God bless this woman for writing this: When church hurts. I’ve wanted to write this post about attending church being painful for a long time, but it took her willingness to write her post to prod me on to write mine.
Church truly is painful and hurts sometimes. And maybe not for the reasons you think.
Highly Sensitive People and Church
People who aren’t highly sensitive don’t begin to understand how exhausting church is for some people, especially highly sensitive children. The noise, the bumping, the smells, the navigating, the loudness, the perfume, the demands to be friendly… And if you are a highly sensitive introvert… There is no rest in any way at church. It takes me a full day to recover from a church service. I’m usually still exhausted the next morning. No joke.
Caroline and I both endure church, each in our own ways.
Caroline will spend over a third of the service with her hands over her ears, even at a relatively quiet church (compared to what goes on in so many today). I take her out for a third of the service, and she finds a way to cope with the rest. She does not enjoy church. And I really don’t blame her. It’s not about worshiping God for her most of the time.
It’s about coping and waiting for it to end so she can get out of the overwhelming noise and stimulation.
I sooooooo get what this mom is writing about even though it sounds like the situation is much more difficult with her son.
Options for Highly Sensitive Children and Church
Like some people in her comments, we’re thinking a home church is really our only option at this point. Everything else is just too much. I want Caroline to love Jesus and not equate Him with enduring a horrible routine every Sunday. Sunday has been something we have had to endure. It should not be. God gave us the Sabbath to rest.
If the prescribed way to do “rest” by our current Christian culture causes us to dread Sunday and spend it exhausted, then I have to believe God will meet us in other ways. He knit us together in our mother’s womb and knows our frailties. I do believe it is far more important to meet with God in a peaceful and joyful way than to endure something because it is what others expect of us.
Oh yes a tricky one indeed I have to say my highly sensitive daughter seems to quite like going these days but hasnt always I think it helps we have moved to a modern church where she sees children from her class, gets to draw and last but not least eats chocolate biscuits at the end.
So well said. Thank you so much for adding to the conversation. I think it is so important.
Shawna @ Nottheformerthings.com
Thanks for this! I had already read, When church hurts, and am glad to see more people joining the conversation. This is our situation too. My daughter and I have stopped going. I miss it, but she is so relieved. Eventually I will return and go alone while my dh stays wih her, but for now that’s not an option. I too want her to love God and know His love without painful associations. We are also Homeschooling because she had asked not to go to school, for now at least. But all of these decisions have led to freedom and more peace in our family! I do feel God’s blessing. Thanks again!
Theresa (T&fox pins)
Hi, and thanks for raising the issue (tho the link to the reference is broken – I’ll search it out). This is a topic, much like faith-based addiction recovery or godly feminism, that I would like the Church leaders to address more – i.e., how to meet the fellowship needs of the HSP’s among us (see Elaine Aaron’ s book, The Highly Sensitive Person). As an extremely sensitive AND introverted Christian, I have had believers question my “strange” ways (like avoiding perfume), criticize me outright, and pray for me to be less anti-social! Now I simply assure them God made me like this, loves me, and can use my special personality just as it is. I do protect myself more than I used to – for instance, I wear earplugs at most church services (and while shopping), keep a medical mask handy to avoid reacting to scents, and tell people I’m allergic to perfume. I even left a recent ecumenical Easter service with my hands over my ears, feeling like someone was beating me with a bat, just from the loud bass and screeching music. A “joyful noise” to some, but intolerable for me. And though the usher asked if I was alright, when I told him the problem he just shrugged. Oh well. So Sundays I sit alone in the far back pew now, and sometimes leave early if too distracted by stimuli or pressured to participate “their” way. I stay home many Sundays, to worship or just recover from the sensory overload of the week. The Bible has convinced me I’m not “less than” those believers who enjoy crowded church pot lucks or loud praise music; God enjoys diversity and it’s okay to be different. I am just another part of the Church body – the sensitive, introverted part! God bless each of you, especially the parents who have their kids’ best interests at heart – you are a sensitive person’s hero!
Thank you for letting me know about the broken link. I was able to fix it. 🙂
It is challenging when people don’t “get it” with the needs of HSP. I don’t even expect people to. I just do my own thing now.
One encouraging story… I emailed with the pastor of the church we’ve been attending (or at least trying to attend) to ask about Easter lilies because the scent is absolutely revolting to me and makes me ill. I haven’t been in church on Easter in years because of it. He said they do use Easter lilies, but they had been looking for artificial because they have other people in the church who have a problem with them. Well, I still didn’t get to go to church on Easter this year, but at least someone knew that this kind of a thing was a problem and was trying to do something about it! That alone made me feel encouraged!
Noisy services are not an option for me or my child. Period. I won’t even visit or consider them. We feel like we’ve been assaulted physically and emotionally by the time we leave. And I do mean assaulted. God does not require this of me or my child.
Thank you for your comment!
Thank you so much for this post, Sallie. I have been struggling for years to explain to others, especially my husband, why the contemporary, evangelical model of church gives me panic attacks sometimes! Honestly, why do I have to “turn to my neighbor and say ____”? Sometimes, I just want my neighbor to mind his/her own business, and search his/her own heart. We also have forced, and I do mean forced participation in wearing a name badge. There is a table set up at the entrance to the sanctuary with a person who insists that you make yourself a name tag before going in. It’s all too much for me most Sundays. There is also a service on Friday nights that I cannot drag myself to, especially if I’ve spent the day at my job as a medical secretary at a hospital. After all the bright lights and stimulus there, I just want to go home and knit. So bless you for putting words to my feelings. It helps me understand and give myself grace.
I’m so glad you found this post and that it put into words what you have been feeling and experiencing. I love it when that happens!
I think many churches want to create “community” because they believe it is valuable and so they push things that appeal to a certain type of person. Unfortunately those very same approaches are the worst for other segments of the congregation. And, almost without fail, it is the introverts and highly sensitive people who are the “problem” for not wanting to “get out of their comfort zone” and “make an effort” to participate. Why is they always push forced friendliness and telling the person next to you “God loves you!” or “I love you!” rather than setting up coffee dates where we can get to know three other people over conversation? LOL!