Loneliness can be an intense emotion capable of driving many of us from church. Attending church when nobody talks to you, says hi, or invites you out to lunch after the service can be very frustrating. What makes church particularly difficult when you’re lonely is that you are surrounded by lots of other people in good relationships. This was especially hard for me.

I would overhear people talking about the wonderful time they had hanging out with each other earlier in the week. I would hear people talking about helping each other with their home improvement projects. Then of course there are the married couples. I would contrast this with my own lonely life–I work nine to five in a home office by myself–and just end up feeling very depressed. I remember having similar feelings too when I was a teenager growing up in the church.

Lately in my own life I’ve been seeing a change when it comes to feeling lonely in the church. I can attribute this to a lot of personal character growth. As well, here are a few things I’ve learned that have helped with overcoming loneliness at church.

  1. Understand boundaries This is probably by far the most important thing to learn when overcoming loneliness in church and in any aspect of your life. You have to realize that your loneliness belongs to you so take ownership of it. You can’t blame others for your loneliness, so it’s up to you to do something about it.

  2. Be aware of the needs of others Pastors are often seen as the most celebrated spiritual celebrity in our church. So we go to them with all our problems and they often seem like the most interesting people to talk to. But idolizing a pastor is not healthy. Just because a pastor teaches on Sunday and we listen, doesn’t mean that we don’t have anything to offer a pastor in terms of wisdom or friendship. Be aware of their needs, as well as the needs of others, and give what you have to give. If you practice boundaries above, then you should have a well stocked tank of stuff that’s waiting to be given.

  3. Invite people to church I confess that I don’t do this nearly as much as I should, but I’ve witnessed somebody who has. I had a friend who managed to fill the first two rows of our church just by inviting her friends. What I’ve noticed is that all of these people stick around her. They come with her, and they leave with her. It’s her tribe. If you have nobody to talk to at church, then invite people you know from outside of church. Not only will you be looking after your own needs, but you’ll also be helping the needs of your church. Churches love new people. Some churches stress so much over attendance numbers that if they see you bringing out lots of new people, then you’ll become their most valuable member.

  4. Have a plan for after church Come to church with something to do after the service. This way if you don’t get invited to lunch or whatever, you have something to do. Have something you need to finish? A place you always wanted to visit? Then do that after church. This helps you feel less disappointed if invites don’t come your way.

  5. Have a plan for before, and during church I make my church experience part of my growth plan. This is something I’ve only started in the last few months and it seems to work well. My church has two services. I come early for the first service, but I use this time to do reading in the library. I usually either read a passage in the bible, or whichever book I’m reading. What I found by doing this is that going to church feels a lot more productive. It helps put you in charge of your spiritual growth, rather than solely expecting the church to fill you up.

  6. Talk to people Don’t wait for people to talk to you. Find people. Find people you haven’t talk to a while and ask them how their lives are going. Look for new people and talk to them. Look for other lonely people and talk to them. You can invite them out to do stuff.