitation.
    We have wondered why. Maybe it’s because we are not in the Senior Leadership in the church, or we’re not important, we just have regular jobs and are ordinary people. We are gracious hosts and never rude to our guests, even when we don’t agree with them. Maybe we’re just not that interesting!

    Not sure, anyway we will continue to invite people for meals (when lockdown is over ).

    1. This is my experience too, Liz. I’ve come to the conclusion that there are people who facilitate friendships, and people who consume these overtures. Which doesn’t make them bad people. I don’t think it’s anything to do with your position in the church, and leaders can be the most lonely and least invited. Being a facilitator of friendships is a hugely important ministry, and since I’ve framed it like that, I feel less resentful, I feel it is a choice I can make. During lockdown, it’s more important than ever. I’m grateful for Zoom, phones, texts, and make a point of making a meaningful contact each day.

      1. Thanks Frances. The thought that we might be ‘facilitators of friendships’ is very gratifying.

      2. “facilitators of friendship” … I love this. The way you phrase it makes it sound like a spiritual gift, and maybe it is. I find myself wishing there was more reciprocity, but my husband just keeps facilitating. This phrase may make me more like him.

    2. People generally don’t reciprocate. It’s not personal. Bring hospitable is a gift but also hard work. People don’t want to put on the effort

    3. Awesome thanks for your love and patience ❣️

    4. That’s wonderful that you feel comfortable hosting. I have trouble getting organized and feel nervous about doing so. I did host recently, and it went well, so maybe I’ll try to do it more. Otherwise, I call friends and chat, invite them for a walk or for an outing. I’m sure your guests had a lovely time. They just may have insecurities about hosting “successfully.”

  11. This is totally true. It might be worse in some places than others. As someone from California I can tell you that most friendships at church are superficial at best or fake at worst. I attended a place for 3 years, went to small group every week, and literally made ZERO friends, no one hung out or even wanted to hang out with people outside of that small group. Lots of churches already have their cliques when you get there. One church I attended for 16 years and had no friends at.

    1. After reading many of the comments, I think we all need to acknowledge a few things. First, it takes time, energy and intentionality to want to make and find new friendships. Many folks are content with the circle they have around them and, frankly, don’t have time or a desire for anything more than what and who they currently have. What is heartbreaking about this is it is one of the many byproducts of the consumer culture we live in. Many, if not most, modern church communities are based off of a consumer culture; I go to “church” to be fed the type of sermon I want and listen/worship to the music that moves ME, then I’m outa there after a little chitchat.

      Second, most of us posting on this blog are “afflicted with affluence,” we are wealthy and blessed beyond measure with material things. Our needs appear to be met, but this is far from true; we are, many times, spiritually and relationally impoverished. In areas of the world where people “need” community and friends to survive; we will rarely run in to the problems of friendlessness. People know they need people; they highly value what each individual brings to the table; they live in a state of symbiosis… the way we were intended to live. They also know they have something unique to offer to others and understand that that “unique something” is to be shared, not held with a tight fist.

      This area of study and understanding is a deep passion of mine and all the folks posting here should never give up on the desire and pursuit for meaningful relationship. Keep at it, it is the most human thing we can do!

      Ya know, this is one of the greatest effects of the fall and the broken world we live in; the very nature of our humanness is to be in relationship, yet we can’t figure it out. However, what I’m seeing in these posts is that there are still folks who yearn and long for relational intimacy and it is a beautiful, beautiful thing. Lets keep at it!

      1. So many different reasons for the diffculties of creating or maintaining friendships. My husband and i would love to hsvr coupld friends. Unfortunately, our work schedules never mesh with other couples. He works almost every evening, usually 6 out of 7 and rarely has a day off. When he does, he suffers from extreme migraines. I go to some things myself, but that gets old. I’ve always been some on who is content with my own company as well, since a child.

        I am also a terrible housekeeper and feel embarrassed to have anyone in my home.

        Many days, I am also exhausted after a work day, after helping many people, and need quiet to regenerate.

        Reciprocating any invitations is difficult for me. But please don’t stop inviting people like me. We appreciate it.

