Finding Belonging in the Church

Out of Place Series – Meghan’s Story

Wringing my hands is a nervous habit. Picking at my nails, biting the inside of my lip, too. And I was doing all of that at once my first night of small group. With hesitating steps I rang the doorbell of the church, and the warm if not vaguely intimidating presence of my new small group leader led me inside to our room. It was the nursery, with a sectional couch and some hard backed chairs in a disjointed circle in the room. Maybe five or six other gals joined that night. Some who’d been in the group in the spring semester and knew each other well. Everyone, though, acted as if I was actually already a part of their group, they were so easygoing and welcoming. They were actually interested in hearing me. Me? They thought I had something to contribute just by being there?

This was healing to my out-of-place soul.

Despite growing up in church, a place where you’d think people would be the most welcoming, that wasn’t always my experience. Alas, the human race is fallen. All of us have sinned. I’m sure I hurt girls in church before however unwittingly. And I was hurt by a lot of rejection for being different, shy and reticent, a homeschooler when church kid cliques were all from public school—you get the picture.

Taking a step of faith

I came and went quickly from church the first five or so months before even introducing myself to the pastor (who’d later officiate at my wedding) or the discipleship director (who eventually became a spiritual mother to me). The discipleship director pointed me to the Small Group Connect Sunday where all the leaders were available to talk to and you could sign up for a small group. All my old hurts from church girls in my younger years flared, but something tugged me downstairs to the café to meet Micah and sign up for her young women’s study at the last second before it was closed down.

I was beginning to belong there. More than that though, despite my slowness to get connected with people, God was reconnecting and healing my heart to wholeness and belonging in Him. This had to come first, before finding belonging anywhere else. I had been looking for my belonging in people, and was let down and hurt constantly. I hadn’t fully trusted in God to establish me and further my steps. I hadn’t trusted that I was enough and worthy in Him alone. It took much hurt, and many trials for God to lead my heart to rest in the truth that He was more than enough to satisfy my heart longing for community, friendship—and being seen.

In between reading chapters of “Wild and Free” by Jess Connolly, we shared a recap of our week and prayer requests. Over the years, we’ve seen God answer these prayers in beautiful ways. Mostly I remember how almost the entire group laughed and cried in turn. These strangers were all so vibrant and beautiful in their unique ways. Airing their brokenness and fears in that little nursery with ease and passing of Kleenexes with nothing but empathy and tenderness. A willingness to stay and let everyone’s feelings and emotions be tender and be brought into the light.

finding belonging in the church

My heart tugged toward the hurt of these strangers I now count as sisters in Christ, though our proximity is not what it used to be when it was every Wednesday night. Most of these girls were at my wedding. In the three years between when I began this small group and now—there has been a scary diagnosis, a major brain surgery, a miraculous healing through the surgery, new friends added, four engagements, a move, two babies, two marriages, and a night making ridiculous terrariums for succulent plants that I killed within a month.

This small group multiplied when it grew too big. And I stepped into the privilege of facilitating an off-shoot of that original group with some of the same girls, and new girls alike. I got to facilitate others belonging in church. This was redemption. And a gift—serving and leading in my church home where I finally belonged. The church home that has not been without its own share of hurts over the years. It’s all because of God that I stay, rooted in Him, longing for others to be rooted in the same way. Because that’s what makes people belong—knowing our God. And we need to know Him together.

Belonging in God’s imperfect Church

The Church is imperfect, but it is God’s. And He is always faithful. He sets the solitary in homes—through nights of crying and laughing in a church nursery, to intimate discipleship on my back porch, to a celebration of marriage in front of 175 people on a warm June day. These three mental pictures of mine are sacred pictures of belonging. But the richest belonging is as an heir and child of God in a kingdom that is utterly unshakeable, and filled with other brothers and sisters we get to do life with, and belong with.

Bring your church hurt, rejection, loneliness, and pain into the presence of God to be soothed in His comforting presence, so that you can go out and connect with others for our joy and God’s glory. Then ask Him to reveal by the Holy Spirit how you can take a step or two or three to reach out, risk—and connect with others.

If you’ve ever felt like you don’t belong, this series is for you! Every Monday, we’ll hear from someone who has also struggled to belong. Be sure to subscribe below to get The Scoop so you never miss a post! As a thank you, you’ll receive access to belonging-themed scripture cards and adult coloring pages in the free for you library!

Thanks! I can't wait to connect with you!

Meet Meghan

Meghan DeWalt is an author of stories about remembrance and redemption. A full-time writer, she is passionate about theology and discipleship, encouraging others to know and love God wholeheartedly in order to live according to their Gospel calling. Meghan lives in Pittsburgh with her husband, Jeff, where they are active leaders in their church. You can follow Meghan on Instagram, and on her website.

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Sarah K. Butterfield is an author, speaker, and ministry leader who has a heart for empowering women to grow in their faith and be intentional with their time. She and her husband and two boys live in San Diego, where she writes about pursuing a deeper relationship with God in the midst of motherhood.

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