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I don't fit in at church - it's me I think rather than them

(23 Posts)
christianmisfit Sun 26-Jul-09 12:42:13

Anyone else feel like this? I've namechanged btw.

I was brought up in a so-called Christian home, but was part of a rather strict "denomination" - known as brethren.

There were some good people, but others (like my father and others) were obsessed with the rules and regulations and I was very unhappy most of the time.

Since leaving home at 17 (I am in my 30s now) I have been to several churches, currently a fairly lively CofE. I do have a strong personal faith (I think) but the whole church thing makes me feel very insecure.

It's ok, isn't it (?) to not feel really part of it? Dh is settled there. I don't think it would be right to move, as I have always felt like this regardless of the church. I am quite insecure I think, partly due to past rubbish. sad I often feel let down by people. (interestingly I don't tend to feel left out/let down by work friends/other friends etc)

Astrophe Sun 26-Jul-09 12:48:39

We have moved areas/countries a few times, and each time I'm surprised at how long it takes me to really feel settled in a new church, even though I 'like' the new church and the new people. Could it just be that it will take more time? IME it's years really.

I sometimes feel more 'let down' by Christian friends too, but I think for me it's because I have higher expectations from them - I expect a level of commitment and intimacy with other Christians that I guess I don't expect from other friends, and so I feel hurt when they let me down, I guess forgetting that they are just human too!

Does any of that help?

christianmisfit Sun 26-Jul-09 12:50:57

Yes that does help Astrophe, thanks.

We have been in this church for about 4 years now. Yes, I think you are right re the higher expectations, i.e. they are supposed to be Christians and nice all the time.grin (I know that's unrealistic, obviously)

Katisha Sun 26-Jul-09 12:56:50

WHat is it about the church that makes you feel you don't fit in?
FWIW I don't "fit in" with any church either but now don't expect to.

Astrophe Sun 26-Jul-09 12:56:58

Ah, 4 years is a long time - must be hard. Could it be that you need to be a bit gutsy and step up some of your relationships up? I often think people don't seem to want to be close friends with me/us (DH and I) but when I am brave enough to reach out more to them, to invite them over, invest in the friendship more etc, then it turns out they have just been hesitant to be vulnerable...just like me.

Am I on the right track here? Is it that you don't feel you have close comfortable friendships, or that you feel awkward at the actual church, or am I missing the point entirely?

Bibelots Sun 26-Jul-09 13:05:15

Do you feel you fit in well with people generally?

christianmisfit Sun 26-Jul-09 13:10:31

Bibelots, yes I do generally. For example I feel that I fit in with the local NCT, I can tolerate toddler groups fairly easily etc, and I have close friends from years back.

Katisha and Astrophe, can't put my finger on it re the relationships and fitting it. I think I just have unrealistic expectations, and I tend to perceive (probably wrongly) everyone else forming much closer friendships than I ever seem to manage. Sometimes I have made "friends" and at a later stage it turns out they were just doing it out of duty to get me more involved. Then of course they back off (after their duty is done) and I am left feeling hurt.

I also (in some practical ways) don't fit in with the "typical mother" that is there. I work on the day they have a mother and toddler cell group and a mother and toddler group. I work evenings, so can't always go to social events or cell group. The majority of the others mothers are SAHM.

One of their dh's recently preached a sermon and made a very big deal about how fab God was to them in that his wife was able to stay at home (the unsaid bit being that this made her a much better mother) like this was the only way. hmm

Astrophe Sun 26-Jul-09 13:20:51

Is there any chance you could as for the day of one of the groups to be changed this term?

I know exactly what you mean about thining others have formed closer friendships than you have... but when I am realistic, I have to admit that this isn't always the real situation...although I can see it might have some truth to it if you aren't able to get tot eh groups that the other mums regularly go to.

At our old church, I was able to make it to the two mothers groups, and I could see that the few mothers who couldn't get to them were a bit on the outer - not because they weren't liked, but just because seeing people twice a week and also on Sundays makes for a comfortable relationship, whereas seeing someone only on Sundays means conversation will always be that bit harder.

Could you try asing some of the Mums over for moring tea on your non-work day for a regular catch up? I recon after few weeks you would find this would pay off.

(sorry if you've already tried all that)

christianmisfit Sun 26-Jul-09 13:24:59

Thanks for your thoughts and suggestions Astrophe, I feel that you have really listened and I appreciate that.

I will think more about inviting a few mums over on a non-work day. Moving the groups' times wouldn't be possible as they are well established on those days.

I have been a bit hurt by a "friend" who was very friendly for a long time, then kind of "dropped" me in favour of a newer "project". I am doing my best to get over this, as imo it reflects badly on her rather than me really.

I think there will always be a part of me that feels vulnerable in a church setting tbh. Too much stuff from the past. sad

ZZZenAgain Sun 26-Jul-09 13:36:45

this stuff from the past was really bad then?

Would you consider having a role at the church? Maybe if you felt up to it, you could ask the vicar if there was some area you could contribute to? Welcoming people as they come in say, perhaps you as a family could do this?

Could you imagine having a women's bible study at your place or a family one? If people were coming regularly to your home, you'd be "in" really wouldn't you? Bit rough if it happened to be mostly the people you're not keen on!