      2. Good points Shannon. For myself, having a best friend for 30+ years and having done different ministries together with her in several churches has been a wonderful experience and a tremendous blessing because I do have someone to share the ups and downs with and who encourages me in my journey. But, that doesn’t mean we don’t feel the need and desire to know and by known by others. But it is difficult to enlarge the circle of friends to more than casual acquaintances because of that time, effort, and energy that it takes to both develop and nurture those friendships. In our later years, we have found ourselves drawn closer to our family relationships and nurturing those. But, the best place we have found in making those friendships that we desire in church is to join a small group, and put our time and effort first into those relationships. We have also found it rewarding to open our home to share with others. I don’t think we all have the desire to be the one always hosting, and I have been through seasons of both enjoying it, but also getting away from it. I’m about in that place again to enjoy doing it again and I don’t do it for a reciprocating offer in return, but just a chance to give someone a safe place for just a little while to be loved on and cared for and made to feel special. We have found that it makes such a difference in the lives of others and brings us great joy in the process. But, true friendship is indeed a wonderful find and one worth pursuing, protecting, and nurturing. Sometimes, initially, you have to be the one willing to put in the time and effort and it won’t take long to find out if it going to be a rewarding one or one that drains everything out of you!

      3. Hi Shannon, I read your comments over the thread, and I just want to affirm your passion in building connections with people. Thank you for being a facilitator of friendship!

        1. My wife and I did children’s church and attended core groups regularly. We attended this church for 25 years. Just before we left I asked the Pastor where we lived (we live a block away from the building) he didn’t know. The core groups were about sitting and discussing Sunday’s sermon I suppose they felt that this gave more control over the time of “fellowship” but there was never time for people to just be led by the Holy Spirit. We we left they told us we didn’t need to come to core group or in other words please don’t come. Am I hurt? No, because I know I have no enemies who are flesh and blood. The bottom line is traditions no matter how good should not replace real faith and listening to God.

          1. The fact that you and your wife know the struggle is a spiritual one is a great advantage.
            Try ‘6 for supper’.3 couples/3 homes/
            3 months until all have enjoyed dinner
            together. No agenda. Just sharing and
            getting to know one another. Repeat!

  12. Any organisation is hard to enter as a new person. Churches are no different and do not make it easy. There never seemed to be any event though where people could meet others besides a church work event that was to keep everyone busy. Too often in churches, they have all the people they want (and like), and the rest of us are just allowed to come to the service and donate money. I know in work environments people cannot risk trusting each other but churches should be the one place where people should have not have to fear another person.

  13. Thanks for this fabulous and timely piece, especially as the world battles isolation resulting from efforts to manage the COVID-19 pandemic. May the church have ears to hear this timely word.

  14. Very good item. This is how we feel . It’s been happening for years .We heard a message once 49 years ago. It was a Christian hotel. He spoke about gas rings.,warm circles of people talking. They would shout out gas rings and everyone would have to move to talk to others. We go to Church on holiday and the number of times no one speaks. What if we were going to join. We have been at our Church 7 years. What we find is we go and speak to people then you look around and everyone are in their circles. We are being monitored as we didn’t do something 9 years ago. I am not the only be who gets left out ,they have told us. Well we will keep on trying..It’s like we don’t know you we just speak to who we know. People pass without speaking. We have about 90 – 100 so no excuse.

  15. I have a different opinion which I think illustrates a big part of the problem.


    As you point out, that is a general problem with we humans.

    Nevertheless, if you have been taught that you, and only you have the God given truth, why the need to listen? (See my following comment.)


    I think the above arises because, notwithstanding that the bible teaches things like – “we are all equal before God”, it also teaches that, relative to outsiders (e.g. the secular world, or even other Christians who don’t quite match up):-

    a. believers are wise, non believers are fools,

    b. believers are in the light, non believers are in the dark,

    c. believers have truth, non believers have lies,

    d. believers are Godly, non believers are tools of the Devil,

    e. believers are joyous, non believers are miserable,

    f. believers are righteous, non believers are wicked,

    g. believers are healed, non believers are sick,

    h. believers have pearls, non believers are like swine,

    i. believers are free, non believers are in bondage,

    j. etc.

