We’ve all heard that August was the month with the highest number of church shoppers. Below are the reflections of one August church shopper:
Our first sunday in town, we went to the ‘neighborhood church’. We are big church people, so our expectations were low, but the pastor was new, young (35), female and a great preacher. That being said, the church has experienced some starts and stops, as well as a slow decline. Their attendance is about 300 but they have 3 services, so they’re all pretty small. At our service, the room was set up for 250+ but less than a hundred were there. The room was uncomfortably empty. We went to the earlier service (contemporary) and the music was - weak. I mean they were all trying, but if you’re looking for great music, you wouldn’t find it there. But as I said, the sermon was great. After church, one member said they had a welcome packet for us, but even though we hung around for more than 5 minutes, and poked around in the narthex, too, no one ever approached us again. I know we’ll be back, but I don’t know if we’ll make it a church home… I just don’t know who we’d find to hang with there.
The next Sunday we went to a church I had joined while a student at the local university, so I felt deep ties there. It’s a typical downtown church. We went to the classic service. Their music was just okay, but the choir seemed thin. That’s not too unusual in the summer. We already knew the pastor there, and it felt good to see familiar faces. Also, a few people greeted us who we knew before. After all this time in other places, I was surprised, how comfortable and at ease I felt. My husband's experience wasn’t the same, of course. He didn’t grow up in the church, so he had no ‘oh, i remember this’ feelings about the service or the sanctuary. The service was too formal for him. He said he’s okay with going there, but not excited about it. However, a friend of his came and sat with us during worship. That was nice.
All in all, looking for a church hasn’t been … horrible … but hasn’t been wowsie either. I am reminded of how hard it is to find a pastor you’re willing to listen to week in and week out, as well as a community of people that you’re willing to hang out with. And hanging out doesn’t mean really finding community. It just means going to lunch or a class, and maybe a once a month book group, study or something. Deep, spiritual companions for the journey are much harder to find, and you can’t know if they’re there just by attending a few worship services. By the time you’ve really answered that question for yourself, you will have invested months in that community of faith. I wish it was easier to get to know a congregation instead of just being a church spectator.