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Indigo Blue

Social anxiety, going to church, and general pondering....

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I've recently begun to feel uncomfortable in my Sunday School class and I'm thinking of not going anymore. That's not a problem, really, but I'm just pondering that the reasons I'm feeling the way I do about it might stem from several possible scenarios. I feel:

The class has become so large and I feel so self-conscious walking in. It's in a really large room with everyone sitting around a really long table with bright lights overhead.

That I walk in and I find no one talks to me. I feel completely invisible. I didn't go for several Sundays in a row because the muscles in my hips were so stiff and sore. When I walked in after being gone many other Sundays, no one even noticed. Some others walked in and they were immediately greeted by the class. Now, I am shy and quiet and I can't expect others to always come up to me. I'm not blaming others here, but I just don't feel welcome for whatever reason. I know this could easily have just as much to do with me.

I'm an introvert and this could explain part of it. I go without my dh because he does not attend my class because he has another place where he is working each Sunday morning. So I sit alone there in a room full of couples. 

That, for some reason, my social anxiety is getting worse instead of better. (Lots has happened in my life that could possibly explain this).

 I'm beginning to struggle with some of the ideas and beliefs that we discuss in class and church in general. I find that lots of it seem judgmental. It makes me uncomfortable.

I don't relate to anyone in my class.

 

So, I'm thinking about only going to church. I've been going to both since I was 16 and met dh. It really won't bother me if I don't go. In fact, I'll feel more comfortable and less stressed.What's bothering me is wondering about why I feel this way and why can't I just go to class and feel normal?The social anxiety feels genuine, but then I have the thought that maybe I'm being narcissistic to feel this way. Maybe I should try harder and be more outgoing. Maybe it is ME.

Our pastor feels it's important to teach in a way that doesn't "tickle the ears" or make you feel good. He feels we should hear what needs to be taught. Sometimes I feel I just need to be uplifted and don't want to hear how we shouldn't be "bench warmers". I feel that I will be a "bench warmer" for the rest of my days after years of being active with youth and young children because I'm often in physical pain. It's invisible to everyone else, though. No one understands. So hearing these types of teachings just makes it worse. (I happen to disagree with him and believe that we all need a little uplifting, too).

Then I feel guilty because it shouldn't be about me and my feelings. And some others have it so much worse.

I'm getting older. There are lots of older people in our church. Things just don't feel the same anymore. I just want to let dh have his social life at church (he enjoys it very much) and let me resign myself to being content with making the change to stop going to Sunday School because of feeling uncomfortable and feeling guilty about feeling uncomfortable, whatever the reason might be that I'm feeling uncomfortable.

 

 

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I want to validate your observations. I do think that meeting with other Christians is important, but that doesn't necessarily mean that you have to force it where you are uncomfortable.

I like the people in our church. Some of the teaching isn't really what I need right now in my day-to-day struggles, but they are solid people. I need to hear that God loves me and has a plan for me. I need to hear that he was with people in the past who were deeply flawed and brought them through hard times. There is some of it, but I wish there was more.

I help with a local independent ministry that has fill the gaps for me. Their vision is to help people in need really see the goodness and care of God while valuing the sacrifice of the cross. When I work with them, have coffee with them, and read the books they read, my gaps are filled in. They are deep individuals with difficult pasts, but are a constant inspiration to me.

Anyway, just to share that you may have to look, but it's out there. I've been to a variety of churches and Bible studies, but my current mix is working for me. 

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Ah, this makes me crazy. I wish I could sit next to you every time. We could be introverts together. 😉

It's okay for you to just go to church. Try it for a while and see how it goes. Or, if there is some non-physical task you'd enjoy doing during the Sunday School hour, I'm sure that would be very welcome.

Churches need to preach a mix of grace, and truth, and love. That is Biblical, and there is nothing selfish about desiring it.

Hugs.

 

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I'm sorry you feel uncomfortable and not welcomed. I have social anxiety, too, so I understand. I have not attended my weekly Bible study for three or four weeks now, and no one has called or checked in with me. 

I've found it is easy to isolate myself and disconnect from community, which is not always the healthiest choice. Is there a different Sunday school class that you could attend?

