I would not have chosen to leave our church, but when we moved 90 miles up the road last fall we decided that was too far to drive each Sunday. (Although for a minute we considered it.) There were a slew of things that made it difficult to leave, the most significant being many of the people in our church had become like family.
In 2011 Christmas landed on a Sunday, the question wasn’t if we were going to church, in fact I thought it would be quite special to sit with so many good friends on Christmas morning, the question was ~ what to wear. Our family stays in pajamas all day on Christmas, with feeling like our church is family the girls and I decided to go in our pajamas. (The guys wore suits – to balance our attire.) Our church family had become so much a part of our lives that our pajama decision seemed natural. (Note: except for a few children, we were the only people, in a packed church, wearing pajamas! I still don’t regret that decision.)
For fourteen years our church was a central part of our lives. This tribe came alongside us and our children, having influence in each of our lives. They led us, ministered to us, loved us, and gave us opportunities to grow in service to, and care for others. Consequently our search for a new church is not something we’ve taken lightly; this new community will matter to us.
It was harder than expected to begin the search, in fact we took many Sundays off. (During this time so many kept asking us if we had found a church yet. That, my friends, is a caring question for which we were grateful.) Kevin and I knew we wouldn’t give up meeting together with a group of believers, so at last we began our church search in earnest. When we did began our quest to find a church home I quickly discovered it was with grieving heart; I missed my people and the connection I felt each week. Going to church doesn’t feel the same here, but I have been known to say, “God is not a feeling”, so our search is about so much more than settling into a feeling. We are not going to feel connected right away anyway, so we will look for the things we’ve learned are important through our home church, they did these things well.
As we talk through our Sunday experiences we’ve focused on these things:
- Is the message scripture based, and is scripture used in context?
Teaching the Word is what matters. We’re looking for the Word to be clear and the gospel truth to be heard.
- Is worship led or performed?
Worship leaders have the awesome responsibility and honor of leading us to the throne, the cross, to God. Excellence in worship matters, performing does not. I’m being challenged with a little different worship style, but worship isn’t about me, it’s about God. I want familiar worship, but what I need is to focus on what matters, and that’s not me. This is not a bad challenge for me to be working through.
- Do the people seem connected to each other, is the atmosphere friendly and welcoming?
This matters because “the church” is the people. How they interact with each other gives a window into who they are.
- Is this a church that serves beyond it’s walls?
Love God, love others ~ this is the greatest command, so this matters.
- Does what we believe align with their “What we believe” statement?
We have chosen a church to attend each Sunday. We are mostly in that place of “last in and first out” on Sunday mornings ~ we call it hovering. We’re getting closer to the ground, but we’re not quite ready to land. We’re grateful for the opportunity to occasionally drive to our home church, where they did the above things well, and also feeling peaceful about the steps we’re taking to land in a new church community.
If you’ve had to search for a new church home, please feel invited to share your experience by leaving a comment. I’d be so interested in learning about your church search process!