In my last post, I wrote about wanting to be on fire again, to feel that passion about going to church that I felt as a teen. I’ve been feeling this way for a while and trying to figure out what to do about it. As I thought over the past few month, maybe even the last year, I realized how lukewarm I felt about, not my faith or my God, but about attending church. It also occurred to me that I wasn’t the only one in my home feeling this way.
We have missed way more church services than we attending. No one was excited about going on Sundays to the point where most weeks we didn’t even bother to get out of bed or dressed until it was too late to make it on time.
I’ve been “regularly” attending the same church since I was 14 years old. If you asked me where I go to church, it’s the one I would have named. But it’s not working for us anymore. Something has to change. And I have prayed to feel differently to the point where I am starting to believe that God has answered that prayer with a firm “NO.” It’s time to do something different.
I did a Google search for churches in our town and found that there are over 80 churches here. Wow. I’m pretty sure we should be able to find a church that works for all of us with that many to try. Right away we can rule out all of the catholic churches, any that speak a language other than English, and a couple of denominations that we know we disagree with their doctrine. I figure that leaves us with about 40 churches IN OUR TOWN!
We started our search on Palm Sunday. I had such high hopes for it. I really enjoyed the service and the boys loved the children’s service. However, there were some really big downsides. As a visitor, I felt so out-of-place trying to figure out how to get the boys signed in. When I walked up to the “Welcome Center” and asked how to sign the boys into the children’s church, they acted like it was the strangest thing they had ever been asked.
We finally got the boys signed up and settled and headed into the service. I liked the service, but with a guest speaker they passed the offering plate twice. This is one of the biggest ways to get us to never come back. The second issue was that the closing song actually turned out to be five songs making the service last over an hour and a half. At one point my husband had finally had enough and actually walked out. We crossed this church off our list of possibilities and moved on.
For Easter Sunday, we attended our regular church. My thoughts on this were that for Easter I didn’t want to take a chance on a service where I wouldn’t know what to expect and that I might not enjoy. Plus, since it was Easter, I assumed they would be having communion. Well, you know what they say about assuming.
The service was enjoyable, but instead of communion it was a baptism service. I normally love a baptismal service, but on Easter I really needed communion. It just reinforced my feelings on needing a new church.
Over the week following Easter, as we talked about what church we would try that week, I continually said I wanted to go somewhere that I knew I could have communion. I grew up in a Church of Christ, so I knew that they do communion every Sunday. There are three of them in our town. I started Googling them to find starting times and addresses. One is a teeny tiny church, and we were concerned that because we weren’t members of that church that they might not let us take communion. One was a United Church of Christ so I wasn’t sure if they have communion every week. The third doesn’t actually have “Church of Christ” in its name so we couldn’t figure out which church it was.
Finally my husband decided that we would just drive the 30-45 minutes to the Church of Christ I grew up in. My parents decided to make the drive with us. It was kind of like going home again. Unlike the church a couple of weeks before, everyone was so friendly. We still knew a handful of people there, and the pastor was the same.
The bulletin scared my husband a bit with all the songs listed but singing out of a hymnal is much different from what he was used to and the songs don’t last nearly as long. The service was very enjoyable, and it was so nice to sit in a service where the pastor wasn’t afraid to talk about the Christian being persecuted around the world or say that abortion is wrong. And towards the end of the service, I could feel my husband tense up next to me when the preacher said he had 45 minutes worth of talking left. But he relaxed as everyone else laughed, and the service ended right at an hour.
There were definitely some downsides. The most obvious being the drive. It is just too far for us to attend regularly. The next would be that even though I want the boys to know the hymns that I grew up with, I have been attended contemporary services for too long to go back to such a traditional service. And the next issue we had is the size. With the six of us attending, we literally increased the attendance by ten percent. So this is just not a feasible option for us at this point.
For our fourth church in four weeks, we decided to try a missionary church that we had been to a couple of times years ago. Again, I Googled to find the starting times. (Do you remember when all churches used to start at 10:30?) Their website said they had a 9:15 and a 10:45 service. We headed out Sunday morning for the 10:45 service. When we got there, the sign at the road showed the service times as the same as we saw online. However, as we walked to the door, there was another sign saying the service times were 9:45 and 11.
We walked in the doors and were overwhelmed with the people and the noise. It was so loud in the entry that my husband and I couldn’t hear anything the other said. I finally spotted the area to sign the boys into the children’s church (since at this church there was no one working the welcome center.). We got them all signed in and were pointed down the hall to where the classrooms were. However, we were not told which classroom we were to take them to.
I finally found the one with a sign saying 5 & 6 year olds. The lights were off, but there were two adults in the room. They told us for the second service all the kids go into the same classroom, the one for the 1 & 2 year olds. I was so confused by everything that had happened up to this point, I said to the woman, “Church starts at 10:45, right?”
She responded with, “10:45 or 11. I don’t know. Don’t worry. You’re not too early.”
Are you kidding? Of course, I wasn’t too early. By this time it was 10:45 and I was wondering if anyone here knew what was going on or if they let you work in the kids area on your first Sunday.
I took the boys across the hall and found a teenager in charge of the room where there was nothing age appropriate for my boys. And while I certainly don’t mind a teenager working with the kids, I did want someone who appeared to care and/or know what was going on. I dropped the boys off and stepped back into the hall where my husband was waiting.
We just stood there a minute dumbfounded wondering what was going on. I noticed a back door with no alarm right behind us. I looked at him and said, “Want me to grab the boys and we’ll sneak out that door?”
We discussed it for a minute. What was the service going to be like if no one knew what was going on? What were the boys going to be doing during the service? Was the service ever going to start? We grabbed the boys and left. If it is this unorganized before hand, we weren’t hanging around to see what the service was going to be like.
For those of you keeping score, this means that in 4 churches in 4 weeks, my husband has walked out of half of them.
So what have we learned over the last four weeks?
1. The church we are looking for needs to be within a 30 minute drive from our house.
2. We want a contemporary service.
3. There must be only one time the offering plate is passed.
4. The service needs to be an hour long.
5. We would like there to be other people there around our age or at least other kids for the boys to make friends.
and most importantly to me at this point
6. The people in charge MUST know what is going on and what time the service starts.
We have laughed that we can attend a different church every Sunday for at least a year, and maybe that’s what we will do. As we’ve all learned, if it’s bad we will just walk out. I’ll keep you guys updated on our Quest for a Church.
What things do you look for in a church? What else should we be looking for?