    The strength of these negative opinions about outsiders, including those within the church who are new, or those who are struggling with doubt, appear to correlate with the strength of belief that the believer and only the believer and the group the believer belongs to, has the actual God given truth.

    This is reinforced by regular bible readings and church sermons – daily, weekly, and over the years, where verses in the bible and assertions in sermons are interpreted as “us = good and them = bad”.

    So it’s hard to see how this cannot but reinforce the notion that believers are superior and non believers are inferior.

    So what believer is actually going to admit to doubt, or fallibility, or misery, or uncertainty in front of other believers and in front of outsiders, given the way in with they have been taught to see themselves and the way in which they have been taught to see the other?

    Just a heads up. I’m one of the “other” having abandoned my faith some 50 years ago. However I spend a lot of time on forums, interacting with believers. Many are gems. Many are not. But that’s just the way it is in the outside world anyway. So I think the church really needs to spend less time flattering itself and understand that, while it may have some things to offer the world, the world actually has a lot to offer it.

    But the moment people see themselves or their organisation (their faith) as superior, that latter point will never sink in and believers will struggle to be vulnerable, both to other believers and to outsiders.

  16. Is Jesus our friend? Do we really love Him above all else’s?

  17. Am reading this more than a year later. Do notice that everyone leaving comments happen to be believers. Imagine what it’s like for a non-believer to try to break into a typical church. Answer: They’re not going to. And you wonder why attendance is slipping these days? I remember back in the 70s and 80s when, due to the Jesus movement, folks were friendly; you were invited to peoples’ homes a lot. Church was truly family back then (in fact I wrote a book about the household community movement of that era: “Days of Fire and Glory: The Rise and Fall of a Charismatic Community,” because such places were so winsome and naturally evangelistic. When you walked into the church featured in that book, you got a hug from an usher. Not a joke.
    I easily fit into various churches up until about 1994 is when I noticed the shift; people just didn’t greet each other any more. As for actually listening – are you kidding? Some of you folks think it’s bad attracting friends as a married couple; try being a single person. Or a single mom. Or a single mom with a special needs child, as is the case with me. We are desperate for friendship and help, but no one wants us.
    I have spent the past year looking for a new church. The first 5 I visited, no one said hello. No. One. I circled back and tried again and have settled on two – but again I’ve had to do all the work. Conversations after the service are banal; I ask people about them but no one asks about me or my daughter or our life. If I wasn’t trying to raise my daughter as a Christian, I’d say the hell with it. Why am I spending time trying to engage people who could care less about me? Most of my friends (who are baby boomers and thus older) have totally dropped out of church altogether. They are tired and no one wants them anyway. The lack of such elders in the body of Christ is a stunning loss of wisdom and life experience but your typical millennial pastor doesn’t care.
    Most of you writing here seem to be from Australia. Sadly, the situation is just as bad in the USA, which is where I’m from.   

    1. Sorry to read of your problems Julia. I wish I had an answer to your problem, but unfortunately I’m out of ideas. Unfortunately I think COVID has made this situation worse. After emerging from lockdown my church is now holding physical services. However only 30% of the congregation have returned. I haven’t been back. With few friends there and no volunteering opportunities I’m struggling to find a reason to return.

  18. Could I have permission to print and distribute this to our church folks (about 38 email addresses). I have been trying to teach the importance of relationship-building in our lives and not just send money to support (otherwise good) local outreach programs, missionaries, and non-profits as our only “connect” to the unreached, nor ignore the weightier commitment to invest in the lives of others in our local body. (edify, exhort, admonish, rebuke, provoke to good works type of commitment)
    Darryl Palmer Pastor…Antioch Church, Windsor VA

    1. Darryl, As I understand the copyright law, (and I am not an attorney) if you copy and print this (you said print in your message) then getting permission would be the proper thing to do. But you also said 38 email address, so if you wrote to people and shared the URL link, then that is sharing what is there, not copying. That is why they have the Facebook icon and other icons up in the left corner, for that very purpose. I hope this helps.

