Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Re-evaluating your home church

Sounds kinda strange doesn't it? Re-evaluating your home church? When was the last time you did that? Have you ever?

Think back...how long have you been in your current church? 1 year, 2 years, 5 years, 10 years or more? Now think about this...how much have you, and your family, changed in that amount of time? A little, a lot, so much that people couldn't recognize you on the street if they knew you then?

As I look back at the churches I have attended in my life as a believer, I see similarities...and extreme differences! I chose my first church because I was at college and I had friends who said "Hey, this church has a great college class, really active and lots of fun". Yep, it might sound shallow but that is how it was chosen. Combine that with the fact that the church ran a free shuttle bus to the college campus to get me and I didn't have to beg a ride each week. Hey, I was a college kid with no vehicle...what do you expect! HOWEVER....if that was all the church offered, I wouldn't have lasted long! As it was, I learned that the Bible was not just something historical...but applicable to my daily life! A lesson I treasure to this day!

My next major church change...my husband and I chose a church that was close to our house. Yep, we were in a larger city than either of us had ever been in and we found a small church close to us. It was all about location. And we muddled through. We liked a lot of the people but really didn't get fed much there. The sermons were not impactful, there was not much in the way of bible study available, etc. We kind of just hung out there while trying to decide what to do. Then we found out the church had hired a known child molester to drive the van for the church daycare and we decided that was it for us! We really didn't want anything to do with a church willing to compromise children. While we were totally not against giving second chances to people, that went a bit far on the foolish and downright dangerous side!

Next came a church farther away....we went there for 6 months. The first day we were there we were greeted....in the next 6 months we were never greeted, never invited to Sunday school, never connected at all. We skipped an entire month of church and when we got back someone came up and said "It was so nice to see you guys last week." but we hadn't been there the week before. We hadn't been missed and it wasn't noticed if we were there. So guess what....we left!

I was at each of those churches for about a year. Then we found a home church. It was a large church....and I mean large! We went to the church the first week and I loved it! Of course, I was pumped and getting so much out of the sermon and I looked over and my darling hubby who took notes every single week was not writing a thing! Ack! Oh no! What now! Were we going to clash? Nope...this is when I learned that he took notes to help him stay focused on boring sermons but that sermon was enough to capture his attention and keep it! We had found our home! We were there a long time. Through the birth of our two daughters, through his illness and eventual death. We loved the Saturday night service that was smaller than the Sunday morning ones. We connected. We made friends. We got involved. But, after I got remarried and we were moving away, it wasn't realistic to stay there. Change needed to come.

We moved to our current church. Once again we chose because of seemingly little things...it was close to the house, we knew at least one couple who went there and it had a band. Yep. It had a band. Those were the draws! Over the last 10 years we have changed our family dynamic from Mom, Dad and two little girls to now having Mom, Dad, teenager, tween, little girl and preschool boy! WOW! What a change! And in that time I have tried various things in the church, bible study, Sunday school, hanging out with other ladies while the kids were at Awana, ladies' night outs, etc. The kids loved it. They have a great program for young children. They learn a ton. They have wonderful people there who genuinely love the kids. But I wasn't connected. We stayed there for the kids. As time passed I got involved with the youth group. I found a spot I fit! I still felt the lack of connections in the friendship area but I felt like God had a plan for me with the youth. This past year has been hard. I know I am drawn to working with the teens, but the kids were floundering. There were changes happening in the youth Sunday school that the kids didn't like. The youngest girl was just not enjoying Awana. We were getting GREAT sermons but not even getting to say "hi" to people in church. We would walk in, go to service and walk out. No connections. People would refer to my home church and I wanted to say...not a home...just a place we go to listen to great sermons with no connections to people! Then came more changes...the youth group is changing....and for reasons I won't get into, I am given a strong impression that I am not welcome or wanted to be working with the teens this fall. As all of this is happening, a friend is talking about a new church they are starting and I keep thinking...WOW! That sounds like a church I would love...but I don't want to move my kids, rock the boat, make a change, etc. More things happen....and I start to realize....maybe God is talking and I am stuck in my church rut, ignoring Him.