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I think that it is okay if you decide not to go to Sunday school for a period of time. All of the feelings that you have are important.

Just last week, I decided to take the summer off from our small group meetings on Sunday mornings.  Yesterday, we went to church (just church), and I came home feeling relaxed and refreshed!  And I am trying to ignore the constant pleas to do more at church. After so many years of volunteering (while being busy doing school at home), it is okay to slow down.

But perhaps there is another small group that is right for you during this season of your life.  If you are going without your husband, maybe there is a women's group during the week?

 

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(((IB))) I won’t pretend I know the answers to your questions. My church is almost certainly different from yours so I’m sure others will have more relevant thoughts. 

In my parish parents of kids in CFF (Sunday school), especially if their kids are in a sacrament year, are expected to attend an adult version of the kids’ lessons, sort of like adult Sunday school, I guess. I refuse; I have refused to go for the past however many years this has been in effect. I had 2 kids receive Sacraments last year (FHC & Confirmation) and 1 kid will be confirmed this year. I use the time before Mass to sip my coffee and read a book — alone.

Any pastor worth his salt will understand that there are seasons in people’s lives and what spoke to someone in the past (like adult Sunday school) may or may not speak to them now. I am not certainly not qualified to evaluate anyone’s mental state, but I feel fairly confident that you’re not a narcissist unless you’re actively trying to manipulate and use people. 

I don’t know what your pastor means by “bench warmer”. I translated that in my mind to “Christmas and Easter Catholics”; in other words, people who show up to Mass on Christmas and Easter. 

Do what works for you. Living your faith is, I think, so much more important than fulfilling someone else’s view of a “good Christian”. 

 

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As someone who's suffered anxiety on and off at various points in my life, I think it's best to face the source rather than avoid it. BUT there are other ways to face social anxiety, assuming you're not totally isolating yourself. I, too, would hate to the single person in a class of couples. No wonder it's hard to strike up a conversation!

As to the message, I think at different points in your spiritual life you need different things. Sometimes you need to hear the hard truths. Sometimes you need to hear about the depth of God's love for you. Sometimes you need to serve others, sometimes you're in survival mode and need to let go and let others serve you. Sometimes a church is just not a good fit after a while, because spiritually you're somewhere else, or the social aspects/expectations are grating on you.

Above all, God is our Loving Father, and if you're not feeling the Loving Father part, I think it's time to find a different church, or scale back your participation in that church, if it's socially important to the rest of your family.

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Wow. Thank you! These posts are so supportive, reassuring, and comforting! It feels so nice to hear these encouraging words. If I decide to only go to church, this thread is making me feel so much better about it. Thanks. 🙂

 

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35 minutes ago, Storygirl said:

I'm sorry you feel uncomfortable and not welcomed. I have social anxiety, too, so I understand. I have not attended my weekly Bible study for three or four weeks now, and no one has called or checked in with me. 

I've found it is easy to isolate myself and disconnect from community, which is not always the healthiest choice. Is there a different Sunday school class that you could attend?

 

There is another class. At this point, I probably would be hesitant. But, yes, it is easy to become isolated without really meaning to!

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38 minutes ago, brehon said:
38 minutes ago, brehon said:

I don’t know what your pastor means by “bench warmer

A term used to describe those who are attending church but not really serving or doing anything. They are just there to "warm the bench" so to speak. 

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There are seasons to life and we don't (can't!) serve and participate in the same way all the time. Do what works for you now. Seconding what pp have suggested, finding another, smaller and more personal, group or class or study or ministry where you will be welcomed and thrive. Don't neglect being in community with other believers, just find a better fit. May take a while. In the meantime, have a lovely Easter and dwell on the joy of it! 

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I would add, be very, very careful about who you let direct your spiritual life. My heart about broke when I saw you were worried about being narcissistic. I think pastors don't always consider the impact of what they say on people who have anxiety, or difficult family relations, or recovering from being raised by a narcissist (if I'm remembering your other posts correctly). The things they say can really eat at you, and can feed anxiety and trauma. That's why if I don't get the God Our Loving Father vibe from a church, I'm outta there.

