Feeling excluded at church? It’s no secret church can be hard but you can make friends at church and it is where you belong. Get inspiration and tips below.
Feeling excluded at church as a Single Mom
Attending church as an adult is hard. Attending church as a single mom can be even harder.
In a place that values the sanctity of marriage, provides countless activities for nuclear families and preaches about marriage with the assumption everyone is married or plans to be, it can feel excluding to be a single parent in those church pews.
But that doesn’t mean single parents don’t belong at church.
However, expecting the church to do all the work of making you feel included is unrealistic.
For years I avoided church for myself and just took my kids to their activities. I was sure I had some scarlet letter attached that others could see: “Single Mother,” “Rejected,” “Unworthy.”
As a single mom, my kids aren’t going to insist we go to church. And when it isn’t my weekend with the kids, then I don’t have anyone who will notice if I’m at church or not.
While other women complained they had to drag their husbands along, from my point of view, at least they had someone to sit with, someone to talk with while waiting for the band to start, and if they were lucky, someone else at home to help encourage them when they didn’t feel like going to church.
What I found is we all belong. But you may have to step outside of your comfort zone and find your place.
How to find community when you feel excluded at church
I. Go beyond church service
It’s hard to get to know someone when all you do is attend service. To feel known outside of a smile and shake of a hand, you’ll have to insert yourself into more vulnerable situations in smaller groups.
I attended the same church off and on for over a decade, feeling excluded as I looked around the congregation, walking in and out unnoticed. It wasn’t until I began getting involved that I understood why so many call church “home.”
Be the kind of person you wish your church had opened doors, ushering new faces and taking care of babies.
Churches are primarily made up of volunteers.
That greeter who didn’t smile at you as walked in last Sunday? He’s a volunteer.
That group of moms who were so busy chatting, you could barely walk into the sanctuary doors? They’re volunteers.
They’re not perfect and going through a thousand personal issues just like you.
No one is intentionally trying to make you feel excluded at church. Although you might feel like you’re walking into the junior school gymnasium doors, there isn’t a mean girl on the other side this time.
Join a small group
See what your church offers that will allow you to meet with other women on a smaller scale, consistently talking about your faith.
Consistency and positivity are the two key components of successful friendships.
Not all churches have small groups. If yours doesn’t, then try a women’s bible study. It’s harder to feel excluded at church when you’re sitting in a circle with five other women weekly talking about your personal life.
Take a class
Depending on where you’re at in your single mom journey, you may still be experiencing hurts or confusion from your divorce or separation.
II. Keep trying, keep praying
I’d volunteered with a children’s ministry for years, attended countless bible studies, and tried three small groups. I even tried a “Singles” group. After visiting for a couple of weeks, I realized it was geared more towards 20-somethings.
After years of trying to find my fit at church as a single mom, I’d still go to church feeling excluded and alone. I came to the determination that the church didn’t value single moms.
Finally, I quit going. But that doesn’t work either. God desires for his children to be in community.
And so, after a break, I tried again. Another small group. This time I found my people.
God promises us He will hear our cries and answer our prayers. Sometimes when we feel like our requests are taking too long, we decide it isn’t meant to be, especially when we ask for a “good” thing.
One of life’s mysteries is God’s timing. But God is faithful, answered my prayer, and desires community for you too.
For some, God may direct you to change churches during this time. Be open to the Spirit’s leading.
III. Are You Excluding Others at Church?
Probably not, intentionally. But if you attend church with someone or have someone to sit with, then you have an opportunity to include your sister in Christ.
It was ten years before someone noticed I was sitting alone and asked me to sit with them.
Do you know how that can transform someone’s entire church experience? It can be the difference between them coming back or not. Your invitation may be exactly what they prayed for that morning.
Here are some tips if you want to help someone not feel excluded at your church home.
- Look for the person sitting alone. She would love to sit with someone else, but there’s no way she’s approaching your group of friends or you and your happy family.
- Look for the mom struggling to listen to the message while caring for her children alone.
- Look for the woman with her head down; it was so hard for her to come today.
- If she says no, don’t be discouraged. She may be too shy to take you up on the offer or go through something devastating and need to be alone with Jesus. Ask her next week or ask someone else.
IV. Take what you need, leave what you don’t
Your church may not have a single parent ministry that speaks directly to your season of single parenthood. If it does, then I suggest you attend it.
But if you can’t find a singles group that completely “gets” your current life situation, don’t give up on your church. Just because you’re divorced doesn’t mean you fit into DivorceCare, for example.
Meet with other women. Join a volunteer group or merely a women’s bible study. There you’ll meet women of all different backgrounds.
V. Concentrate on God
I remember one particularly low Sunday when I was already struggling with my worth, communion, which is passed to each guest as we stay seated, was skipped over me that Sunday. As the preacher went over the prayer for the elements, I sat there empty-handed.
I could have let the enemy use that slip-up as an open the door to an already vulnerable heart. Instead, I prayed with the church and didn’t allow my mind to go down the dark tunnel.
We didn’t come to church to be accepted by other people. We came to Our Father’s house to worship Him and hear his word.
I no longer feel excluded at church or see myself as a “Single Mom” walking through those doors. And neither does anyone else, in fact, they never did. I see myself as a beloved child of God.