Churches: Being a Long-Term Visitor

In the last three years we have visited four churches for several months at a time. But none of them have held us. There are reasons for that. I'll get into those later.

But first I want to say to anyone who runs a church website, make sure your address and service times are on the website. You would not believe how many churches have a website but don't give directions or time on their site. Some you can't even tell what city they're in.

Okay, visiting.

We went to the Vineyard when they were in the middle of a pastor change. Bad idea. People were hurt because the old pastor was leaving. People were hurt because they guy they liked didn't get picked to be the pastor. So we went away and visited around. We didn't find anything we liked or even felt comfortable with, so we went back to the Vineyard. The new pastor was interesting. The music was good. My youngest loved the Vineyard. There was one major drawback though, they didn't have classes for middle school/high school age kids and my oldest is that age. We could keep him with the youngest for a while, but then what? Plus, he needed a more structured classroom. So we moved on.

We went to a Baptist church. We've been to one before. But not a big one where all the ladies dress well and in beautiful skirts. My husband liked that part. The sermons were not very interesting. And you had to bring your kids to the sermon if you stayed for class and the service. So we just came for the sermon and sent the kids to class. My eldest loved the Baptist church class he was in. My youngest didn't. He missed the interaction with kids of different ages. Eventually the folksy-country presentation of the pastor got to be too much for my husband and we moved on. I missed getting to know people in class.

We went to a non-denominational church. The minister was good. The music was okay. But this church had three major strikes against it six months into visiting. One, no one was even greeting us. Even though my husband worked the video system. Even though I had taught VBS. Even though we'd gone to both church and class for the whole time. Two, the financial minister preached every Sunday. And every Sunday he said that if you would give God money, God would fix all your problems. My husband got tired of hearing that. So we tithed for several months. Guess what? We got into more debt. Three, the youth minister who was teaching my eldest quit. They weren't going to be able to replace him. There wasn't going to be a youth group at all.

Then we went to an Assembly of God. We went to one our first year of marriage. I love the music there. I thought the minister was okay. They didn't have to beg people for money, because people gave regularly. They have a wonderful youth group and a kids' ministry that is incredible. Unfortunately, my kids don't enjoy LOUD music. Which is the only way this church knows how to do it. And despite their mother's vivacious and in-your-face personality, they don't feel comfortable with it at church from the front of their class. Which is how it was. So, once again, after visiting long enough that they should have been feeling more comfortable, we left.

In the meantime, we visited several churches. One my husband and I loved, but the kids hated. The adults in charge ignored them, didn't take care of them, and basically acted like they weren't even at the church. We went back one more time, just in case it was a fluke. It wasn't. One we went to and every single thing, including the songs, were about money. One was a big production, with lots of classes for both parents and kids, but our whole family felt overwhelmed by the number of rules they felt were necessary to run a big church safely. One we called ahead to find out about services. They gave us times, told us they would be looking for us. Okay, I know that's polite Southern charm, but still… We got there and even though it was obvious we were visitors, no one greeted us. No one offered to help us find the class for the kids. No one came up and talked to us afterwards, although we identified ourselves during the service as being visitors.

So now we're visiting the Church of Christ that my husband went to growing up. Maybe we'll even stay. It will be weird. I'm not one to keep my beliefs to myself and some of the stuff they teach is just malarky. Plus, sometimes they talk about stuff they don't have a clue about. (What the Catholics believe, for instance. Or the Pentecostals.)

I did enjoy the class this morning, though. The teacher seemed to realize that people had different ideas about the subject. He shared what he thought. What the passage said. What he thought the passage said. He talked about other things people say about the topic which aren't in the Bible. (That was news to me. I had thought there was a passage that said that, but I looked it up and it didn't.)

I guess we'll have to see. I wish we could find someplace we feel comfortable with and go there. I'd like to settle in and make friends. I've been here three years. That's long enough that I should have made more progress than I have.