Today we visited a church that’s closer to our new house. It’s a bilingual (Spanish & English) daughter church of the church we go to currently, and it’s a bit closer to us. They’re only a little over a year old, so the church is still pretty small (there were 30-40 people there). We were warmly welcomed, though, and really enjoyed our morning worship!
I have been wanting to check out this church for a long time, and finally today all the stars aligned so we were able to get there in time.
We aren’t sure we want to switch churches, though. I think we’re both a bit conflicted about it, and I’m hoping that I’ll be able to sort through my thoughts by writing about it. We both really like our current church. It’s really big, so there are a lot of opportunities to minister and be ministered to. There are groups of almost any “season of life” (we go to the “young families” group right now). The worship and teaching are excellent. We feel encouraged, refreshed, and challenged there.
What’s the problem then? Well, our church is nestled in the suburbs of metro Atlanta. Now that we’ve moved, it’s about 30 minutes away, which makes for a far drive to get involved. And, since a lot of people live that far away going in the opposite direction, I’ve found that getting to know others outside of church is often easier said than done.
Another big thing is that most of the people who attend are upper-middle to upper class. This isn’t a criticism – I think they are genuine people who love God. However, it’s not really the socioeconomic level where we are right now. We notice a disconnect between our values and priorities, and those of the people we’ve befriended. I don’t mean that they are wrong, just different than ours. Sometimes we struggle to find ways to relate to people.
I feel like we try really hard to foster the relationships with other couples in our Sunday School class. The one exception is we’re not very good about getting up and going to the class on Sunday mornings. But, every time they have an event outside of class and we are free we try to go. Even if it’s a football game! :-) I guess I just feel that we try really hard. And even after almost 3 years we are still trying really hard. I miss feeling comfortable with people. (There are a few people we’re comfortable with and we definitely appreciate those friendships!)
I’ve been wondering what we’re doing wrong, if it’s us or if it’s them. Or if it’s just not the right place for us. Why does it seem to be impossible to make good friends after college?
So with all these thoughts in mind, we visited this other church today. The first thing we noticed is that people had heard of where we live! At our church, partly because we live so far away, and partly because we live on the “other side of the tracks”, a lot of people ask “Where is that?” when we tell then the name of our city. Not only had people at this church had heard of it, but we even met another couple who live in the same neighborhood as us! They were also both missionary kids who went to a small Christian college and we had several mutual friends. (Including your hubby, Beth!) It was fun to meet someone who lives so close.
There are other things we liked about this church, and that’s namely the size. I probably prefer a slightly larger church, but I understand that they are new and growing. There is just something more comfortable to me that I just don’t get in a big church. (Our current church is 3 or 4,000 members.) I like knowing everyone, being involved in the workings of the church, and having a place where I’m needed. It’s so easy to disappear in a big church.
One huge negative about the church we visited today is that they don’t have any sort of nursery. Savannah is a good baby, but she *loves* to talk and babble so when she’s in the service I pretty much get nothing out of the sermon. Now, there are 3 pregnant women in the church right now so I have a feeling the lack of nursery might change in the future. :-) But I do like the nursery at our current church.
When we became members of our current church, our pastor challenged us to be committed to the church. He discouraged church hopping every few years, but rather trying to stay and work through problems or issues. (He likened it to marriage in this respect.) We went to our first church 2 years and then we’ve been at our current church for 3 years. Are we going to treat churches like we’ve treated places of living? Moving every year or two just because we are bored or dissatisfied? I would rather not – I really want our kids to grow up in one church, if possible.
But, I feel like things have changed in our hearts and lives in the past few years. Once I craved the suburban lifestyle that so many in our church have. But now, I’m content with our neighborhood and (the potential of) our 50-year-old fixer-upper house. We live much farther away from our church now, and I wish I knew more people on our side of town. (Especially for things like home Bible studies!) Since we own our house we are committed to this area and fostering community here. This new church is a place where I’d feel comfortable bringing our neighbors, especially because it’s bilingual.
Anyways that’s what is on my mind. I am not sure where God is leading us right now. I’ll let you know what we end up doing. :-)
10 thoughts on “visiting churches”
This is so interesting! I think visiting churches and why people stay at the churches they do is all so fascinating.
We visited another church last Sunday (a PCA one, in fact!). We had liked the one we had been attending, but it wasn’t a growing church, it was small and there just wasn’t something right about it, I guess. Oh, and Johnny was often the only child.
Anyway, the daughter church you visited sounds promising. Maybe it’s worth a few more visits? And like you said — it will probably have a nursery soon, especially if more babies show up and there is a need!
