Ways to Support a Friend Who’s Returning to Church
Written by Admin on March 24, 2022
When a part of Christ’s body leaves—even if only for a time—it can feel awkward for everyone. So how do we help people who’ve returned feel welcome at church again?
TRUST GOD TO BE LORD OVER OTHERS’ SPIRITUAL LIVES—WHETHER THEY SHOW UP ON SUNDAYS OR NOT
Our children’s ministry director, an old friend, listened carefully when I told her I felt self-conscious about showing up again, especially because I’d not pulled my weight volunteering in my daughter’s class.
She looked confused for a moment and shook her head. “When people don’t come, I just assume they found something that worked better for them.”
Her non-judgmental attitude took my breath away. She trusted God was still working in others’ lives, no matter what. She believed the best of me.
After talking to her, I have found it easier to let go of what other people think of me. I can believe the best of them, too.
DON’T TAKE ABSENCE PERSONALLY
The response of our children’s director meant even more to me because we’ve been in church together for years. I quit the worship team her husband still serves with; I didn’t sign up to help in the ministry my daughter participates in.
It would have been easy for her to take my absence personally: assuming that I no longer valued my ties at the church or her tireless service.
I’ve had friends leave our church, and I’ve always struggled to not feel slighted. Now that I’m the absentee, though, I know struggles with the church are often complex. They don’t necessarily reflect how much you value a congregation or each person in it.
TAKE TIME TO REACH OUT
For all my self-consciousness, I would have been more upset if people didn’t notice my absence. Like the preteen hero of Alan Bradley’s detective novels, Flavia DeLuce, “I hate being the center of attention, and yet at the same time I can’t tolerate being ignored.”
Sunday after Sunday, I smile and wince when people tell me they’ve missed seeing me. I feel a little self-conscious, but also glad to know people notice I’m back.
In the past, if someone stays home, I have assumed they might want to be left alone. But breaking through awkwardness is an act of great love. Whether or not the wanderer is ready to connect, reaching out to them helps them feel welcome.