A friend of mine posted on her Facebook how church was unfriendly. She was always inviting, but felt like an orphan, always trying to make an effort to be friendly.
While social media is, well, social, it can also be a bed of self-absorption, negativity, drama, and a glorified email forward tool. The algorithm of Facebook, for instance, uses smart technology to bring your most read friends to your newsfeed. If you don’t visit Friend A, you’ll only see Friend B’s status updates. With over 300 friends on my own Facebook list (99% of whom I have met offline), it is almost impossible to know what is going on with everyone. The social circles online are like the social circles offline–cliques do exist.
People with common cultures and interests naturally gravitate towards each other. Those cliques can make breaking in for someone like my friend very difficult. What my friend doesn’t understand yet is how blessed she is to be put in the position of always being the one inviting, and not being invited.
Her situation forces her almost into a ministry all her own where, in order to befriend people, she has to put herself out there for the world to accept or reject, and she does a great job in the social department. It takes courage to get to know people.
Questions always come to your mind, like, “What if there’s an awkward silence? What if people don’t like me? What if they are mean to me?” Social Media makes it easier to be social online than offline at church.
A person asked me the other day, “People have trouble being social in real life. How can social media work online?”
Social media is available to each person 24 hours a day. It’s convenient. It also offers anonymity for those hurting. Sometimes, for me, it feels like I am carrying all 300 of my friends in my purse. When someone needs prayer, I get a notification. I can pray right then and there for that person. But it takes the same effort to break in online as it does in the offline world. You still have to make the effort to leave a comment, read something, and like something.
I said to my friend that she was blessed to have such a situation. She can give the kind of love others in her situation crave by inviting people into her circle of friends. It can be lonely being in that situation, but when you know that the Lord loves you, you are never alone.
So what can you do to make that kind of situation easier on yourself and be Christ-like in your actions?
- Accept your situation. Don’t fight it. You can’t make people do what you want them to do. Show mercy to them as they do not know your pain and are unaware that they are cliquish.
- Utilize social media to make the extra efforts to pray for and get to know the people you see at church all the time. Let them know online that you are praying for them. Silently lurking means you care, but that is like someone asking you a question over the phone and nodding in answer. They can’t see you nod. They can’t see you lurk. If you are unwilling to leave a public comment, send them a private message or text.
- Create a coffee ministry, like Praise and Coffee, to regularly invite all ages to get together once per month. Even if only one shows up, you are being a friend to them and allowing them to be a friend to you. Use your church directory to randomly choose names to invite and mail them the invitations (or email or use Facebook events).
Feeling like an orphan is a blessing in hindsight. You won’t see it that way at first, but eventually people will start inviting you. Friends will come into your life at the right moment. And when a person complains online about church being unfriendly and feeling rejected, you can be the one to respond in love, inviting them into your circle of friends.