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56 minutes ago, MercyA said:

 I wish I could sit next to you every time. We could be introverts together. 😉

 

That'd be awesome!

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1 hour ago, Indigo Blue said:

I've recently begun to feel uncomfortable in my Sunday School class and I'm thinking of not going anymore. That's not a problem, really, but I'm just pondering that the reasons I'm feeling the way I do about it might stem from several possible scenarios. I feel:

The class has become so large and I feel so self-conscious walking in. It's in a really large room with everyone sitting around a really long table with bright lights overhead.

That I walk in and I find no one talks to me. I feel completely invisible. I didn't go for several Sundays in a row because the muscles in my hips were so stiff and sore. When I walked in after being gone many other Sundays, no one even noticed. Some others walked in and they were immediately greeted by the class. Now, I am shy and quiet and I can't expect others to always come up to me. I'm not blaming others here, but I just don't feel welcome for whatever reason. I know this could easily have just as much to do with me.

I'm an introvert and this could explain part of it. I go without my dh because he does not attend my class because he has another place where he is working each Sunday morning. So I sit alone there in a room full of couples. 

That, for some reason, my social anxiety is getting worse instead of better. (Lots has happened in my life that could possibly explain this).

 I'm beginning to struggle with some of the ideas and beliefs that we discuss in class and church in general. I find that lots of it seem judgmental. It makes me uncomfortable.

I don't relate to anyone in my class.

 

So, I'm thinking about only going to church. I've been going to both since I was 16 and met dh. It really won't bother me if I don't go. In fact, I'll feel more comfortable and less stressed.What's bothering me is wondering about why I feel this way and why can't I just go to class and feel normal?The social anxiety feels genuine, but then I have the thought that maybe I'm being narcissistic to feel this way. Maybe I should try harder and be more outgoing. Maybe it is ME.

Our pastor feels it's important to teach in a way that doesn't "tickle the ears" or make you feel good. He feels we should hear what needs to be taught. Sometimes I feel I just need to be uplifted and don't want to hear how we shouldn't be "bench warmers". I feel that I will be a "bench warmer" for the rest of my days after years of being active with youth and young children because I'm often in physical pain. It's invisible to everyone else, though. No one understands. So hearing these types of teachings just makes it worse. (I happen to disagree with him and believe that we all need a little uplifting, too).

Then I feel guilty because it shouldn't be about me and my feelings. And some others have it so much worse.

I'm getting older. There are lots of older people in our church. Things just don't feel the same anymore. I just want to let dh have his social life at church (he enjoys it very much) and let me resign myself to being content with making the change to stop going to Sunday School because of feeling uncomfortable and feeling guilty about feeling uncomfortable, whatever the reason might be that I'm feeling uncomfortable.

 

 

 

It's perfectly fine IMHO to enter into a season of being fed - especially after years of giving and in this case also physical limitations. I have not been in a nursery for years at church for similar reasons. When life gets "heavier" we sometimes need others to help us hold things up for a while rather than trying to give from an empty tank unless you welcome the distraction of some kind of involvement in a nursery or other service position. If this group is not for you, are there other small groups you could possibly consider? To me, church is one thing; a small group is better suited for deeper sharing and connection.

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8 minutes ago, lavender's green said:

I would add, be very, very careful about who you let direct your spiritual life. My heart about broke when I saw you were worried about being narcissistic. I think pastors don't always consider the impact of what they say on people who have anxiety, or difficult family relations, or recovering from being raised by a narcissist (if I'm remembering your other posts correctly). The things they say can really eat at you, and can feed anxiety and trauma. That's why if I don't get the God Our Loving Father vibe from a church, I'm outta there.

Thank you. What you said is so true, and I agree. Sometimes I sit through Sunday School just not feeling it, and then sit through church with certain things being said that have that effect. You kinda go home feeling worse than before you left the house. Lots of it is me, though. I do see that.

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18 minutes ago, Indigo Blue said:

A term used to describe those who are attending church but not really serving or doing anything. They are just there to "warm the bench" so to speak. 

Ah. That makes sense. 

