First time church visitor? Here’s what I learned as a single person…
When I was on tour during my work as an actor and travelling around the country, I had to do a lot of ‘church hopping’. I would try out different churches in each venue to maintain some sort of fellowship. It was a wonderful chance to try out different styles of worship, meet new people and find out more about the local area. But I was very much single during this time – and being a first time church visitor as a single person can be daunting, isolating and nerve wracking. So, what did I learn that could help?
Hopefully below I can lay out some tactics to avoid these feelings that can come with first time church attendance. Actually, once I had got used to getting through the door on my own, there was a real sense of empowerment and godly confidence, knowing that I had just as much place in that church as anyone else, despite my singleness, and it was my own insecurities that would cause me doubt and hesitations.
Go in with your head held high
You are a child of God and God wants you in church, it’s good to be a part of a body even if it is just trying a church out for the first time. Any feelings of anxiety of walking in alone need to be put to one side, because you are there for Him and for Him alone. It’s not about what other people think, or whether you have to say for the hundredth time “Just me, I’m single”, you’re there to worship your Heavenly Father.
I actually found that people would most of the time be very interested in new blood walking through the door and take special care and attention with me being alone. I even got some yummy dinner offers from people looking after me. Try and shake off any shyness, leave it outside and enter strong.
Go with an open mind
You may be enriched and you may learn something new. Try not to go in with prejudgements, either about the church or about what you think their attitude to singles will be. It’s not fair on the church and it’s not fair on you. Some churches won’t be for you and that’s ok, but keep your ears and heart open too, let God give you godly discernment rather than you giving preconceived ideas. Pray before you enter, that can prepare your heart and mind and help you to enter knowing God is with you.
It’s a great opportunity to meet new people and come out of your comfort zone. Chat to the people sat next to you, stay for coffee after, and don’t do the easy thing and run straight off after the service. You may be surprised and have some interesting conversations. I remember going to an evening service once for the first time at a church, where a group of people went to the pub after and I was invited to join – I had an unexpected great evening with some fascinating conversations and came away uplifted and built up.
Joining in with these sort of activities gives a sense of belonging and acceptance. It’s worth finding out sooner rather than later about their midweek meetings, home groups, Bible studies etc, if you like the church.
Chat to the pastor
Get to know the what the church is like and let the pastor get to know a bit about you. Whether you are visiting or looking to find a church, you are a part of that pastor’s flock for that service and they will want to get to know you. Introducing yourself rather than waiting to be spoken to speeds up the feeling of involvement and means there’s less isolation, although hopefully the pastor will catch you first.
Don’t judge the potential dating field
I definitely struggled with this one…! When entering a new church for the first time as a single person, I found it hard not to scout the field and end up disappointed, thinking “Where are all the single guys?” That shouldn’t have been my priority when going to church (although I found it hard not just having a little look).
Although you are single and although you may be looking for love, looking superficially over a congregation and making a decision or not whether to go there depending on the potential love candidates, is no way to choose a church or be successful in going to church on your own. You will be there for the wrong reasons, you will most likely be disappointed and make preconceived judgments – even if there is someone you might like the look of, chances are they’re already taken!
Instead, if you’re going to be around for a while, start to integrate into a church family as soon as you feel comfortable, as people can surprise you, come out of the woodwork or grow on you when you get to know them. Make friendly connections first before diving head first into the dating church scene.
I know it is hard and sometimes you can come out disheartened. Sometimes it can feel like you have the same small talk conversations over and over again, and bring up the old wound of being single again, but maybe you can manoeuvre the conversations into different directions?
You can make yourself approachable and welcoming as well as the church itself trying to show these qualities – Try and have a list of things you would like to know about the church, have some conversation starters, a smile on your face and be willing to talk when people talk to you. Closing off can shut conversations down, so be open, willing and God can do the rest.
Read more on the Christian Connection blog about singleness here
For resources and support for single Christians, visit our friends at Single Friendly Church