But now indeed there are many members, yet one body.

1 Corinthians 12:20

I fit right into my church. Really. I’ve attended my church since I was a teenager–with only a couple of years elsewhere for various reasons. My family attends my local church, my mom and dad, brother and sister-in-law, and my best friend. People I’ve known since I was ten attend my church–people who attended my first wedding, saw me through a divorce, gave me hugs on Sabbath mornings when I stunk of alcohol. These people know me and know me well. I fit right in like a daughter, sister, aunt, and friend (which I am).

While I may fit in really well at my local church, I sometimes feel like I just don’t fit in well in the church. Sometimes I even stand out.

I have green hair.

Think Emerald City, scalp-to-split ends, punk rocker green. I love it. Whether it’s a phase or my new permanent style, it makes me happy and, for now, it stays. The green hair combined with a tattooed forearm may not bother people in my local church, but I seem to get some raised eyebrows elsewhere.

This used to bother me…a lot. Having just turned 33, I think a lot about who I am and whose I am, and where I am. I am a Seventh-day Adventist, but the picture I’ve painted in my mind of what an Adventist is has sometimes messed up my perception of who we are. Every person in our church is a who. We are all people. We are all different. We all stand out in our own way.

For years I have seen so many people struggle to be like other people in the church, like what we think an Adventist should be like when really, we just need to let go and let God. What I mean is, if I am comfortable with my relationship with God and how I fit with Him, how much should I fret over how I fit in with others? The people who see me at Women’s Retreat and raise their eyebrows may form an opinion about me when they look at me, but the people who rub elbows with me on the daily know me well. What do they see?

For sure, they see green hair, but I hope they also see exactly what God sees.

If you’re worried about fitting in in the church, start by fitting in with God. In my experience, you get a lot further in this arena by prayer and Bible study—much more than rule-following and conformity.

Here are some tips that have helped me grow into a relationship with my church and with God in recent years:

Prioritize Authenticity

No one likes a faker—not the local church, not the Christian church, and not your family, friends, or God Himself. If you say one thing and do another, people cannot trust you or relate to you–because who are they relating to!? They don’t know who you are.

Prioritize Quality Time

This doesn’t mean you have to plan a church social every week. It doesn’t even mean you have to join or start a small group or study. You can actually just spend time with others for the fun of it. Invite someone in your church out for a walk, a play date, a coffee and donut, or literally anything you like to do. Prioritizing quality time doesn’t mean you meet with others to have a phone-staring experience. Leave your phone in the car! Prioritizing quality time doesn’t just mean with fellow Christians either, but also with God. Instead of scrolling through Instagram during the sermon, open a Bible with pages and feel its weight on your lap as you read along with your speaker. Really be present during church and every time you’re with others.

Prioritize Church

Church attendance may not be a priority for you and your family, but God is. You think your church will be there every week, so you can skip a week if you wake up late, plan a family outing, switch up the budget to pay less tithe and offering, and more to charity, youth group, or other worthy cause. While it may seem like an easy decision when you make it, failing to make your church a priority–including church attendance, financial support, time commitment, and prayer support–you create distance between you and the rest of the congregation. What the church is often left with (especially a small one) is a large burden on those few that are prioritizing church. This is no way to build a relationship.

For further reading on this topic, turn in prayerful study to 1 Corinthians 12.