Assuming your pastor isn’t otherwise spiritually abusive, I guess I agree in principle. Most churches run on volunteers. Healthy churches recognize that not everyone can/will serve at all times for all sorts of valid reasons, including “I’m tired/burnt out/don’t feel it/just wanna sip my coffee alone before services”. 

Maybe he means “hey, if you’re able and willing we really need you to volunteer in various ministries.” Or maybe he’s a jerk. Has he used the term narcissistic? Or were you applying it to yourself? At any rate, I think it’s perfectly fine for you to sit before services and read, pray, whatever feeds your soul. Maybe think of it as letting someone else step up and help in various ways. 

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17 minutes ago, brehon said:

. Maybe think of it as letting someone else step up and help in various ways. 

Yes! I’ve heard it phrased this way: “I’m giving others an opportunity to be blessed by finding their place of service. If I serve here without knowing it’s  my place to do so, I’ve prevented someone else from finding his or her place of service.”

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I have the opportunity to observe  the "comfy chair class" at my church many Sundays. People who are not in Sunday school, but who are enjoying a quiet conversation or just a few minutes of quiet alone in a pleasant space. I am always thankful that people can have that respite, those minutes of relaxed and unrushed time on Sundays. Very appropriate for a sabbath day. If you were at my church, you might like one of those big, comfy chairs.

 

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10 minutes ago, ScoutTN said:

I have the opportunity to observe  the "comfy chair class" at my church many Sundays. People who are not in Sunday school, but who are enjoying a quiet conversation or just a few minutes of quiet alone in a pleasant space. I am always thankful that people can have that respite, those minutes of relaxed and unrushed time on Sundays. Very appropriate for a sabbath day. If you were at my church, you might like one of those big, comfy chairs.

 

What a nice idea that is! 

 

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I think when a particular situation, like this Sunday School class, creates negative feelings that could spill over into your relationship with God and your faith itself, it's time to step away and do something different. I've been through this recently myself, and changed churches as the one I was in was becoming, wether because of what they did/were doing or because of my own issues, a stumbling block between me and my God. 

And I am somewhere now where every week the priest points out that the parish welcomes everyone, no matter where on their walk with Jesus they are. That it isn't about the priests time, or the church's time, but God's timing. 

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1 hour ago, Indigo Blue said:

A term used to describe those who are attending church but not really serving or doing anything. They are just there to "warm the bench" so to speak. 

Or, you know, they are there to worship their Lord and savior, not participate in a service club 🙂

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1 hour ago, Indigo Blue said:

A term used to describe those who are attending church but not really serving or doing anything. They are just there to "warm the bench" so to speak. 

I am so sorry you feel this way. I can very much relate. I want to give you a hug!

One thing I found is that I slowly, over time, stopped understanding the purpose of the gathering of the church on Sundays in the same way as our (now former) church. The preaching there was very much like what you describe above: "bench-warming" was strongly denounced; we were all at church to SERVE, not to be served. But that is not what I see biblically, and little did I know that there were other churches that do not teach this way at all.

I was talking with my 13yo this morning. She is about to be confirmed in our church (a different denomination). One of the things that came up was the purpose of the church gathering. Why do we go to church? And her answer was: "To receive God's good gifts." That's exactly it! There is only one place on earth where we can go to be fed and nurtured from God's word and from His table. That place is the church.

So know that when you go. God wants to meet you in church, to love you and nourish your faith. He is not there to be served, but to serve. And yes, when you are loved and served by him, and forgiven of your sins, you are free to go out and love and serve and forgive your neighbors. But I have a feeling you are doing that -- in the way that you take care of those around you, starting with your own family. Don't let the "no bench warming" guilt trip deprive you of what God is offering you. 

Much love and peace to you!

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1 hour ago, PeachyDoodle said:

One thing I found is that I slowly, over time, stopped understanding the purpose of the gathering of the church on Sundays in the same way as our (now former) church. The preaching there was very much like what you describe above: "bench-warming" was strongly denounced; we were all at church to SERVE, not to be served. But that is not what I see biblically, and little did I know that there were other churches that do not teach this way at all.