    2. Oh, and the “+” (Plus) icon in the upper left has an email option for that very purpose. Click on it and see.

  19. This article is a sad but very timely reminder that friendship is of the essence of what it is to be ‘Christian’, open to and vulnerable with and sharing among fellow humans – to love your neighbour as yourself.
    By the standard of this great commandment of Jesus, how many of us who profess to be disciples of Jesus,
    really and truly are, or run close to being accused of hypocrisy?

  20. My husband served in the U.S. Army for 30 years, and we spent a third of those in Europe. His assignments lasted an average of two years, so we moved 14 times. Sometimes we attended civilian churches and sometimes military chapels.

    There was a very different mentality among the believers we knew in those days. People were quick to “connect” and it was not unusual to “go deep” in a very short amount of time. We needed each other, especially while living in foreign countries. Our families (and other friends) were usually hundreds or thousands of miles away, so we became “family.”

    It was a shock to retire and discover that people were not feeling the same “need” or openness to new friendship in the civilian Christian community. As has been said by others, we got involved and did the things we had always done, but it was slow-going. Others often comment on my “gift of hospitality,” but this is something I learned to do as a military spouse, because it was required. I wish people knew the blessing they are missing when they fail to open their hearts and homes to others.

  21. Any practical solution to this sad matters?

    1. Hi Andy – Neil from London UK – I felt this way for 10 years (lonely) in my local baptist church and was searching for deeper connection. Found this group online that runs a simple 5 week course online – it has changed my life over the last 3 years. Found a community of people who are open and vulnerable and honest – and train people how to get better at connecting at a heart level with one another and Jesus. If interested here is the link to find out more/signup

  22. You’ve noticed something vital. Like you, I’ve had lots of conversations with lonely people, and been one too. As I’ve been reflecting on the problem of loneliness I think there’s a relational, social / behavioral, and a psychological / spiritual component that I’d love to see church people engage. Your article picks up the relational lens well. Susan Mettes’ new book does a great job of unpacking the social / behavioral. (I wrote a book on meeting God in Loneliness that comes at it from a psychological / spiritual formation angle.).

    I wonder whether some kind of broader conversation would be meaningful and how we might think about that.

  23. So true. Many pastors are CEOs. Too busy building structures and tending to the structures. These structures are like trellises for the vine, but often they step on the vine to tend to the trellises. We have over time misused the word “pastors”.

  24. In one word the problem with most churches is ego. Ego by any other name is still ego. Be the biggest and the best with the most eloquent using the pulpit. The operating system is no different than Walmart,; get your friendly greeting and see we are the biggest and best.

    The church and each person needs the words of the old hymn “Be Thou My Vision” to go deeper and the antiquated notion of letting the Holy Spirit lead raise us up in our Father’s operating system.

  25. Thank you for this wonderful and insightful offer. I would love to send you a copy of my recent book, Virtuous Friendship. In it I explore friendship, friendship language and portrayals in the New Testament, and how they relate to issues in contemporary church and society. Let me know, and I’ll ship you a copy.

  26. Thank you for this blog. It feels very validating… For me the church is a very lonely place. In over 10 year going to difrent churches I stayed friends only with one family… In the last church I was attending for over a year I made a special effort to try to meet people invite them and get in touch. I never felt more rejected! as answer for all of my numerous attempts was always No. Sorry I don’t have time, sorry but no, oh we don’t have time for that, sorry we need to cancel! I have left that church to only hear form the leader that it was only my problem as I’m a foreigner! I find church Christians the most unloving group I’m involved with and my mental health has suffered greatly because of desperate tries to be part of the church. That’s the end of the road for me when it comes to church searching, but I belive that there are a good churches out there and people who care… So I’m not all bitter and resentful I just taking that it’s clearly for for me and my family at the moment.

