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How to Overcome Church Anxiety

Do you ever feel anxious while sitting on a church pew listening to a sermon? Whether you’re new to a church or have been going for years, that anxious feeling isn’t uncommon. You may worry about being judged by others, not fitting in, or simply being around so many people. If you don’t address church anxiety, you may find yourself drifting further away from your church community and even God.

What Is Church Anxiety & Why Does It Exist?

Church anxiety is essentially a type of social anxiety. It usually manifests in feelings of nervousness or dread when faced with the prospect of going to church. Many people experience it when they visit a new church or come back after a long time.

But why?

“…casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”—1 Peter 5:7

Church anxiety can occur simply because a person has a low tolerance for being uncomfortable. It’s not unusual to feel uncomfortable when we are in a place we aren’t familiar with. How well we handle that discomfort is what sets off the anxiety—or doesn’t.

There are many reasons for the anxiety surrounding church:

  • Modern-day believers experience significant amounts of stress.
  • Some people struggle to come into alignment with the Holy Spirit.
  • Nonattendance or isolation can make adjusting to church life difficult.

 

Ultimately, anxiety in all its forms exists because of sin—the sin that affects God’s creation, the sins against us, or the sins we commit.

Anxiety can affect your social interactions in the church. It can prevent you from forming bonds within fellow members or attending at all. Worse, allowing it to consume you can give the enemy a foothold. That’s why it’s so important to acknowledge your own and address it.

7 Ways to Overcome Church Anxiety

Understanding how and why church anxiety occurs is only the first step. It is critical to find ways to overcome it. That way, you can experience more involvement, connect with other believers, and deepen your relationship with God. 

Philippians 4:6 says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” You can heal your anxious mind by applying this directive. However, it helps to have additional tips to overcome your negative feelings.

1 ) Use the Word of God

Anxiety is a negative emotion. It overwhelms us with illogical fear and causes us to see things through a negative lens. The best way to combat that negativity is through the Word of God. As fear starts in the mind, replacing those negative thoughts with God’s empowering guidance flips things around.

“Cast your burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain you; He shall never permit the righteous to be moved.”Psalm 55:22

God’s Word is an apt reminder of our innate potential and that God has formed us into positive human beings. The more we realize God’s plans for us, the less we worry and fear the unknown. Hearing God’s Word reassures us that He will strengthen us when we are weak or walk by our side when we feel alone.

2 ) Identify Triggers

Another way of overcoming church anxiety is by identifying your triggers. A trigger is an event or action that causes a specific response. 

When you are overwhelmed with anxious feelings and thoughts, pause for a moment and reflect on the trigger and its accompanying thinking. Pinpoint what exactly triggers your anxiety and how it makes you feel.

  • Is it the large gathering on a Sunday that makes you anxious to go to church? 
  • Is it when you’re asked to share your biblical insights during a fellowship service that initiates that response?

 

Unless we identify our triggers, anxiety can creep up on us without our knowledge, even when it is in plain sight. It’s just another tool the enemy uses to put distance between us and God.

3 ) Practice Self-Compassion

In today’s world, self-compassion is a struggle for many people. Society often expects perfection. When we deliver anything short of those expectations, it can make us feel like a failure.

Instead, you can use these opportunities to remind yourself to become more self-compassionate. Aside from experiencing the power of God’s Word through compassion to one’s self, there are also studies that show it can help regulate symptoms of stress and anxiety, regardless of the trigger.

Self-compassion is also written in the Bible, so we must remind ourselves of that when anxious feelings creep up on us.

“I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well.”—Psalm 139:14

4 ) Set Boundaries

Setting boundaries is an important practice for overcoming church anxiety. We must set boundaries for ourselves, and others. 

When people are part of a community, such as the church, there are certain levels of expectations on the roles that each one must fulfill. For example, church leaders are expected to be present at every worship service and other church community activities. Some church members are compelled to be present for these events because they experience guilt. They assume their non-involvement in church activities will challenge others’ view of their faith.

Many church members are anxious about living up to the expectations of their church leaders or other members. However, it’s important to set boundaries, especially if you don’t want to participate in certain events or if you aren’t wholeheartedly committed to them. 

Remember: It’s okay to take a break and focus on yourself first. If a situation makes you too uncomfortable, you should not force yourself to be a part of it.

5 ) Seek Support

An older gentleman holding a Bible comforting another with church anxiety as they sit on a couch together.

The irony of church anxiety is that the support and encouragement from your church family can help you overcome it.

Some churches have therapists and counselors that you can reach out to if you want to discuss your triggers and overcome anxiety.

“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”—John 14:27

In addition to seeking professional help, you can get support from your fellow believers. Working through your anxiety with the help of a smaller group of people can make it easier to address your thoughts and feelings. Some might even join you in prayer to ease your anxiety.

6 ) Explore Alternative Worship Options

If going to church on Sundays gives you anxious feelings, you don’t have to feel guilty about not going. There are many alternative worship options available, such as attending church online. Live streaming of sermons and worship services has become the norm in many churches since the pandemic.

While we always encourage people to overcome their church anxiety, if that isn’t doable for you at this time, you can choose this option instead. That way, you can continue to hear God’s Word without confronting your anxiety head-on.

Although there are debates about whether online church is biblical or not, it can help you to stay connected with the church even when you aren’t able to be there in person.

7 ) Try Gradual Exposure and Practice

Gradual exposure is one of the best ways to beat church anxiety. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, don’t be afraid to take a break from the church. 

Once you have the support and clarity you need from the break, you can ease your way back in. Start by joining Bible studies with a few church friends or participating in fellowship services in a church house. This approach can help to foster your faith and commitment without neglecting your emotional needs.

Takeaway

Church anxiety is real, and it’s a prevalent issue. If you’re dealing with it and want to find a church that is a better fit for your needs, consider checking out Abundant Life’s various campuses. Or you can join our live stream to hear God’s Word in the comfort of your own home.