Two questions that come up a lot, especially in progressive faith circles (but that at the root are the same question) are: I don’t know how to talk about my faith with other queer/trans folks because they’ve been really hurt by religion. And I’m really worried my church is dying but it doesn’t seem like anyone cares about church anymore so how do we revive it?


Beneath both of these questions are several deep concerns:

  • I want to talk about my faith which is really important to me with the community that is also really important to me but I also don’t want to cause harm. I worry that by showing up as my full self I’m going to do damage or alienate people. 
  • I really care about my church community and it hurts me that other people don’t seem to care but I also don’t know how to make them see why this place is so important to me. 
  • I don’t know how to talk about my faith with people outside of my faith. 
  • I don’t understand why faith isn’t important to other people. 

But more than anything there is this sense:


I don’t know how to connect my faith with the rest of my life.


Wait, wait, wait, I hear you say. That’s not it! My faith is super important to my life!


But my experience has been the folks who don’t know how to talk about their faith to people outside of their faith, the folks who don’t know how to talk about why church matters to them in a way that’s compelling to other people, the folks who don’t know how to express why they go to church haven’t fully integrated faith and church into the rest of their life. 


Yes. Your faith and your experience of church is deeply important to you, but can you express what kind of impact it’s had on your life outside of Sunday? 


Part of the problem, I think, is our desire (even subconsciously) to convert. It’s not enough that church or faith is important to us, we need it to be important to other people as well. And the other person can feel that. They feel like they’re being sold. That you’re trying to convince them of something.


And I think that’s also why it feels weird to you to talk about. Because you also feel like you need them to understand, to care, to be a part of the thing you love.


What if you could talk about your faith and it didn’t matter if the other person understood or not?  Listen, I have friends that LOVE things I will never understand. Things like math and certain bands and esoteric philosophies. I don’t love those things. I barely understand those things. I don’t understand why my friends love those things. BUT I love my friends. So I will listen to them talk about those things. I will share their love and their excitement. I will love them in the thing that they love even if I don’t love it myself. But the second they try to convince me that I, too, must think Math is the greatest thing ever… well now I’m out. See how that shifts the balance?


What if you could talk about your church and it didn’t matter if the other person ever walked in the door or not? How would that change how you talked about your experience? What would that free you up to do? What kinds of connections could be made that couldn’t be made otherwise?


If it becomes about sharing your joy and not convincing someone to join you in it, the tenor of the conversation shifts. They way we bring ourselves to talk about what we love shifts, the way the person hearing it shifts. 


Instead of: Here’s why I’m a Christian and you should be okay with Christians it becomes, here’s how my faith has shaped my life and brought me comfort. Here’s why I still stay in Christianity even though it’s been a mess for other people. And also, here’s why I totally get that you’re not interested. 


Instead of: My church is awesome and you should come! It’s “I really love this community. I have a sense of peace from the ritual of Sunday morning. I get so much out of serving with other people. Where are the places you find peace? What are your rituals?”


These shifts open up the conversations instead of shutting them down. They are invitations to story and experience instead of conversion tactics. 


Does this mean you can’t ever invite someone to your church? Of course not! But you have to be okay with them not being interested or not wanting to come. Or coming once and not wanting to ever come back. Sharing can’t be about the result, it has to be a genuine attempt to connect with another person about something you care about.


Which also means that if you really care about this person and talking about faith or church is traumatic for them because of their history, then you don’t talk about it with them! And you decide, based on what they need and what you need, what kind of friendship you can have with this person. Maybe it doesn’t work for your closest confidant to be someone with whom you can’t talk about your faith and church. That’s okay! It’s not a reflection on the goodness of either of you, you just might have to shift some things. 


Bottom line: find ways to talk about your faith that let’s go of any expected outcome and you might find it a lot easier to talk about your faith and church.