Can you remember the times in your life when you’ve felt the most socially anxious? Maybe it was the first day at a new school or a new job, or the time you first met your future in-laws. Oddly enough, some of my most anxiety-filled memories involve visiting churches I had never been to. In my young years, my parents would often take us kids out for a weekend excursion. I was always eager to visit new beaches and explore new sights. But when it came to walking into a new church — especially when it involved attending a kids or youth class all by my lonesome — I’d rather run the other way! If I were to psychoanalyze my younger self, I’d probably boil my fears down to an extreme discomfort with feeling like an outsider. Of course, the churches I anticipated visiting never did anything to make me feel like an outsider…
…but then again, I don’t have too many memories of ways others took initiative to not make me feel like an outsider.
That has always stuck with me. I’ll admit that by and large my anxieties about new churches were largely self-made, but what can a church and its members do to intentionally and sincerely make an outsider feel at home? Or better yet, what can I do? What can we do?
This is a question that I have some answers to from my own experiences and study of Scripture (and I’ll be sharing those things in upcoming posts), but I want to turn this into a collective effort to both identify answers and live them out.
So how about it? We haven’t really attempted much dialogue on this blog page, but there’s a first time for everything. If you’re reading this, I invite you to join the conversation by commenting below. As you do, let’s make the discussion respectful, constructive, and practical. Share perspectives and even past experiences…with an emphasis on the positive bright spots in our past experience. (i.e. no need to harp on the shortcomings of others in our past journey. :))