As the chapel filled with more and more people, I grew increasingly uncomfortable. I was attending church with my parents while I was home for Christmas, after being gone at college for four straight years. After such a long absence, I braced myself for the inevitable pestering by many curious congregation members about my personal life. Slowly but surely, familiar faces nosed their way into my pew and began the well-intentioned interrogating.
Church was supposed to be enjoyable, but I felt like other members were getting in the way of me being able to feel peace.
For me — and for many other introverts — the social aspect of church can be difficult. Church is supposed to be a place where everyone feels welcome; but not everyone wants to be welcomed the same way. Well-intentioned questions can be interpreted as invasive, and sometimes making small talk back is difficult. I reached the point where I didn't want to go to church because the social sphere was overwhelming. Over time, though, I've learned some ways to enjoy my church meetings regardless of other people. So if you're an introvert like me, here are some suggestions on how to survive church:
Separate the doctrine from the culture
One of the best ways to keep a positive view of church is to separate the doctrine from the culture. If the social aspect of church is getting difficult, remind yourself of the real reason you go. Remember that the scriptures are not influenced by cliques, social expectations or friends. Prayer is between you and God, regardless of what anyone else thinks.
Love and give the benefit of the doubt
Many church members who may seem invasive are actually just trying to reach out. Most people have good intentions and are trying to be kind. Rather than being suspicious or annoyed, realize that each member of the congregation is also a child of God. Each has struggles, strengths, weaknesses and hobbies. And they took the time and effort to talk to you! Seeing other members in a positive light makes social interaction less daunting.
If someone makes you genuinely uncomfortable, find a polite way to set boundaries. You can find gracious ways of ending the conversation, such as "I'm going now, but I hope you have a good day." Or "Thanks for talking with me — I'll see you later."
Even introverts need social interaction sometimes. If you don't enjoy going to church, bring a friend. If church-related social events don't interest you, you can suggest activities that you would enjoy doing. You can find ways to participate in church by volunteering for things that you are comfortable with. For instance, you can ask to lead the music or say a prayer — neither of which involve a lot of socialization, but still allow you to be involved. By actively taking control of your social situation, you can balance your inner introvert and your social life.