I wrote this blog after recording the Podcast titled “Church Shopping” (you can find a link to it on this page below this blog entry and it can also be found on our Podcasts page). If you have not already done so please give it a listen and tell us what you think, we would love to continue the conversation with you!
Church Shopping. I hate the term. There is something about the phrase “Church Shopping” that just doesn’t sit well with me. It is too consumeristic. I should not be going to a church because it has something other churches do not have, that would be self-serving, and I cannot be seeking self-satisfaction and at the same time worship God. So, I find myself in the strange place of needing a new church home that can also accommodate not just my special needs son, but his service dog as well. For my family, visiting a church is not as simple as just popping in on a Sunday service and checking things out. The first thing we must do is call the church to make sure they are receptive to the service dog being in the building as a House of Worship is not required to comply the Americans with Disabilities Act when it comes to service animals. We wouldn’t want to cause a scene on a Sunday morning, so we always call ahead. Either my wife or myself must stay with the dog until another handler can be trained and a good children’s ministry will require a background check on people who will be back with the kids, so we will need to take care of that as well. Our son will need one on one assistance during our visit, so an extra staff member or volunteer will also need to be available. It’s all worth it, it is just an ordeal and we wouldn’t feel good about springing it on any church.
So, finding a place that is a good fit for my kids is a must as any parent can relate but church is not just about the kids having fun, there is more to it than that, like the preaching…Right? When it comes to the teaching and preaching during a Sunday service I always want to hear the Gospel. Personally, I believe that if a subject is fit for a Sunday morning talk then it will always be able to point to the Gospel of Jesus. But, I also want the preacher to do it in a way that is relatable and never political. I get enough politics from the left and the right on Facebook, I don’t need it on Sunday morning. The only government I want to hear about in a message on a Sunday Morning is the Kingdom of God. The preacher needs to get into the message and be excited by it, get loud at times but never make me feel like I’m Being yelled at. I need to see the Passion!
But the church is not about the preaching any more than it is about the Kids. What about the band? The Music needs to be good right? The musicians need to be rehearsed, playing tight with the singers who need to be on key. The volume needs to be just right, not so loud people need earplugs, and not so quiet that you hear Betty Jo singing just as loud as the worship leader. Seriously though, trying to worship Jesus while having to wear ear plugs is distracting as all get out. It’s like trying to eat your favorite dessert with a scalded tongue. You get a feel for it, you know it’s happening, you can even taste it a little bit, but in the end, it is muted beyond enjoyment and you walk away knowing it could have been, and should have been, a more intimate experience. But Church is more than a solid kid’s ministry, biblical preaching and an on-point music ministry, right?
What else can I add to my list of church must haves? Excellent and Focused missions? Small Groups on every night of the week so I can find one to fit my schedule? Good Coffee? Ample parking? What’s their stance on women in ministry? Alcohol? Gay Marriage? Am I sounding like a consumer yet?
The point, though you may not 100% agree with me, is that while all these things are important, it is unreasonable to think the perfect church is out there. The church is, after all, the community of people that worship together and people are flawed. Therefore, every church is flawed. Yes, there are things we look for when looking for a church home. We need some place that can accommodate our unique, loud, messy family but ultimately, we are not church shopping, because we do not shop for people, we do not shop for community. We build Community by sharing our lives with the people around us and that is what a good church home is all about. I may be looking for a Sunday Service that can check the most boxes off my list but that is only a small part of what it means to find a church home. A Church can provide or put on a Sunday service, but that Sunday service will never be the church. So, if we try to judge whether a church is a good fit for our family by the Sunday service alone, we’ve missed the point entirely.
In our family situation it will take a couple of weeks to get a feel for a Sunday Service. One week I will be in the service while my wife is with the kids and the Dog. The next week I will handle the Dog while she experiences the worship service. And we will reevaluate in a couple of weeks. And in all honesty, it is not entirely on the people at the Sunday service to make us feel like this could be home. The responsibility is on us as well. We need to be willing and able to make ourselves available to meet with new people and begin to share life with them. Time must be spent together, experiences must be shared, relational equity must be built up for us to form the friendships that will help us grow. As iron sharpens iron, people sharpen people, but the act of sharpening is rough and abrasive, it can be painful, so we need people we love and who love us to help us through. All this takes time and a lot of work, but I know it will be worth it in the end.