This is one of the most difficult aspects of moving. Finding a new church home.
Though our home-church, the church we have been part of since weeks after our wedding, the only church family our children have ever known — that church — is not perfect (and what church is?), we do love the people. The people in that church have been our family for more than 13 years. Our pastor and his wife . . . well, words cannot even express how we love them. Those are the people who have watched us grow from just-out-of-college-newlyweds to parents and what some may call real grown-ups. They have prayed for us, held and played with and prayed over our babies, laughed with us and at us, and cried with us. We’ve served together and we’ve served each other. We’ve visited each other in hospital rooms and living rooms, and some of them even were in the delivery room with me when I was in the early stages of labor with our first baby. We’ve cooked together and washed dishes together and eaten meals together more times than we can count. And now, we’re supposed to go find another family like that?
Every Sunday since we moved, I have cried. Other than the days when our extended families were gathering to celebrate Christmas without us, I have been most homesick on Sundays. I suppose that’s because Sundays are when our other family is gathering to celebrate Christmas and Easter without us. And I miss them. I miss their hugs during the greeting time. I miss walking into a place where I know and am known.
Last week we visited a big church. Not big by some standards — there is a church near here with like 12,000 members. But it is big for us. So big that one child was in tears when we left him at his class, another was near tears, and one child was in tears before lunch because she missed home and definitely didn’t want to go back to the church where she might get lost. Their greeting time was so brief, I barely had time to shake the hands of the two people in front and behind me. The message was solid, and the people were friendly enough . . . it just didn’t feel like it could be home.
Another week we visited a church our children love. They mostly love it because they know another family whose children go there, so they are thinking built-in friends. We liked many aspects of this church, but my husband and I don’t know that we could feel at home there either.
Today we visited another church. This church is small. Very small. But the people seem so real, and we could feel a sense of family among them. I was thrilled to sense that these are a people with vision, with a plan to reach their community for Christ. My boys like the praise band with the drum set. My girls are concerned this church might be too small, with too few potential friends. This church is praying for growth and that God would bring leaders and servants. We have some questions about doctrine we want to ask the pastor, but we can see ourselves feeling at home there. Maybe.
But we were sort of expecting something bigger. Something with programs we could plug into. Instead, this church would give us opportunities to start programs, to serve and minister and be part of its growth. Is that what we want? I don’t know. Is that what God has planned for us? I don’t know.So we’re praying. Do we find a church family that already has programs we can plug into? Or do we join a family that has opportunity to start something new?
We’re trying to have the right balance as we visit and pray. We want a place where we will be fed, a place that is doctrinally sound, a place with people who will minister to us. But we also want a place where we can minister, where we can serve. We are not only looking at what we’ll get out of it, but that does play a part if I’m honest. Especially since we have children.
We will keep on praying.
How about you? When you have been faced with the opportunity of finding a new church home, how did you find a new family? How did you decide? How did you know that you’d found the place where you belong?