I think it is also ok to just accept it isn't really your kind of set-up there, if it isn't. If dh and the kids are happy there, I might go along but not let it get too close to me IYSWIM

Bibelots Sun 26-Jul-09 13:39:08

Your feelings are very similar to my own in a church setting, but mine are more to do with always feeling a bit different from other people and church just making it even more obvious.

I deal with it by reminding myself that I go to church to worship, and any friendships etc that come out of it are a bonus. I have a social life outside church and for some people, that isn't the case. They may even envy you your NCT and old friends.

I think asking mums over is a great plan, and you could also get involved in something like being a sidesperson, helping on a committee etc.

It is so sad to hear about your early experiences of churchsad

cat64 Sun 26-Jul-09 13:39:32

Message withdrawn

christianmisfit Sun 26-Jul-09 13:46:03

Thanks everyone for all of the responses.

ZZZenAgain your last line was very helpful, thanks, that's kind of what I have been thinking.

I think there is an element of people thinking I am busy (due to work and other commitments, which many of them don't have.)
However I am often considered as a bit of an afterthought, as in a phone call the night before an event for example.

In reality if I am working I can't change a shift with less than 24 hours notice.

Yes Bibelots you are right in that friendships should be considered a bonus.

Astrophe Sun 26-Jul-09 14:09:52

You know, this has been really helpful to me. I am a SAHM and so am generally on the 'inside' with mums at church (although don't always feel it...and do sometimes feel let down too, as I said earlier). It's been good for me to see this from your perspective though christianmisfit.

It is hard to see when other people are feeling lonely or left out - I guess I am just very self centred and need to make a concious effort to be inclusive, even though I usually assume that other people have closer friends than me, and go out more etc.

I do often assume that people are 'too busy', but I think I need to make the effort to get to now them and ask them to things, and not make assumptions. I wouldn't want people to assume that I am not interested in friendships because I am too busy, or have enough friends already etc.

FWIW christianmisfit, taking an objective view of your situation, I would guess that people are perhaps overlooking you a bit due to their own celf centredness, shyness, awkwardness etc, and so I'd really encourage you to be as gutsy as you can and take the initiative with some friendships (and I'll try to take my own advice as well wink )

Katisha Sun 26-Jul-09 17:33:50

To be honest I have been surprised over the last 9 years or so how people don't expect you to be a working mother, both at church and at school. I've lost count of the instances at school where information is given out at the school gates (I am not there) and meetings are organised during the working day - the PTA are particularly prone to this - oh we'll meet to discuss the whatever -it-is at 3.30 after school. Fine - don't moan when I don't get involved then!

And at church the assumption is that because you have young children you must want to be on the Sunday School team or be involved in mum-type events.

Well it may be because I am getting on a bit now but actually what I would prefer is some grown-up company that isn't child-related.

I think, having also had a bit of background in the brethren church (and most denominations since) that it can be hard to get over that feeling that women aren't really supposed to work so I can see how you felt about that comment in that sermon.

To be honest I no longer look to church for my close friendships particularly. I find now that people don't have to believe the same things, in the same style as me in order to have a connection with them. I think people in churches sometimes have too many agendas in their relationships with people - as you say they can be "projects", and these days I can't be doing with all that.

Not a lot of help really but it may be that church is not necessarily the whole answer to your need for close friendship.

christianmisfit Sun 26-Jul-09 17:48:49

Thank you Astrophe, you sound very kind. Iirc you have given me good advice before, but under my "usual" name.

Katisha if you share a similar background to me (brethren etc) then I imagine you really understand. I worried that my post re the sermon may have sounded petty, so I am glad you understood what I meant. Many people that I know in rl don't know a thing about the brethren church, they just assume they are the same as the Plymouth brethren. (i.e. headscarves at all times etc)

Sometimes in the church (ime) there is this immense pressure to be "sisters" and that (imo) can be a rather over romantic/idealistic prospect.

Katisha Sun 26-Jul-09 18:01:56

I went along to a brethren church having become a christian at the age of 18 - I didn't know then why I felt so uncomfortable there, but as time went on it became very clear to me!
I have also been to baptist and charismatic churches, even went to an evangelical theological college for a while, but have finally decided the best one for me is Anglican because after I feel there is less pressure to behave in a certin style and to use a certain language.
To be honest I have been through so much hurly-burly in my Christian life that now I like to be pretty much left alone in church. That may change but at the moment it is just fine!

christianmisfit Sun 26-Jul-09 18:07:49

Katisha are you me? grin

I left home (and the brethren church) and went to quite a "lively" AOG church. Some of the congregation were rather too interested in demons etc. I spent some of the services with my head very low down to avoid the risk of some random preacher shrieking prophesies at me.

I tried one or two other options, but in fact we have now (more or less) settled at the local CofE - our parish church. For me (apart from the stuff I wrote earlier) it is probably the best option for a lot of reasons.

Also when people (i.e. non Christians) know I go to church it is far easier to explain. That's not the main reason of course, but for me it is a bonus.

Katisha Sun 26-Jul-09 18:23:28

<Joins christianmisfit for a post-evangelical session in the pub...>

christianmisfit Sun 26-Jul-09 18:56:11

Hope you've got your hat on Katisha wink

Katisha Sun 26-Jul-09 18:58:32

Absolutely wink

christianmisfit Sun 26-Jul-09 18:59:34

Oh and bring some tracts too. grin

Katisha Sun 26-Jul-09 19:03:35

Oh lordy I'd forgotten about the tracts...

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