Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Journey to Find a Church Home

So, confession....I am still an official member of the church of when I was a child. Shocking, I know, but true. And, I do use the word "member" only as a technical term. Obviously, I don't think I have attended church there since High School. Alas, THIS is what this post is about.

It seems that I have spent the greater part of my adult life searching for a church home. I knew a lot of people in college that would move their church memberships from their hometown churches to the new college church they planned to be involved with while in that city. I also knew people that once graduated from college and moved to the new city, would again move their church memberships to the new place in their new post-college city. So, all that to say, I must be in the minority on this issue, as it seems a lot of people have been "members" of many churches in their under-40 life.

But, I guess I must explain a bit about myself first that might help understand some of this background. I am not a fan of change. I mean, obviously, change happens in life, and you learn to adapt. But, given to my own devices, I would just stay in a rut. BUT, since I don't like change, when change must occur...I proceed with extreme caution. So, I knew that I would only be in college a short amount of time, so why "change" my church membership to a place I knew I would only be a few years. That just seemed like a short-term plan, and then additional CHANGE would need to occur. The same with my post-college life. I knew those were all temporary, so no need to become an official member of a church in any of those cities either.

Now, this is NOT to say that during all of these years of my life that I didn't FEEL like a church member, or behave accordingly as one. I "claimed" that church "XYZ" was my church, I went every weekend, it's where I would give my tithes/offerings, I just was not an official member. But, as also during these years, I was hopeful that I would marry, I never felt settled yet or something, because I did not have my "home" yet. I always thought that "once married and with a family, then we'll find our church home". Whether this was the right or wrong thing to believe, not going to get into a debate on that. I'm just giving background as to WHY this journey we are on is indeed a "journey".

So, fast forward a few years, and now I am married, living in a new city, about to have our first child. So, we were really on a search to find a church to call home. But, in a HUGE city, this was proving to be a difficult endeavor. When I say it took months and months of looking, I really am not kidding. And, if you have never experienced this, you really just can't fully understand. Well, during these months, our son was born, and that pretty much put an end to our church searching for a while. And, then when we were finally ready to weather a stranger church with a newborn, and begin to find churches that we liked, we also began to realize that these "big city" churches make you take a membership course to become a member. Well, that was new. "Back in the day", I could have sworn that all people did was walk down the aisle, tell the preacher that you wanted to be an official member of this church, and move your "letter" from church A to church B.

So, we finally found a church that we felt "home" at, and we actually thought "Ok, let's do this, THIS is the church we should change our memberships too and become an active member of". Ok, fine, and we knew that we were going to need to take a membership course to proceed. Ok, fine. WELL, guess what - those membership courses were during the week on the evenings. Well, GUESS what we were doing during the week on the evenings? Working, or travelling for work, or trying to manage to work all day, pick up the tired/hungry kid and get him to bed before he went totally banshee crazy on you. I'm sure they offered a weekend class, but, then they didn't offer childcare. And, that was difficult, because how will you find someone to watch your baby for just a couple of hours. So, for anyone reading this in the ministry - if your church requires a membership class, then please help make it possible for those that want to become a member to find a way to attend the classes by having them on Saturday morning with childcare or Sunday with childcare, or something.

Alas, after a while of trying to figure that out, we just stopped trying. We loved the church, still do, and we were involved in the church as much as a legitimate member, we just weren't "card carrying members". But, this was probably our first "family" church. Notice I didn't call it our church home, THAT is intentional.

Well, we stayed at this church for many years, I would say for the majority of the time we lived in that city. We still really do miss that church, because we have not yet been able to find something similar in our current city.

So, now we were living in a different new city, and by this time we were a family of 4. We were lucky in the previous city to have found a church to regularly attend while we only had 1 child, and that child was small, portable, and without much emotion other than basic infant/toddler needs.

Now, we were going to embark on another "find a church journey". The interesting twist this time was the house we were living in was temporary. We had learned from previous moves and friends that when moving to such a very large area, it really is best to try out some areas of the city before you decide where you want to send kids to school, who do you want to be your neighbors, etc. So, we were careful to begin our church search not in a location too close to our current home. We were looking city-wide for where might our new church be.

