Dear 100 Hour Board,
Have any of you struggled socially within the church? How did you handle it?
My wife and I are currently in a ward where we feel like we just don't belong. We've made significant efforts (in our eyes) to reach out and make friends, but consistently feel a sense of unresponsiveness and lack of care from others. While it isn't affecting our testimonies of the gospel, it is becoming increasingly painful to participate in regular meetings and activities. It makes it difficult to feel the spiritual nourishment we want to feel.
Absolutely, I have struggled. And I have to say, I handled it quite horribly.
The ward I'm in right now is really hard for me. I don't feel comfortable or welcome there, and I don't relate well to anyone...everyone only talks about their mission stories, as if that's the only life experience they have. I found myself leaving just feeling upset or alienated. It also didn't help that Pebble isn't an RM, and the bishop was unkind to him about it when we first moved in. So how did I handle this? I went, but if I was having a particularly bad day, I would just go to Sacrament meeting, or I would go to my home ward with my family or my friend's wards, etc. Basically, I found every reason to go somewhere else.
Don't be like me, Mark...
It would perhaps be a good idea to talk to the bishop or Relief Society president and express your concerns. I can understand a lack of responsiveness, but I'm sure there are people who do care about you. I'm sure there are plenty of non-malicious reasons for people to be acting the way they are, and perhaps a bit of a nudge from the bishop or someone will help. Perhaps reaching out to your neighbors, members or not, might also be a good idea. Or, plan a social event outside of church and invite people.
I've struggled socially in the church as well. I'm an extrovert, but I'm not comfortable just going up and reaching out to people at church or activities. I have a hard time connecting with people that way. There are probably other people in your ward that feel the same way.
I don't know how you've tried reaching out, but maybe try something different. I've been in several wards, and have always had a difficult time "trying to make friends" but when I've hosted my own events I've been able to meet new people in a way that's comfortable to me. Maybe a different style or situation will be more comfortable to you or to those in your ward.
Also, there have been times where I've just not wanted to socialize no matter what was going on in the ward. Maybe people in your ward are like that, but that could change as people move in and out or you move to a different ward.
Hope this helps!
I'm sorry you feel so frustrated. To feel isolated and excluded, especially after making a large effort to engage others, must feel very lonely indeed.
Lonely, and draining.
At this point, I attend church primarily for social reasons. This means it sucks sometimes when I don't feel like I can establish a connection, or I move, or people I care about move, or the sense of community is pretty much not there for me. It doesn't help that at some level I feel guilt for just attending for social reasons, and especially doesn't help with dating, but that's an entirely different net of greased hagfish not relevant to your question.
My parents, in the ward they've inhabited for twenty years, really only have one family with whom they are actually friends. I don't know how or why these people have chosen our family, but having them has been invaluable to my whole family, including myself, even though I moved away from home years ago.
Is there an individual, family or couple who has been somewhat receptive to friendly overtures? If so, maybe you could focus your efforts with them.
But please be patient. Sometimes, often, it's not you. Human relationships and friendships are messy, and struggling with them doesn't mean you're not humans worthy of love, appreciation, and care.