    1. My wife and I have bible time and prayer together weekly and every day on our own. Fellowship with other believers is something that happens at times we least expect it like right now!
      The words to the old hymn “Be Thou My Vision” have become more real to us. Because you are out sister and because we are all being built together for a habitation of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit let me past those lyrics here:
      Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart;
      Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art;
      Thou my best thought, by day or by night;
      Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.
      Be Thou my wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
      I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
      Thou my great Father and I, Thy true son;
      Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.
      Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise;
      Thou mine inheritance, now and always;
      Thou and Thou only, first in my heart;
      O King of glory, my treasure Thou art.
      O King of glory, my victory won;
      Rule and reign in me ’til Thy will be done;
      Heart of my own heart, whatever befall;
      Still be my vision, O Ruler of all.

  27. You are totally right. I’ve attended church for 30 years. No friends at church even still to this day, the one church friend I sort of got moved away. I always think I’ve found a place I can make friends, then I realize it’s a bunch of garbage.

    Churches are not a place to make friends when they should be. What happens are married couples become insular, they only like other marrieds, large swaths of people are too busy passing judgement to just be friendly and not turn every conversation about spirituality. And any event is a church service.

    There is no space to just “hang” or do life with others. And try as churches might to have dinners, that doesn’t work when everyone is in a clique or judgemental. I don’t want to have to talk about the sermon we just heard for the fourth time in a row. If I talk about my job I don’t want to be told I’m making my job an idol for just discussing it.

    It’s so bad. The worst of course is for single people. There is no place to meet anyone. Churches run away from doing anything useful in this area. They either turn everything into a piety service OR they tell people to constantly volunteer in hopes of meeting someone. It’s horrible.

  28. After going through failure and break up in fellowships cuz of same reasons. I painfully relate to these writings and even the comments. When i presented these same issues to them, they rejected and tried to gaslight my mind into believing that I’m being foolish and I’m the problem. That they’re good and better off but I’m ‘overthinking’ and ‘sensitive’ cuz i wanted them to put their nonsense ‘I’m busy-bee’ rant whenever i used to ask them to spend time with me so that i can feel like we’re in a friendship. Sad experiences. I hope you all get a deeply loving community, no one deserves to be ignored this way

  29. Church grew in size and world became more stressful and people became more protective of who to allow in their circles. Church control the gatherings to be only focused on the church business. We are told to report anyone chatting outside the program agenda. The young and old are leaving because they see they are being used to sit and watch.

  30. We joined a new church after retiring back to the same area in the USA, joined it in 2021. I also am not a hugger and dread going because people I only see on a weekly basis feel the need to hug me. I told one lady I am not a hugger, she said she was not either but got used to it. I told her I had no plans on getting used to it, it is not who I am, I said it kindly. Why do church people think they have the right to hug people just because they go to the same church? I only feel comfortable hugging family and very close friends. At least during the covid thing, my personal space was not constantly invaded at church, due to social distancing. In FL, the lock downs were brief, so thankful for that! I do love the old hymns of the faith, which our church sings. Thankful this church is not like a rock concert with flashing lights. The World has gone mad and we are all in need of a sanctuary for sure. Jesus is Lord! The church meeting thing is not what it used to be.

    1. Videos
      And chords
      Who wrote
      Ginny Owens
      Be Thou My Vision
      Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart
      Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art
      Thou my best thought, by day or by night
      Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light
      Be Thou my wisdom, and Thou my true word
      I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord
      Thou my great Father, and I Thy true son
      Thou in me dwelling and I with Thee one
      Riches I heed not, nor vain, empty praise
      Thou mine inheritance, now and always
      Thou and Thou only first in my heart
      High King of heaven, my treasure Thou art
      High King of heaven, my victory won
      May I reach heaven’s joys, O bright heaven’s sun
      Heart of my own heart, whatever befall
      Still be my vision, O ruler of all
      Heart of my own heart, whatever befall
      Still be my vision, O ruler of all

  31. I’ve been in the faith my whole life and my friends are all non religious. The Christian friends are geographic Isolated, flakes, impersonal, judgemental, and difficult to get along with. Why I waste so much time building relationships with people who don’t give a crap about my existence or salvation is exhausting. Church is like school they apply little what they teach. I feel like im better off without them. Outdo one another in showing affection! Ok I already win just by doing the bare minimum. My family is catholic, doesn’t go to church often, and doesn’t like to talk about God. I still visit them and try to be family. I’m also alone, divorced, and no potential spouse. The church demonized all my other friends so basically I’m all alone. At least Jesus had 12 disciples. I have 0 friends or followers.