Well, let's just say, when you think finding a church is difficult with just you and your spouse, it is an ENTIRELY NEW adventure when there are 2 kids in the mix. AND, even more so, when one of the kids has more emotional stress about change than you EVER thought possibly for yourself to have. So, this was a very difficult and trying phase. We would really only be able to try maybe 1-2 churches out, then just have to stop and let the stressed child become "normal" again. So, we would stop trying, often just going back to wherever we had just tried out, or often just watching services online from our beloved church in the prior city.

So, this went on for a while, I actually don't remember how long it was, since I've also learned in life that your brain has a funny way of "forgetting" difficult/stressful timeperiods. Somehow, we FINALLY found a church in our current city. It was not exactly what we were looking for, since it was a bit far from our house. But, hey, we were really tired of looking, the kids had just had enough as well, and we settled in.

But, we soon began to learn that "settling in" did not mean "settling". We were learning and our children were learning and growing, and we were meeting people, and this was "maybe" going to be our church home? Maybe?

But, remember that part about our home at this point was just a temporary home. Well, the time was approaching that our son would be starting school soon, and we needed to decide where he would be attending. Which meant, we needed to quickly pick an area of town, get moved and settled, before school started.

So, we moved. The new house is not all that far from the old place (20 min maybe), and the "old" church is probably only 5-10 min farther away. So, all was fine. We moved, got settled, kept going to the church we had found, and all was fine. But, really, was it? THIS is when our Journey to find a HOME really began.

See, our home we built here, we built to be the forever home. Now, how long is "forever", of course no one really knows, right? But, we really felt led to be in this area, to be in this subdivision, this school district, everything. And, for the first time, I think in either of our lives, we are home. THIS is our home. We finally feel settled and content. It has taken a LOT of years to get to this place, but we are here. And, "here" is NICE. HERE is where we have vested interest to meet our neighbors, to be a part of THIS community, to embrace all that this town has to offer, because unless God changes his plan for us, we really don't see ourselves moving for a long, long time.

WHICH, is what has put us now BACK onto the Journey. See, this is where it gets interesting being a parent. As adults, we really like our church here, we really would not change it. But, as a parent, we see there is a need to have our children worship with people they also see at school, or at the park. They need to have friends at church that are in their town. They need to be able to go to VBS or Wedn night kids service, or whatever else. And, with a church that is 25 min or so away in a HUGE city, those things are just not going to happen. We were quickly being led to find a local church.

So, now we are struggling with this. We are torn between finding something local, and going back to what is familiar. And, honestly, our children were thriving there, so it is really time to try AGAIN to find a new church. But, we keep coming back to yes. If THIS is home, this community is where we will live and support, then we all (as a family) need to worship with those that are our neighbors. We are on the brink of finding not only our home home, but for the first time in our adult lives, of finding our CHURCH HOME?

And, this is a bit scary, not going to lie. This is us making a commitment to be a part of a church, not just Sunday attendance, but REALLY a part of it. This is us making a CHANGE from being just an attender to a MEMBER.

BUT, we are not there yet. So, we have been back/forth with all of this since probably this past fall. But, honestly, we just couldn't bring ourselves to try out churches again. We knew the drama that occurred the last time we tried to haul the kids from place to place every Sunday. And, we just couldn't. It just wasn't time, we were fine.

But, a few weeks ago, I think God had a different plan.

We were running very late for our regular worship place. I don't even remember what all had occurred on that morning to make us so late. But, we were probably still 10 min away, and we just stopped, pulled over, and said we can't go, this really is just too late. Well, NOW what to do - go home? go to lunch? try something new? what? So, we are back on the interstate headed home, and then we remember a church RIGHT there that we had been to before for a soccer meeting. So, we informed the now anxious kids that yep, we are going to church after all, and it's a new place, and no - we have no answers for all of the questions, and we are all a bit scared too. But, hey - we will all be ok, and we will figure it out. And, you know, it was actually fine. I think given the about 5 minute notice, the kids didn't have time to fret too much before it was time to get out of the car and get into action.

Now, this story would be very unique if I told you that we found our church home on that day. Unfortunately, that was not the case. But, what that day did do is put us back on our Journey. The one that we knew we needed to be own and just couldn't get there by ourselves. So, now we are I guess 4+ weeks into this journey, and we are not sure yet if we have found the church for us. But, I'll tell you what else - this time around, all 4 of us are tolerating the change quite well. There are questions each Sunday, as would be expected, but no tears.

So, that's a very long story of how we got to where we are today. I'll have to tell you more next time about what all the last few weeks have taught us.

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