We’re in the market for a church! Anyone have one they’re willing to share?!
Across the Tri-County Kids area, a tapestry of religions and churches blankets our communities. Some are bursting with color and prominence right in the center of the city, and others tucked neatly into the corners of the countryside. From Pentecostal, to Assemblies of God, to Catholicism, Lutheran, UCC, Baptist, to new churches gathering in community centers and schools, or established churches laced with legacy, there's something for everyone.
. . . .Right?
"Church-shopping" is the phrase used when seekers set upon a personal journey to find a congregation that embraces their chosen religious morals and beliefs. Through a move to a new area, or the desire to seek out something different, many are finding that the best way to connect to a church is to go out and try a few.
If you are dedicated to a specific religion, this obviously narrows down your choices and it may mainly come down to location or service times. But what about those of us that are still exploring? Still seeking? Still . . . shopping?
Church-shopping is a new thing for me. I was raised in a specific religion that I am no longer a part of, and my husband wasn’t raised in any particular religion. Given our history, we’ve tried to forge a new relationship with God. and our spirituality. Moving here, I thought we may get a fresh start on our journey. But, it hasn't been as easy as I thought it would be.
We've had a few bumps along the way. First, it came down to navigating two huge hurdles.
The first biggest obstacle wasTIME.
Four months after moving to this area, I became pregnant with our second child. We were still in the midst of getting to know our new communities and trying to feel more settled. Almost immediately, my pregnancy put an end to that.
I ended up on bedrest for about 8 months – you many remember, my pregnancy was incredibly similar tothis mom’s experience. I could barely lift my head off the pillow without getting violently ill, ended up hospitalized with a PICC line and TPN line for the duration of my pregnancy.
Every single thing about our life had to change, and getting connected to our community fell by the wayside. There was no time to explore or nurture new relationships. We were just trying to get through each day.
After our son was born, I was so ready and willing to jump back in living life again. This included learning more about community churches. But, life was about to throw us another challenge – the hardest one yet.
Our second biggest obstacle was COMMITMENT.
When our youngest son was four months old, my best friend passed away. My beautiful, amazing best friend, whose friendship inspired and motivated me to be authentic and self-confident, who showed me how to embrace love and life, was gone. Abby was a sister to me, an Auntie to my children, a family member to my husband. Her passing completely broke me – broke our entire family.
I did not want to open myself up to anyone – definitely not a new church community. I was numb to religion and felt a huge wall between myself and my spirituality. I was not in a space to be committed to the journey of finding the right church.
I won’t bore you with the details (yet, anyway!) of my faith journey over these past 18 months since Abby passed away, but I will say that my perspective has since changed. Now, I feel a very specific and intense calling to find a connection to faith than I have ever felt before.
So, we’ve been church shopping.
Which is incredibly awkward.
There’s nothing more unsettling than being on such a personal and intimate journey as finding your Faith, and, at the same time, feeling like you are on display at each new church and trying to figure out in one hour if this is the place for you.
As we are not necessarily looking for a specific religion, our options are open and varied, and we've come across contemporary, traditional, casual and formal services. I've tried to focus in on what's most important to us to find our place, and found it comes down to three big things:
#1: Our Beliefs
My husband and I were raised very differently when it comes to religion, yet we both have very similar beliefs. We are open and wanting to do this differently for our family, to see a new side of God that neither of us were necessarily given. Is the church open to where we are at, and will welcome us while also understanding we are still on a journey?
#2: Our Children
With two young kids (one of which is adamantly entering the Terrible Two’s at an alarming volume!), attending a new church is daunting in and of itself. I want my children to have a faith experience that is appropriate for their age. I do not want them to feel like they are forced to sit still and be quiet as a grown-up addresses other grown-ups, and I also don’t want the experience to be filled with stress as I try to desperately keep them quiet. Some churches have welcomed the wiggling hips of our four-year old as he dances to the worship music. Some prefer us to keep our kids contained in a separate worship area. How does the church welcome and engage with children? How does the church nurture children's relationship with God?
#3: Our Location
We live in one of the more rural towns in the Tri-County Kids area. We enjoy living in small community, but also love taking advantage of the other communities around us. We’ve gone to many churches in other cities as a way to experience other services not found in our town, and sometimes that in and of itself has been met with skepticism. At one church, we were asked repeatedly why we didn’t just attend a church in the city we lived in. Message received, I thought after that conversation. Only people in this particular city are welcome at this church. Does the church welcome and encourage newcomers to join or are we supposed to stick to a 5-mile radius to find our faith?
Needless to say, it hasn’t been easy. But, I also know that from other life experiences, the best things in life are worth the effort.
And we’re not about to give up just yet!
Have you ever gone “church-shopping?” Any tips?! What worked for you? Are you part of a church that you love?