When I think through my collection of embarrassing moments, it seems like almost all of them took place out in public somewhere.
So I suppose it’s no wonder that people can find themselves embarrassed at church from time to time. The problem comes when the embarrassment feels so strong that someone is tempted to not come back.
It happens more than we might realize, and that’s something worth addressing.
Here, then, are the (unofficial) top 5 ways folks find themselves embarrassed at church, and how to move past them.
1. MY KIDS ARE OUT OF CONTROL!!!
What happens: I hear this one all the time. Maybe your baby has a complete meltdown in the middle of the pastoral prayer. Perhaps your 3rd grader and your 5th grader won’t stop fighting. Somehow children have this uncanny ability to pick the WORST moments to cry, scream, laugh, argue, and fuss.
How it feels: It can feel as if the whole world stops and turns towards you. Every nearby woman becomes a disapproving mother. Every person of authority deems you unworthy. And in general, everyone in your presence agrees: You are not a good parent.
Truth be told: There probably are a few people who act annoyed or disapproving. Shame on them! The truth is there is NOTHING more precious to the church than children. Most people and churches understand the joys (and trials) of raising children, and most parents can sympathize with those days when the kids are wound a bit too tight. Church is better — for all of us — with children in it.
Bottom line: Let the Children Come.
2. I DIDN’T PUT ANYTHING IN THE OFFERING PLATE!!!
What happens: The plate is passed. The person to your left puts in a check. The person to your right is holding an envelope in anticipation. And you? You don’t have anything for the offering plate.
How it feels: It can feel as if all eyes are on you and your lack of a contribution. Do people think you’re stingy? Do people think you’re poor? Does it mean you don’t deserve to be here?
Truth be told: Relax, nobody’s looking. Many people pass the plate without putting something in it. Lots of people give monthly, or online. Some mail their pledge in, and yes, some folks just can’t afford to contribute financially. Passing the plate isn’t supposed to be an exercise in guilt. It’s an exercise in commitment. Next time the plate comes by, touch it and briefly say a word of commitment to God.
Bottom Line: Offer yourself, as best you can.
3. I COULDN’T FIND COLOSSIANS.
What happens: In Sunday School, the teacher has everyone turn to Colossians (or some other book). Everyone else turns right to it, and you find yourself flipping around before sheepishly looking at the table of contents. Uggh. Either that, or you’re being asked general Bible knowledge questions and you haven’t the foggiest answer.
How it feels: It can feel as if everyone is snickering behind their Bibles, watching you flail in your scriptural ignorance. Or you might feel frustrated and lost, as now the teacher’s moved on to the next scripture before you could even find the last one. It can make you feel stupid and silly and out of your depth.
Truth be told: Every church is filled with people at every range of Bible knowledge. Some folks were raised memorizing scriptures, and others have come only picked up the Good Book recently. Most adults know a lot less about the Bible than they would like to admit, so it’s very doubtful anybody is snorting in your direction. Instead, be proud that you have a desire to grow in your faith and knowledge of this Holy Book!
Bottom Line: Keep Searching. (Colossians is towards the back)
P.S. Bible Tabs make it easy to find your way around the books of the Bible. Get ’em at a Christian book store
4. I COULDN’T REMEMBER SOMEONE’S NAME. (Or they couldn’t remember mine)
What happens: You recognize the face, but when you find yourself standing next to them at the coffee hour, you can’t remember their name. The worst is when you call them the wrong name, but it’s not much better to have to fish around and act like you remember it when really, you don’t.
How it feels: It can feel like you’ve offended someone. As if you didn’t care enough to remember who they were. Or, if the opposite happens and they’ve forgotten your name, you can feel slighted, less important. Either way it can make you hesitant to want to keep wading through that sea of Sunday morning worshipers. Why bother getting to know these people anyway?
Truth be told: A person’s name IS important. In many ways we see it as the key to our identity. So when the name game fizzles, it’s not a great feeling. However, it’s a harder game than most people realize. There are only a few gifted people out there who can remember everyone’s name. So, the rest of us just keep working at it. Since most of us have our slip-ups from time to time, it’s better to just laugh about it together, own up to having a slippery brain, and devoting the rest of the conversation to learning more about each other.
Bottom Line: Names are important, but slippery. And that’s okay.
5. MY SINS ARE PUBLIC.
What happens: This is perhaps the most serious one of them all. When you’re the subject of gossip, or your name ends up in the paper, or the folks in your neighborhood know about your business, coming to church at all could seem like a really bad idea. Why would you want to walk into a church — where people talk about sin — if everybody already knows about yours?
How it feels: Every whisper, every glance — it would be hard not to think they’re talking about you. Maybe you had a brush with the law — will church members trust you now? Maybe you had an affair — will that change everyone’s opinion of you? Maybe you have struggled with an addiction — will people see you as unworthy? It would be easier to stay away, right? To roll over in bed for another hour and avoid the pain.
Truth be told: The church was MADE for people like you. People who have fallen in some way and are trying to stand up. The church is where you can receive love and support, where you can be embraced by a family of other sinners, all redeemed by God’s grace. Now, let’s not be naive –churches have plenty of gossip and judgement in them. Some of that you may just have to ignore. But don’t give up on the idea of church — there’s a place for you there.
Bottom Line: Church is about Grace. Keep looking, and you’ll find it.
Okay, that’s it. An impressive list of embarrassing things that, in the end, you have no need to stay embarrassed by.
Instead, may your experience at church turn your cheeks a rosy red,
not out of embarrassment and shame, but as a reflection from
your warmed heart.
Have a great week,