We didn't go to church growing up. I met dh and have been going since age 16 to his church. It has been such a huge positive in my life as a young mom to be around other moms and families that I could model myself after. It helped me to develop into the person I am now. We've had many different pastors over the years. I've only ever been to other churches occasionally just to visit, and those churches were of the same denomination as ours. One Sunday, I visited a contemporary church to support some friends that were attending there. Dh wasn't able to go with me, so I went alone. I've never been to anything like that. The church was big with very comfy, plush chairs. The sound equipment was computerized and state of the art. There were huge screens on either side of the, well, stage. There were live musical performances that were first rate. Our pastor talks about these types of churches...well, not so favorably. He believes they don't teach or preach, but instead they just make everyone "feel good". But I really enjoyed that day. The contemporary music was great. The message did not come from the same angle that I was used to, but  I left there, well, with a "feel good" feeling, lol.  There was no "bench warming" negative stuff. Then I thought about our church and that this "feel good" must be what our pastor is talking about. Was I supposed to feel guilty for enjoying this contemporary service? They were handing out cold popsicles just outside the door after the service. There was a huge room just as you enter the main building where the youth had a nice lounge set up with a full-sized pool table. I guess this is what some pastors call seeker-sensitive.

It was different from our little country church. But I don't think it was "wrong".. I think it's a good fit for lots of families with young children. Lots of "how to improve your marriage" and "how to be better parents"...all of course from a Biblical perspective, but no judgment. Very interesting and engaging. I'm going to admit I really enjoyed it.

I'm saying all this to say that I did realize there were other churches that taught in a different way, but I'd sure never been to one until recently.

Editing to add: Thanks so much PeachyDoodle, for your kind words. 🙂

Edited by Indigo Blue

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Honestly, this church sounds kinda toxic.  Could you go to a different church from your husband? 

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I was talking about narcissism because we had a thread here recently and someone posted a checklist of some sort of narcissistic traits and if you checked so many of them off, you scored high on the narcissism scale. One of the questions was something like: Do you feel everyone is watching you when you walk into a room? And, yes, I do feel this way. Whether they really are, it just makes me really uncomfortable. And so the thought just came to me that maybe it's a self-centered way of thinking. But it honestly makes my nerves bad, I don't want to do it, and I can't help it. 

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20 minutes ago, Indigo Blue said:

We didn't go to church growing up. I met dh and have been going since age 16 to his church. It has been such a huge positive in my life as a young mom to be around other moms and families that I could model myself after. It helped me to develop into the person I am now. We've had many different pastors over the years. I've only ever been to other churches occasionally just to visit, and those churches were of the same denomination as ours. One Sunday, I visited a contemporary church to support some friends that were attending there. Dh wasn't able to go with me, so I went alone. I've never been to anything like that. The church was big with very comfy, plush chairs. The sound equipment was computerized and state of the art. There were huge screens on either side of the, well, stage. There were live musical performances that were first rate. Our pastor talks about these types of churches...well, not so favorably. He believes they don't teach or preach, but instead they just make everyone "feel good". But I really enjoyed that day. The contemporary music was great. The message did not come from the same angle that I was used to, but  I left there, well, with a "feel good" feeling, lol.  There was no "bench warming" negative stuff. Then I thought about our church and that this "feel good" must be what our pastor is talking about. Was I supposed to feel guilty for enjoying this contemporary service? They were handing out cold popsicles just outside the door after the service. There was a huge room just as you enter the main building where the youth had a nice lounge set up with a full-sized pool table. I guess this is what some pastors call seeker-sensitive.

It was different from our little country church. But I don't think it was "wrong".. I think it's a good fit for lots of families with young children. Lots of "how to improve your marriage" and "how to be better parents"...all of course from a Biblical perspective, but no judgment. Very interesting and engaging. I'm going to admit I really enjoyed it.

I'm saying all this to say that I did realize there were other churches that taught in a different way, but I'd sure never been to one until recently.

Editing to add: Thanks so much PeachyDoodle, for your kind words. 🙂

See, I think various churches serve different people at different times. 

Now, there are some that are nothing more than pop psychology and the sermons there have the depth of an internet cat meme. But the Gospel is literally the GOOD news - it SHOULD make you feel good!!!! 