  32. Same here but when you tell people about Jesus sometimes they don’t receive the truth and then even those contacts go away. That’s what happened to me today. Loving them is also telling them the truth.
    I have thought about maybe starting a believers bike club in Twin Cities MN. We have many bike trails it would be fun fellowship.

  33. The only thing I’ve encountered at churches was a mixture of “fake friendliness” and “programing”. I’ve been a Christian for over 30 years.
    The churches I’ve been to only care that you attend every event (usually there are multiple). They think that is how you make friends, or volunteer until you have no life outside of the church walls. As a single person who in graduate school, and up until recently was also working full time, it just was not feasible. I tried attending a “community” group (joke of a title!) for three years on the regular. I didn’t get even one friend out of it because their programming is all “repeat the sunday sermon then discuss how you are sinful” each and every week. It became a drag. I wasn’t motivated to attend it at all. I tried attending some social things prior to covid, and those were ok (they only had them in the summer when community group goes on break). But a lot of the problem is they don’t consider who is in their group. They hold events super late during week. Ok like a bunch of us work! Having anything Sunday was out and Saturday due to various ‘church activities’ they wanted people to be able to attend. It just got exhausting. I won’t go into detail about how singles were and still are totally ostracized at the congregation. It gets to be too much. I’m still trying to find a place where I feel like I’m “family” or belong… however at this stage I am not sure the church will be it (ever). There were also too many “gendered” activities in some of the churches I’ve been too. Like only girls will like the cooking event, and only men will want to go shooting… (LIKE REALLY?). That gets old real fast.

    1. The problem is too many want church growth but Jesus never made that a mandate. The real focus should be love one another and stop counting cheeks in seats.

    2. Jaeson I really love all your input on this subject. It’s refreshing and honest!

  34. Jesus never gave a mandate to grow big churches, he gave a mandate to love one another. Stop counting people and just focus on loving them.

  35. I’m 78 and have two Christian friends – one I’ve met with at 0615 for an hour Most weeks for at least 15 years. Another, I have monthly phone calls with. I enjoy solitude and use it well. I mix with people I get on well with outside church circles but my feelings of disconnection include desiring a more contemplative service and not standing and singing all the time.

    My wife is the opposite and many years ago our church split and we ended up in seperate congregations. I don’t like going to church on my own but since lockdowns I enjoy being able to turn the singing off unless it’s a hymn I like. I guess introverts don’t fit well in charismatic churches.

    I love to have intimate times with God.

    I don’t ignore fellowship and am part of a home group with my wife (the only male) that we enjoy. I’m losing interest in church but know it’s important.

    Reading these comments has drawn my attention to being proactive and seeing if I can be a better friend to an older person who is probably like me!

    1. I agree with these sentiments exactly, Ian. We must care for the older and the younger Church members and walk humbly ‘in the full knowledge’.

      It is all in the Gospels, isn’t it, what we are invited to do to be a good person and in all the other religions, too, as a matter of fact.
      However, humans being who and what they are, misunderstandings abound and, of course, Christians do not have a monopoly on goodness or, for that matter, God’s time. The Deity is very busy creating, creating, creating…freedom to worship in all our unique ways.

  36. I don’t have one friend with whom I can enjoy unhurried time. I’m sorry, but someone meeting me in a cafe once every 3-5 months just isn’t enough. No one wants to spend time. It’s very obvious that no one cares, and I’m talking about the Church. I go to cafés, libraries, bus stations and parks so that I can at least see other people. I listen to those I meet when out and about who want to talk about their problems, but no one has the time for me. Sometimes I wish suicide was an option.