So along comes some serious prayer time! And I realized! A church that fits you (speaking generically here, not about any church in particular) when you are a young couple which children who are 2, 3 or 4 and the church has a fabulous children's program might NOT be such a great fit when your children are 12, 13 or 14 if they don't have an equally amazing teenage/youth program. Yet we stay. We are COMFORTABLE where we are...but are we getting the MOST out of church? My family dynamic has changed a LOT in the last 10 years. If I were to look NOW for a church, we would not look for the same things we looked for 10 years ago. Oh yes, there are still benefits at our church. It is still the same distance from our home, they still have a band, we still get fabulous, thought provoking sermons....yet we are still disconnected, our children don't feel like they are getting anything from Sunday school, we are left searching for more.

After all this time I have become convinced that maybe God is leading us in another direction. Maybe HE has a greater plan and I am missing it because I am nervous, even scared, to go to a new church where I might not know anyone! I don't wanna leave my comfort zone! Maybe I am wrong! Maybe I am misinterpreting things! Maybe I am right where God wants me and the restless and lack of peace I feel is satan and not God prompting me to stretch? Gee, how easy it would be to talk myself into staying right there in the same old rut I have been in! Does that mean my current church is a bad church? NO! Absolutely not! But even a great church might not be where God wants me and that means I am missing out on His plan in my life!

Wow! Where did this all come from? What does it mean? It means that after some really serious prayer time, my family is church hunting! It doesn't mean we hate our church, the people in it, or that there was anything horrible that happened to make us leave...it simply means that over time the call we feel from God is AWAY from our current church and TOWARD something else. We aren't sure where He is leading, but we do know we need to follow and if we don't we will miss out.

Will I miss my church, where my children are comfortable and I know the sermons will lead me toward God? Yes. Am I eagerly anticipating what He has in store for us? YES! And that is the key. I want to make sure I am listening and following Him rather than staying in my comfortable rut and missing out!

How about you? Care to re-evaluate with me? Maybe your answer will be that you are exactly where God wants you! How cool would that be!? Maybe you will find that like us, He is calling you to try out something new? Are you willing to try?

I am stepping out in faith (and lots of trepidation) and trusting that something amazing is happening in our family!

9 comments:

  1. Hi, Suz! I keep trying to comment on your post for my blog and it won't publish! I read your blog and am digesting it. I don't want you to go. I hope it won't affect our relationship at all. I'm just getting to know you!
    Thanks for your comments on my blog. Kevin and I are going to meet with the teacher and principal after she ganged up on him with another teacher today. It's the last straw and I'm going in! lol

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    1. Casey, I welcome your thoughts. This is not an easy decision and it will in no way affect our friendship. And I do feel we are just getting to know each other. There are many things that contribute to this decision and please know it was not made lightly...and that I have NOTHING against our church! I just feel like God is leading our family to some new experiences. Who knows, I might be wrong and we might be back! But I have to follow His promptings!

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  2. I will miss you all - but you sure pointed out some excellent points.

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  3. As I think about it further...I forgot one important thing I was told a few years back by my father-in-law who is a pastor. You can't attend a church for just one part...the pastor or the Sunday school or one activity....the WHOLE thing needs to be a good fit. The pastor might leave, the Sunday school teacher might change, etc. It needs to be more, an overall picture you might say.

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  4. I agree with that...it also has to be about what we have to offer and where we are going to be able to serve. If we look only at what we are getting (not saying you do that, just making a point) we are missing the REAL point of attending. Church is where we are to serve and apply our giftings to the Body of Christ. If we don't consider how we are able to do this we are missing, perhaps, the most important aspect.

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    1. Totally true. I guess part of the reason I didn't mention that is that I was looking at it from a perspective of my family...and encouraging people to prayerfully consider looking at it. Not that everyone needs to change churches, but that I think it is HEALTHY for your family and your walk with God to have a heart open to God's leading and so many times this is an area where we simply don't question and make sure we are following His lead. Not that we attend a church for only what we get, but that there is a point when we have kids that we do need to really examine if our church is meeting all the dynamics. The needs of EACH child, the needs of the parents, even the opportunities for the parents and children to serve all need to be re-evaluated. Maybe people do that and find the are in the perfect place and that is AWESOME! But they need to be willing to discuss it with God and I think that is where people, unintentionally, don't search God's will. It is easy to do when you are FIRST searching for a church, but I think not many of us go back and review that regularly.

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  5. We can't we left the church plant due to a relationship in the church that went sour analysis or second week at a different church it's not easy but we feel we can't stay at the other church because the personal relationship is too unhealthy

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  6. It is never easy when it is a change that feels forced on you rather than one you choose! I'll pray that God gives you peace about it and opens windows for amazing things for you April!

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