And soon enough, Savannah will likely be able to sit through church, quietly. It might take a few years, but that’s still a likelihood that it’ll happen! :)
I agree with your pastor- church-hopping shouldn’t be done frivolously. Moving out of a church’s neighborhood, though, is a valid reason to switch. Your church has a place- just as all the churches in the New Testament did- and is ministering to its town and neighbors. You want to be a part of the community you live in, and worship and serve alongside your neighbors.
We know we’ll move sometime in the future (years from now), and struggle with what to do about a church- we love love love our current church, but, when we move, want to move about 30 mins away and be involved in the community we move to- which would mean church-hopping again. I think we’ll decide to set down roots and join a church in the community, a church that serves our neighbors that are most nearby, even if we have to give up some of our preferences in a church. I’m not looking forward to church shopping, though.
I talked to Paul this morning and he said he wants to listen to the pastor a few more times to make sure the teaching is edifying and challenging. I can’t say I heard any of the sermon since Savannah was so distracting to me.
I do want to clarify that I don’t think our church is *wrong* for ministering to upper class. I think it’s a very needed area, and the people from what I’ve noticed often use their influence to do awesome things for God.
Kacie: My family has left churches in the past because there were just no other kids. (Or, nothing for the kids – no programs or Sunday School or anything. So my parents couldn’t get involved in anything because there was nothing to do with us.)
I agree that church-hopping for church-hopping sake (or petty reasons) is just not good. It’s not healthy for you or the church. But the fact is, you have moved further away. Second, when the core group of members from your church left to start this new church, they weren’t church-hopping; they were supporting a new church plant by the mother church :-). If you choose to move to the new church and aren’t just going to spend another year or so “testing it out” or hopping between the two churches, but really decide to dedicate yourself to the new church, then you’re not doing any different than the core members. Having attended your current church, I know your pastor totally sees it this way. If you all prayerfully consider moving to the new church and find after a few weeks or a month that it is the best choice for your family, I definitely think you can do it with a good conscience. Even go to the elders (like, all 150 of them, haha!) of your current church and explain that you have moved further away, you love their church, but you feel led to help support this new church plant. They would totally appreciate hearing why you made your decision, so they’re not left with another “inactive” member who left for no reason.
Another thought, I’ve found that attending “extra” Sunday school activities is not a good way to get to know people. They’re used to hanging out with the same people in class each Sunday, and it’s hard to mesh with an already “meshed” group of people, you know? I’m sure if you regularly attended Sunday school it would be much easier for you to get to know people :-).
I hope you find what’s best for y’all!
Susan: That makes sense, about not attending Sunday School. I suppose things were a little better when we did attend regularly (before Savannah was born), though I don’t think we ever really felt like we were able to stop trying.
We used to have a really good group of friends, but that group fell apart due to some personality clashes, and then one couple moved away, another got divorced, etc. I miss that group!
It’s not church hopping to move to a church that’s in your community. Sounds like you’re wisely considering this. If you do move to the new church, make sure to let your current pastor know and officially switch your membership.
Also, if I lived in Atlanta, I would go to church at North Point just so I could say I go to church with Jon Acuff (Stuff Christians Like).
Becky: I must admit, in a small way the celebrity aspect makes me want to stay at our current church. One of the worship leaders is an accomplished musicians… you hear her songs on the radio and she has won Dove awards… I like telling people I go to church with her!
I agree with everyone who said it’s not church hopping if you move away. You probably *should* be plugged into your home community!
When we bought our house, we continued on at our old church, but it was now a 30-minute drive to get there. That became wearisome. It’s one thing to just drive in 30 minutes on Sunday morning, but if you’re at all involved, those trips are more frequent, and it just becomes a pain. AND, by not living near anyone else, we didn’t have the benefit of just spontaneously getting together with people, trading favors (like catsitting), etc. It was hard to maintain friendships.
We looked for a new church closer to home. We found exactly what we needed (strong women’s ministry, solid music program for me, youth ministry opportunities for both of us), and we’ve been at our current church for 8.5 years now. It’s a small church, which is wonderful, as we know everyone. Steven and I have both belonged to really big churches, and we both prefer small now. It feels more like a home than an experience, if that makes any sense. Our church is our extended family.
I’m telling you all this as an encouragement to look around. It’s not church hopping if you’re wanting something closer to home. That’s just common sense. It’s just too hard to maintain friendships when you have to drive so long to see anyone. You don’t want to have to do that every time Savannah has a playdate. And if you’re like the families in our church, you’ll hire sitters from the youth group, and 30 minutes is a LONG way to pick them up and take them home. Just some things to think about.
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