  37. I share your frustration, Sue. I have lots of acquaintances at church, but very few deep friendships. I’ve learned that real friendships often are born out of shared experiences, and those are often difficult or challenging experiences. You are in a unique position for discipleship. You seem to freely be able to engage in conversation at cafes, parks the library etc. Share your story and listen to those who will share their’s. A deep friendship can come out of that along with the opportunity to share the hope you have within you, the hope found in a relationship with Christ. I once offered to help mentor a guy in a church ‘recovery’ group. Unknown to me, he was dealing with some of the same issues I went through earlier in my life. A good friendship came out of that but I had to be a bit vulnerable, but I also had to take the initiative to volunteer.
    Blessings in the months ahead.

  38. I am totally feeling churches of today can be superficial, I have limited access to anyone and have found that I feel like I don’t belong, because I don’t fit in, I literally have had many people at my church just wave at me from a distance, I was baptized and became a member because I felt that was where God lead me, but now, I am not sure. I am an introvert, but have in many cases stepped out of my comfort zone, only to feel like, I don’t matter, I once felt a need to defend myself because I had another member discussing my situation with pastor and other members, but only spoke to me in very business like way.I struggle with physical disabilities and have asked for help, but instead of getting help that I need ,was put in a very stressful situation and feel like I wasn’t involved in a good decision, so I feel ashamed for being told that I needed to be grateful. I have always told persons who helped me that I appreciated their help, so I am feeling not good enough to be at this church… know the feeling of loneliness

  39. It is fairly horrible what the church at large has done. The fake friendliness. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact people who go to church really want everyone to be in whatever the pastor says is the “ideal group.” Usually that group is a married couple with two children as soon as you hit about 26. If you don’t fit that description, then you will struggle to find friends. It is pathetic.

    I’m 40. I spent years going to church in person, being involved, was on the worship band at one point, volunteered for several years at different things, community groups each week, you name it, just so I could find even A friend…just ONE friend. But nope. Everything has always been superficial. At my last church I noticed they only care if you have kids. As soon as someone has a baby they jump right away to get people on a meal train to help them. Now if you are a single person and severely ill or anything else no one lifts a finger. I had one person text me when i was so sick I went to the hospital twice, and I think they only did it since they were the “group leader.”

    No one cares at churches. I thought church was supposed to be your family after you become a Christian and maybe don’t have as many family members supporting your new life? Well they aren’t. It is such a joke. Then people wonder why churches are getting smaller and smaller overall and people are leaving the faith. They have no friends. ZERO. Its an exclusivity club. You are either in a clique with the people who are usually well-off and have two children and are married, or you are sidelined. It is rather stupid considering 50% of the USA is single. The Church as a whole hates singles.

  40. I am coming into this conversation a bit late as I know this was posted a few years ago.
    I have been attending a church for the better part of two years. I usually attend 1-2 times
    a month as I am able, due to a medical condition. Every time I attend in person, no one
    remembers who I am and they ask me every single time what my name is and if I’m new
    to the area. This has been bothering me for two years. Is it just because I’m only able to
    attend a couple of times a month or is it because nobody cares? I would like to give the
    benefit of the doubt, but two years is a long time for people not to remember who you are
    in the congregation. Believe me I have made an effort to get to know people. I feel like I
    just don’t fit in. Is it time for me to find another church? I want to do the right thing and I
    want God’s blessing on my life. I appreciate any insight. The Lord knows my heart. Am I
    wasting my time here?

  41. It may be that some people have short memories, others are too ‘inward’ and not aware of those around them, more concerned with ‘my’ path and it may just be that you may need to join some Church activities during the week as well?
    2 Sundays in 28 days is not much time but of course Sunday is Sunday and a Christian Church is…but one Way of finding companionship on the roads of this life. Finding a friend in a Christian Church shouldn’t be that difficult but it is, I agree. People have a habitual tendency to check-in, then check-out of a Sunday Service, forgetting that the divine presence is 24/7, everyday, forever…This particular thread is forever open and a thorn in the paw of the lamb.

    1. Thank you for your comments. I wish I could be in church more often. I have Parkinson’s which keeps me down a good bit of the time. You’re right, maybe I’m not there enough for people to get to know me.