And although I would hate a church like you describe, with loud contemporary music and modern stuff, I do like a beautiful choir, pretty stained glass, and a good coffee hour afterward. I won't lie, that my current parish serves good fair trade coffee afterward is a big bonus. It's not why I go, but it helps keep me coming, lol. 

Maybe now would be a good time in your life to listen to some services from other churches? None of the drama of going to a new church, no people staring at you, no one has to know. But you can hear some different messages, different takes on things, and see how that settles with you. Maybe help balance out the other stuff you are hearing?

My church has their services on youtube, and although you are welcome to listen/watch the whole thing, they do provide in the description the time stamps for the sermon and the children's sermon, if you want to just skip to that. I think he does a good job of challenging us to grow in our faith while also ALWAYS reassuring us that God is love, and that God loves us more than we can imagine. 

(I'm afraid there is definitely no contemporary music, but the choir is wonderful) 

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCwKJaWqKU_k1uKBpmvkDQiA

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2 minutes ago, Terabith said:

Honestly, this church sounds kinda toxic.  Could you go to a different church from your husband? 

I have to agree with you that there are some attitudes and things there I don't like. Over all, though, there are some sweet people there. I have thought about going to a different church, but right now ds is still at home and it's important to me that his parents attend church together. Maybe there will be another time where that might be a possibility. It would be hard for me, knowing my personality, to go to a different church all by myself all the time...unless I got really comfortable there.

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23 minutes ago, Indigo Blue said:

Editing to add: Thanks so much PeachyDoodle, for your kind words.

You are welcome.

I honestly have the same issue with the seeker-sensitive, "feel-good" churches that I have with the ones that are more like yours, because at the end of the day I think they have the same kind of problem. Although they give all kinds of good advice, they often end up still making people feel like they aren't measuring up. 

In our church, we talk a lot about the distinction between law and gospel. The long and short of it is that a church that leans toward law (what you should be doing) instead of leaning heavily on the gospel (what God has done for you in Christ) often ends up burning its people out. It's just the effect of the law -- it always accuses us and shows us where we fall short.

All that said, I do not think you need to feel guilty for visiting the other church, and you should feel free to keep looking until you find one that preaches gospel as well as law. God has a place for you.

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3 minutes ago, Ktgrok said:

(I'm afraid there is definitely no contemporary music, but the choir is wonderful) 

Hey, thanks! I'll definitely check it out! We have beautiful stained glass, too....and a really great choir. (And I hope your son is getting used to his new gf lifestyle by now!)

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3 minutes ago, PeachyDoodle said:

The long and short of it is that a church that leans toward law (what you should be doing) instead of leaning heavily on the gospel (what God has done for you in Christ) often ends up burning its people out.

I agree, even though right now I'm not really too active in church. But I feel that hearing this every week can have a negative mental impact on certain people, and I include myself in that. Hearing where you fall short is not always a good thing. 🙂

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II have a thing for when the speaking isn’t overly encouraging.  I just start from the front row and start praying silently for each person by name that I see.  Some I know well and can pray to the specific challenges.  Others I just pray for God to take care of whatever they need at that moment.  Maybe that sounds bad but some mornings just aren’t that uplifting.

ive been through similar with our church.  What helped eventually was realising that there were others feeling the same way and connecting with them a little closer.

id say it’s not you but the environment.  Sometimes worship places do just go through negative phases. 

Edited by Ausmumof3
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9 minutes ago, Ausmumof3 said:

II have a thing for when the speaking isn’t overly encouraging.  I just start from the front row and start praying silently for each person by name that I see.  Some I know well and can pray to the specific challenges.  Others I just pray for God to take care of whatever they need at that moment.  Maybe that sounds bad but some mornings just aren’t that uplifting.

 

Yes, there was a sermon that way at my church on Sunday, and I did the same thing. It was intellectual and historical, and I needed something encouraging and hopeful. So I went pew-by-pew and prayed for everyone. I was late because I had to work early that morning, so I prayed for the whole congregation by the time the sermon was done. And then I talked to people afterwards and went home encouraged. It was good.

