If you see someone new, reach out to them.
The church should be a place where people feel comfortable, included and valued. However, there are sometimes where people are unfortunately overlooked. The same groups created for the community are terrible reminders of other places people feel unseen.
Jesus ministered to everyone when He walked the earth, and no one was overlooked. Whether we’re talking about the poor, lame or those with leprosy, nobody was invisible to Jesus. As His children, we have to look around. If we reach out in our circles in prayer, perhaps no one will be invisible. So who are the groups who feel forgotten? Here are some of the overlooked people in the church.
Single people could be of any age. While some have never been married, some marriages ended in divorce. Others became widowers or widows. No one gets married thinking that their marriage will end one day, and widowed people thought their marriage was for the long haul before it was tragically cut short.
Many divorced people are also single and raising children by themselves. When you consider church programs, except for those for the newly divorced, none are truly geared toward single people. Divorced people are trying to provide for their families and stand in for the missing parent. They’re usually exhausted but still put one foot before the other. Single people are generally overlooked, but God told us to care for each other, so he surely meant everyone.
Some people struggle with what seems like a never-ending illness. Others struggle with what they call an invisible illness; someone could see them and be unable to tell they’re sick. Those who suffer from an illness have seen people they love remove themselves from their lives. Maybe their friends wish they could get better to start their friendship again, while some can’t accept that their friends might deal with this long-term.
Whether it’s a physical or emotional illness, the person on this journey is tired, lonely and wondering if anyone misses them. Mark 2:1-12 tells us how Jesus healed a paralytic. If God cares about everyone who is sick, we should too. We should let the sick know that we haven’t forgotten them.
Most churches have groups for college kids, but the issue is that after they graduate, they’re no longer included in that group. Some church people joined groups when their parents carried them to the nursery. During their school years, they found guidance through youth leaders, and some were lucky enough to go on mission trips.
College kids need socialization, but so do the kids who finish college. Everyone won’t get married, and the church is losing a significant opportunity to reach out to these young people. Inviting them to other groups would be a start, but leaving it up to the individual by mentioning it isn’t enough. A personal invitation makes someone feel included, and who wouldn’t want that?
People who are hurting emotionally.
You may see people at church who typically stay back. They like church and regularly attend, but somehow, you feel like something is missing. There’s a chance that they’ve had a negative experience at another church. It feels like a double whammy when someone is hurt in the church. They are broken, and the people they trusted hurt them. Taking it slow with hurt people is a good idea. It would also help to give them grace and let them know you want them to join your group, making it easier for them to join. Proverbs 18:19 discusses the difficulties of helping a brother who’s been offended, and God loves reconciliation.
Widowers and widows.
Margaret used to be active in the church. She worked in the church years ago, getting to know just about everyone. However, her husband, George, passed away. She went to a grief class at the church and felt connected for a while. However, now that the group has ended, she feels the isolation of her life without her loving husband. Margaret and George had friends, but now she feels like an awkward third wheel when she sees them.
Sometimes, Margaret wants to feel like she belongs and fears she’ll never feel that again. God discusses widows in James 1:27. Churches should have groups with people of all life stages. That way, everyone learns from each other.
People who are financially struggling.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that financially struggling people feel invisible. When there’s a plea for money, they feel like they can’t help. They often opt out of participating in church activities because they can’t afford it. They hate that they can’t pay their bill and struggle with their self-worth, pondering what’s wrong with them. Jesus didn’t overlook people who had less. In fact, He didn’t have much in terms of worldly goods. God wants us to reach out to people in need. What better way than to show them kindness and a place where they can come and worship?
When an announcement for new forming groups comes, there will likely be some people who cringe. They want to be part of a group and know there’s a place where they belong, but they shy away. Those people are usually called introverts. Maybe they tried one group but thought interacting was too challenging when talking to another person takes a lot of energy.
When the announcement comes, they stand frozen as others move around the sanctuary, welcoming others. Introverts need to socialize with others, but the challenge is making them feel comfortable even to try a group. Introverts are typically overlooked.
Another group of people who get overlooked is people with no children because there doesn’t seem to be a place for them. Most married people have kids, so when those who don’t are put in these groups, you can imagine how it would feel when the topic of kids comes up. The church is a diverse group, but Jesus is the common bond. However, some people make other factors into dividing lines.
Even if we don’t have much in common with people with different lifestyles, we can ask God to show us how to connect with them. Jesus died for our sins, even those He knew would deny Him, so it makes sense to include others. When we’re scared, God gives us the courage to do the job He wants us to do.