      1. Joy, I’m sure many of us know how you feel. It’s hard breaking into church fellowship when for many of us, to be honest, ‘fellowship’ equates with ‘ catching up with those we feel comfortable with’. I still remember shortly after we arrived at our present church, introducing myself to someone and gaining their “polite” interaction. Then they saw someone they “had” to talk to, and I was dropped – no apology, no explanation. In that moment I knew they had no interest in me. The focus of the fellowship needs to be on new faces, on loners at morning tea. We all need regular reminders. We tend to have phone numbers or email addresses of those we “must” talk to each week, and can do it outside church time. For those of us who are introverts, this is a challenge! If you sense someone is doing their best to conquer shyness to welcome you,they will appreciate your support too, ironically.
        God bless your search for connection, Joy. And God bless Mike too, for the openness and honesty this article has encouraged.

  42. Bună dimineața, da ai dreptate și eu am simțit același lucru!

  43. Thanks for this Mike. I wonder if Christendom, congregational models of church are just not particularly good soil from which deep friendships in these times can grow. I wonder if smaller, missional community type models of church with shared mission, less program and platform are better. Agreed, the training and skills you mention are still important in any form of community, but I wonder conventional structures of church, its social dynamics and expectations are a significant part of the problem. Do you have any data on this?

  44. Bringing back an emphasis on the reality of heart sins, which leads to repentance, creates the realization of a level playing field. Simply put, a common problem (sin) and a common solution (repentance, confession, restitution, restoration). Until this central Gospel theme is restored in preaching and teaching, we will have superficial relationships. I have seen this done well, outside of the church, in 12 Step programs, and done badly within the Church where punishment and public humiliation were accepted consequences of sin. The latter shows no humility on the part of the pastoral accuser, unwilling to acknowledge that he is a sinner, too. This is as damaging to individuals and to the Church as hiding behind a veneer of superficiality.

    Please, let us just accept our identity as being sinners saved by Grace, not of ourselves, but of the gift of God in Christ Jesus. Preach on heart sins, make people uncomfortable. Better to have 10 on our knees in honest, tearful contrition than 100 in the pews enjoying comfort. God will not be mocked: we will reap what we sow.

  45. Once the pastor leaves, the remainders will set about chasing off all members who came after that pastor arrived. “After all, they aren’t REALLY members here.” Long time members see new people as usurpers.

    If you think an old time member has accepted you, wait until they turn on you. That’s when you discover who your official chaser-offer is.

    Once the church starts declining in size, old timers usually intensify chasing off newcomers while there is still time.

    If you have stuck it out for 15 years, you are still considered a newcomer.

    These are some reasons why some people attend regularly but never join.

  46. I’ve found when I was a 20 something in church, it was easier to be accepted and make new friends ,for a variety of reasons : time , responsibilities, physical energy etc.
    Now that I’m 50 something in a new church , church members have lifelong friends and families taking priority in their lives over a lonely friendless newcomer .7 years later , I’m teaching children’s church , on prayer team , attending every function I can , while juggling a full time job and my own family responsibilities , yet I still feel like an outsider looking in . It’s not that people don’t love . They love each other deeply . They just don’t love me because they don’t know me , they don’t know me because they don’t have time in their busy lives to get to know me . I don’t know the solution . But I can tell you the loneliness is depressing . If I didn’t have Jesus and His word to keep me grounded , I would bitterly leave the church and never look back . Or, worse , on my loneliest days I would leave this life altogether . We’ve got to figure this thing out !

  47. I’m so sorry you have not found fellowship at the church where you have served so faithfully. I remember one day when my rambunctious kids were small, we were leaving church when one of the older unmarried women wanted to talk. I had to get in the waiting car where my husband was losing his cool. I can still see her walking out alone, talking to herself, and thinking “she just doesn’t understand my life.” Selfish? Looking back, we were so busy just holding the family together between sun up and bedtime. Now I am the older widow, the kids long gone, and still trying to fit in. I just started going to a Messianic church, a new plant, where nobody knows each other – yet. There are opportunities to gather around the table, in caring Jewish style, and get to know each other. This is the best I’ve found.

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