Edited by G5052
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Maybe your church needs a broader idea of what serving means, and maybe the pastor needs to realize how he sounds to people who are in a difficult time of life. 

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May I recommend a book and a podcast?  The book is Emotionally Healthy Spirituality: It's Impossible to Be Spiritually Mature, While Remaining Emotionally Immature https://www.amazon.com/dp/0310348498/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_i_5ZoTCbJ3X2NXE

The subtitle makes the book sound less than encouraging (sorry!), but it has had a profound effect on me and my relationship with God and the church.  

The podcast is by the author:  The Emotionally Healthy Leader podcast.  Here’s a link to an episode I just listened to.  They’re all good, so I’d recommend just going back and starting at the beginning or picking one that appeals to you. 

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-emotionally-healthy-leader-podcast/id1064966935

 

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1 hour ago, Indigo Blue said:

I was talking about narcissism because we had a thread here recently and someone posted a checklist of some sort of narcissistic traits and if you checked so many of them off, you scored high on the narcissism scale. One of the questions was something like: Do you feel everyone is watching you when you walk into a room? And, yes, I do feel this way. Whether they really are, it just makes me really uncomfortable. And so the thought just came to me that maybe it's a self-centered way of thinking. But it honestly makes my nerves bad, I don't want to do it, and I can't help it. 

It sounds to me like you have social anxiety , not narcissism. 

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1 hour ago, Indigo Blue said:

I agree, even though right now I'm not really too active in church. But I feel that hearing this every week can have a negative mental impact on certain people, and I include myself in that. Hearing where you fall short is not always a good thing. 🙂

Don't get me wrong: God's law is a good thing. Showing us where we fall short is what it's supposed to do. But the remedy for falling short (what Christians commonly call "sin") isn't to try harder. It's Christ crucified for us. In other words, law preaching has to be balanced with gospel preaching.

I know a pastor who says that preaching only the law leads to one of two outcomes: pride or despair. Because those are your only choices when you're confronted with your shortcomings. You either rationalize them away (e.g., by comparing yourself to others and convincing yourself that you're doing better than "those people), which leads to pride. Or you realize that you can't possibly live up to the law's demands, and you get despair. Neither place is a good one to be, spiritually.

Good preaching will show you your sin, but follow with the sweet comfort of the gospel. Unfortunately, not too many churches seem to follow that model.

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53 minutes ago, kbutton said:

Maybe your church needs a broader idea of what serving means, and maybe the pastor needs to realize how he sounds to people who are in a difficult time of life. 

I totally agree. Loving and serving our neighbors takes place in our vocations, which aren't all in the church. Many, if not most, are outside of the church. The New Testament epistles don't spend much time talking about setting up chairs and parking attendants and nursery workers. They do talk an awful lot about loving your spouse, caring for your children, and being a good employee.

And sometimes our vocation even includes allowing other people to serve us. When we are sick, for example, and we allow our doctors, nurses, therapists, and caregivers to fulfill their vocations by caring for us. That too is a good work, perhaps the hardest good work of all.

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48 minutes ago, hopeistheword said:

May I recommend a book and a podcast?  The book is Emotionally Healthy Spirituality: It's Impossible to Be Spiritually Mature, While Remaining Emotionally Immature https://www.amazon.com/dp/0310348498/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_i_5ZoTCbJ3X2NXE

The subtitle makes the book sound less than encouraging (sorry!), but it has had a profound effect on me and my relationship with God and the church.  

The podcast is by the author:  The Emotionally Healthy Leader podcast.  Here’s a link to an episode I just listened to.  They’re all good, so I’d recommend just going back and starting at the beginning or picking one that appeals to you. 

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/the-emotionally-healthy-leader-podcast/id1064966935

 

Ooh! My church just recently did a class series based on this book, but I wasn't able to go. Definitely going to check out the podcast, I think I know someone who will like it as well. Thanks!

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I just wanted to say that from the narcissism vids I've been watching, they say that if you ask or worry you are a narc, then you are not one.  Narcs don't care, so why would they even ask whether they are one or not?!  So, I would put that question about yourself aside.

