Have you recently visited a mega church and were blown away by the technology, glamour, beauty or famous preacher? Everything is more advanced, the atmosphere smells like fresh flowers, the preacher’s face is magnified on the ginormous big screens, the tithing envelopes are a work of art and the television cameras are all over the place recording service for the live telecast on youtube. The beautiful environment is wonderful until hundreds of people are entering church leaving you to feel uncomfortable. Your throat becomes dry, you want water, but the trip to the bathroom increases your heart rate, worried everyone’s eyes are on you. Imagine a hundred people watching you as you walk by. It is the end of the service and you are squashed in the crowd. Imagine having to squeeze through the door, bumping into strangers, worried they will speak to you because small talk is not your cup of tea. Welcome to the world of Highly Sensitive Christians.
I understand how you feel my brother or sister in Christ. I joined a mega level church and was in love with the beauty, organization, quality of preacher and technology. Sadly, the mega level church, made my anxiety reach mega level overload, making me worry about going to church. I decided enough was enough. I cannot allow my sensitivity to ruin my times at church. I developed a little action plan. I know it will help you quiet down the inner storm.
Here are 5 things I have done to help me survive and enjoy megachurch service.
1) Find the right seating place.
Finding the right seating can eliminate 80% of your anxiety and allow you to receive the word of God without stressing about hypersensitivity. The best seating in my opinion is…
In the last rows at the back and on the side of the church.
Sitting in the last row or rows means nobody is watching you.
Hallelujah, you can relax my brother.
You’re watching them (We love observing people) and HSP’s prefer watching than being watched. If you want to go to the bathroom, you can go freely. No social anxiety stress.
Another reason for choosing the back row is avoiding the traffic on your way home. When the service is completed, you will be one of the first few out of the door and to your car, avoiding traffic and the struggle to drive out of the complex.
If loud sound bothers you; sitting in the back will be beneficial. In most churches, the back rows will receive softer sound and it is perfect for HSC’s.
We tend to cry and cry during worship. People might think we’re crazy, emotional, over the top, but it is natural for us. When you’re at the back, nobody will watch you worship, so do not worry anymore, lift up your hands and flow in the spirit, my brother or sister. Let those emotions of love for God overwhelm you.
The only negatives of sitting on the side are latecomers and the ants in the pants believers, the ones always getting up and walking around the church. You will become used to them in the long run.
How do you ensure you find the proper seating?
Never come late! You will be forced to squeeze in between strangers. Their small talk will bore you and you will be uncomfortable throughout the service. Arrive 15 minutes before church begins. No more awkward small talk with strangers in church.
During special occasions at church, arrive 1 hour earlier. I know this sounds crazy. When a special speaker, a famous one visits, your church will be filled with more visitors than usual. More people will flock to church on Easter, Christmas, etc. It is important to arrive way earlier. I would take a book along to read or write poetry to pass the time. I notice some introverts are googling or listening to music. Some even pass the time by playing candy crush. It is a smart idea because they’re not focusing on the large crowd gathering in the church.
2) Get hugged by someone you know.
Getting a hug from a brother or sister will comfort and make you feel better. I suggest finding people you know in church and have a short chat to eliminate your anxiety. It is important to make friends in the megachurch, otherwise, you will be a number, a forgotten face, nobody even knows to exist.
3) Praying before Service.
In a megachurch, people probably will not be praying before a service begins. Usually, the big screen is running, Adverts or music is pumping through the surround system. Before the service begins, shut out the world, lower your head and begin to pray. Ask the Lord to help you through the service. He cares about your worries and your anxiety is something He is concerned about. Praying will relax you and prepare you to receive the word. A great idea is to wake up half an hour earlier to pray about your worries and anxiety.
4) Share your emotions with a loved one or your Leaders.
Do not hide your sensitivity. I know you worried people will shame you. I understand your concern, my friend. I was shamed many times, by non-sensitive people and leaders giving me irrelevant advice that was from a place of ignorance. I would share my concerns with leaders I knew were more empathetic and genuinely cared about me. They understood and supported me.
My mother and I sat in the third row, in the centre of the church. I was extremely uncomfortable. The thought of turning around and looking into the faces of hundreds of people gave me major anxiety. I remember having to close my eyes and breathe in slowly to calm my nerves. I tried my best to focus on the word of God but was always struggling to settle down. I told my mother about how I felt and she understood. We moved to the corner of the church and I sat on the edge with the wall to the right and my mother to left. After this, I could enjoy the word of God and worship without worrying about environmental stimuli.
5) Practice positive self-talk
When in a state of anxiety in church, I would close my eyes and tell myself everything was fine. I also memorized the following scriptures to heart.
Whenever my sensitivity went overdrive, I quoted these in my mind, while breathing deeply and exhaling slowly.
” Do not be anxious about the large crowd, Lord please give me peace.”
What if you experience an anxiety moment due to sensory overload?
You need fresh air. Get out of the church and stand outside. I know pastors will reinforce the respect for the word of God, but if you are in distress, please get up. I walked out a few times because I was suffocating and my throat was dry. My Pastor looked at me as if I was doing something wrong, but in the end, my health is more important. I remember a brother asking whether I was alright. He prayed for me and I felt better. Listen to your body. If you need to stand outside, please go!
If you’re not able to stand outside, practice the following.
– Write your concerns in your journal.
– Doodle in your journal
– Drink water and take deep breaths.
– Take notes from the preacher-word for word.
– Ask a leader to pray with you in the prayer room.
Being a highly sensitive Christian is nothing to be ashamed of. My brother or sister, you are blessed with this wonderful trait from the Father. He gave you this trait to help other people; therefore it is imperative you learn how to handle your sensitivity. You are awesome! You are blessed with every spiritual blessing.
If you cannot endure the large church groups, it will be better to join a much smaller church. Please pray about it before making any decision.
Please share your tips to surviving a church service by commenting below.