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When I Struggled to Fit into My New Church

Written By Chanel Georgopoulos, South Africa

I looked around at the unfamiliar faces in the congregation, and then back to the front of the church, where the pastor had been preaching for 25 minutes already. I had grown up in a church where a sermon was called a homily, and it was 15 minutes at most.

There were other differences as well. Here I have been emotionally moved in ways I never experienced at my old church. There were tears during worship, and warmth filled my chest as I watched the members interact with each other.

But something still nagged at me. Though I have been coming to this new church with my boyfriend for four months already, I still felt like a fish out of water.

Before this, I had been at the same church for my entire life. And I would probably have stayed there for the rest of it as well. But then I met and fell in love with someone from a different church.

We tried out each other’s churches, and I decided that moving was probably good for me. For the past eight years, I had been sitting in the same choir seat and moving in the same little circle of fellow members at church. Perhaps it was time for me to be off to new pastures.

There was just one problem: I felt like the new kid on the block. Every Sunday, I huddled at my boyfriend’s side for protection from the overwhelming number of friendly faces.

Some people encouraged me to get involved by serving. My first thought was the music ministry, where I had been involved in my old church. But the one here was a lot different. And if I had to admit it, my voice is simply not made for solos. With that option off the list, I was faced with tea duty (and dishes) or powerpoint (not my strongest suit)—neither of which I was particularly keen to try, if I’m honest.

I knew from experience that being involved changes how you feel about coming to church every Sunday, so it was something I wanted to do. I just didn’t know how to get started. I knew the Lord didn’t merely want me sitting in the pew every Sunday in my introverted little bubble. I had to get out of my shell.

I’m still trying to figure out what I can do. But I started attending a small group with my boyfriend—bless his heart, extrovert that he is—and found that the youth at this church are very welcoming. Since joining the small group, I have quickly started feeling more at ease and more a part of the church body.

At my old church, I didn’t really socialize with other youths outside of choir practice. But here there was an after-service tea which provided a great opportunity for hanging out. And it was nice to be invited to a ladies’ breakfast or a beach day, or have someone ask you at Thursday group how the rest of your week has been.

If you’ve just moved to a new church, or are having trouble fitting into your church, perhaps you could also try serving in a ministry or joining a small group. Here are some other quick ideas on figuring out where you need to be and feeling more at home:

  • Say hi to the person sitting next to you (how often do we actually do this?)
  • Ask someone who knows you well what they think you would be good at
  • Find out who is in charge of which ministry, and talk to them about serving opportunities that are available
  • Pray about it (this may seem obvious, but often we use this as a last resort)
  • Stay for after-service coffee and tea instead of dashing out the door

I still have the number of the ministries leader sitting unused in my phone, so perhaps I should take my own advice. But for now, the after-service tea has been a great way to get chatting with people I find myself in a small group with. It was actually how we found out about the group in the first place—the power of oat cookie-induced conversation!

The church body is a safe space, and if we feel that the new church we’ve joined is the right place, then we owe it to ourselves to step out boldly (or timidly, whatever works for you) and listen to the Lord’s nudging.

Paul says that each member of the body has a role to play, whether it be prophesy, service, teaching, encouraging, or even showing mercy (Romans 12:3-8). You may need to try a few things out before settling on something you like, but you might find yourself doing something you never thought you would or were capable of doing. Not everyone is meant to stand on stage and sing, but working in the background doesn’t make what we do any less valuable, and perhaps even the simple conversations we have with people can be impactful. What’s important is that we keep our hearts open to the leading of the Spirit, and find ways to engage with and build up the church we’re planted at.

Though I am settling in, it still feels like something of a transition. But maybe I’ll try out serving tea and oat cookies, or maybe there’s a meaningful conversation to be had that will point me in the way I should go. What I know for sure is that my small group has been a blessing, and changing churches has allowed God to move in deeper parts of my heart. For this, I am grateful.