Second, I totally understand how you must feel to walk in a room and not be noticed.  I have felt this from others after a church service when I ran into them at the grocery store for example.  And they didn't even bother to give a glance and smile.  I would think, wow, that is not Christian like, to know someone from church within the last half hour and not to even acknowledge their presence. I know others could debate me on that, but honestly, there are people who do this.   Maybe you are empathic and more sensitive than others.  The only suggestions I can think of at this time would be for you to bring a nice treat once in awhile.  Sometimes that is enough to get the ball rolling. Or be sure to go in earlier, so you are not feeling like you are walking in when everyone else is seated.  

I also understand your feelings of not being asked how you were doing due to your absence.  I remember when my parents were aging and began to have health issues, so they missed church and eventually stopped going.  The leaders, especially  should have followed up with them.  I was disappointed in this. 

If you have anxieties, I would think it would be hard for you to go to another church alone.  I don't think I have anxieties, but attending a new church alone is enough to make me feel anxious.  I hope more churches would notice how difficult it is for those of us who are married, but attend alone. We need a supportive group as well. There are groups for singles, families, couples...but I don't fit into any of those because my kids are grown and dh doesn't want to attend anymore, so I feel it is difficult to feel included...  Hugs!

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3 hours ago, Indigo Blue said:

I was talking about narcissism because we had a thread here recently and someone posted a checklist of some sort of narcissistic traits and if you checked so many of them off, you scored high on the narcissism scale. One of the questions was something like: Do you feel everyone is watching you when you walk into a room? And, yes, I do feel this way. Whether they really are, it just makes me really uncomfortable. And so the thought just came to me that maybe it's a self-centered way of thinking. But it honestly makes my nerves bad, I don't want to do it, and I can't help it. 

Self-consciousness is not narcissism. Narcissists think people are all looking at them with admiration or jealousy. Self-consciousness is awareness that you're in a position where they can see and judge you, when you are hoping they will be warm and accepting.

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I won’t speak to everything, but a few things I’ve learned/heard over the years:

There is a middle ground between non-stop serving and bench warming.  A pastor of a church I attended used to say, “God made us human beings, not human doings.  It’s ok to just Be.”  Obviously, people are needed to serve, and obviously God called us to help one another and spread the good news, but there is balance.  Which leads to:

I had a revelation the day I realized that Jesus was not a 40-something homeschooling mother of two with a husband.  He was a single guy in his early thirties.  Totally changed my perspective and toned down guilt I had about not doing enough.

I started serving in church when I was 8 years old with my mother: tagging along to nursing homes and helping clean the church, etc.  In my teens, I had more volunteer responsibilities that I handled on my own.  All through my twenties and thirties I was volunteering at least weekly in some capacity or another, often more than once a week at various things.  

Seven years ago, I got really, really tired.  I stopped all volunteering.  All of it.  And I’m ok with that.  I’m going to keep resting on my laurels for a little longer.  I put in thirty-one years of non-stop serving, usually multiple times a week.  I’m ok with taking an extended break.

And the next thing: as people get older, they go through changes.  They might suddenly stop volunteering, or suddenly start volunteering.  They might close in to themselves for a while only to come out more later, or vice versa.  It’s ok to have a time to slow down and reassess what you want to do in the future.  It ok if it takes you some time to figure out what you want to do next.

And the last thing:  perhaps you’ll find a different way to serve than you’d done in the past.  Something that suits you well and brings satisfaction to you without overwhelming you.  My introverted sons bake a few batches of cookies a week for the church to give to a homeless shelter.  It’s perfect for them.  They are serving, but they’re also eating a warm cookie a few nights a week, and the people at the shelter feel loved that they got some homemade cookies.  My sons never go to the shelter.  We just leave them on the back porch of the guy who does and he takes them to the shelter when he goes.  (Not that you even have to do that!  Just an example of how introverts can serve without it being a burden on them.)

Edited by Garga
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2 hours ago, hopeistheword said:

May I recommend a book and a podcast?  

Thank you so much. 

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59 minutes ago, Garga said:

I won’t speak to everything, but a few things I’ve learned/heard over the years:

Thank you, Garga, for all that. 🙂

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