The Silent Pandemic: Loneliness in the Church


“How prevalent is the issue of loneliness in our church today? Are there lonely people there? If so, who are some of these people, and what are some of their experiences? Has there been a time you felt lonely in church? What could have been done to make you feel better? What does the Bible say about this matter? How can we as Christians embrace and include the lonely as a true community of faith and friends?”

“The Silent Pandemic: Loneliness in the Church” was the title of a face-to-face dialogue jointly organised by East Asia School of Theology (EAST) and Church Equip of Capelle Consulting on 11 August 2022 at EAST. Pastor Lawrence Chua (Senior Pastor, Living Sanctuary Brethren Church) and Dr Tan Soo Inn (Director of Graceworks, author of “Spiritual Friendship”) were invited to be part of a panel to address this issue. The dialogue was facilitated by Capelle’s Ms Ting Siew Lee, a former missionary who returned to Singapore recently after ministering for 14 years in Timor Leste.

More than 40 participants turned up to hear the guest speakers share their thoughts, observations, and answers to the questions above. These participants were then subdivided into smaller groups, where they were invited to share their personal experiences with loneliness, as well as some ideas on how the church can respond to this issue. Loneliness has affected people both inside and outside the church, especially after the past few years of battling the Covid-19 pandemic, where many were forced to work from home, when onsite church services were moved online etc. Unfortunately, this issue has been seldom talked about, leaving many feeling frustrated and lost.

I really appreciated the panel for their open and honest sharing. Pastor Lawrence shared vulnerably about his struggles as a child who was given away for adoption by his family. He also shared about his experiences in senior leadership, where people would subconsciously exclude him from social gatherings, because they do not know how to relate. Dr Tan shared about his sense of loss as a child when his mom went overseas to provide for the family. He also talked about the void he felt when his first wife passed away, leaving him to care for two young children. The authenticity helped set the tone for the facilitated small group discussions later.

“Loneliness is a subjective feeling where the connections we need are greater than the connections we have. In the gap, we experience loneliness.”  (Vivek Hallegere Murthy, 21st Surgeon General of the United States).

I could totally resonate with the statement above. Loneliness is often a subjective feeling, when there is a perceived gap between the connections we need versus the connections we have. A person can feel all alone in a crowded room full of people. Remember those 10-course wedding banquets when you were seated with complete strangers? Another person may feel perfectly fine while being isolated in a room all by himself – which was my recent experience when I had to be quarantined because of Covid-19. And if there is anything the past two and half years of pandemic have taught us, it is the lesson that human connections are crucial for our physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual well-being.

If we open our eyes and our hearts to the people around us, we can see that there are many who struggle with loneliness in church. It could be a widow who has no one to talk to throughout the week, or a young adult who does not attend service because he cannot sit with a friend. It could a mother who is too busy taking care the needs of her kids, or the single who feels left out because the church seems to cater only to couples and families. Hence there are many things that we can and should do, individually and collectively, to address these heart-felt needs. It can be as simple as smiling at someone we do not know, engaging with newcomers in church, or even mobilising our youth to take the seniors out for an excursion.

The feedback from the participants were positive. They found the stories very real, and they appreciated how relevant the topic was to their churches. The data and statistics shared by Siew Lee also opened their eyes and hearts to the reality of the vulnerable demographics in our midst. Many felt validated regarding their own struggles of loneliness. Hopefully, the dialogue created a greater awareness to this sensitive topic, and in doing so, helped the church to be an attractive community, that will fulfill its destiny to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The following quotes were taken from a few of the respondents on the lessons they have learnt:

“Friendships in the church is training ground to build friendships with those in the world…”

“I am not alone. We can change the situation starting from ourselves from the ground up instead of waiting for the church to do something about it.”

“Personal mapping – thinking about the people in church before trying to set up programs or structures. Loneliness of leadership: how to love our leaders better.”

From the 33 respondents to the evaluation, more than 90% selected 5 stars or 4 stars (out of 5 stars maximum) when asked, “How relevant were the issues raised at the dialogue to you and your church?” Very thankful to God that such seminars are indeed helpful for leaders and members of churches in addressing certain current issues.


The above article is a reflection on the seminar written by Mr Lim Chin Leng, EAST alumnus (MDiv in Teaching & Exposition, 2008) and a Capelle consultant. 

Recording of the seminar is available on the seminar resource page among other related information and resources.


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