churches and checklists.

Every person has a checklist when they are looking for a new church home. Right? Right?

Being a person who has been on staff more times than just being an “attender,” I haven’t truly been able to compile my own lists.  I have basically been bound to stick with a certain “type” of church, and when I was on track to be hired at a church… well, let’s just say you’re practically raked over the theological coals.

Now we are starting new.  We are able to go anywhere we like.  This has opened us up to some options and questions.  Some are easy to know like:

*We don’t want to be part of a church that has a “traditional” service and a “modern” service.  That usually means there’s a BIG music battle. No thank you.

*We are shy of “Firsts.” (Too much baggage. Both ours and the church’s.)

*We don’t want generic, feel-good, churches where the jargon is far too hip and cool to be truly relevant (which is ironic, considering relevance is their whole goal).  Yeah… no thank you to the “worship experiences,” “doing life together,” etc.

*We don’t want unwilling to reach out, ultra-conservative, and refusal to change churches either.  (Is something in the middle too hard to ask?)

So what do we want? Do we want to switch denomination? Female pastor? House church? Saturday night church? Small? Big? 

Today we began our journey and some clarifications have been made (for me, at least) on what my heart is searching for:

*Post-conversion baptism. (I am so moved by it. That physical representation of what Christ did for us makes me cry in joy every time.  I don’t think I could attend a church that doesn’t have it, simply because it’s important for me.)

*A church that has messages that tend to be more expository than topical.  The church we attended today – his message was out of a book he recently wrote (for sale in the foyer!).  We used 4-5 verses from different spots of the Bible.  I don’t want to be in a place that drones on and on lifelessly, but I also want to feel like I am using the Bible I am holding in my lap.

*A church that doesn’t make me feel like a clueless outsider.  Today we had just one person say hi to us.  We felt lost, and I’ve worked in churches with a similar set-up.  If anything, this place should have felt like home. It didn’t. I worked for a pastor that once said that people who attend a church for a first time should feel like the guest at your home at Thanksgiving.  Would you let that person be clueless or would you be letting them know your silly traditions (ex: helping them prepare to come up with something to say that they are thankful for)? You’d FILL THEM IN.

I’ll probably be adding to this list as the weeks go on, but I’m taking the time to write about this from a newbie’s standpoint.

What are things on your “checklist?”

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5 responses to this post.

  1. April,
    I completely agree with you! Now that neither Greg or I are on staff with a church, we feel like we have more freedom to pursue what we are passionate about. I’m so sorry that the church you attended this morning felt uncomfortable and unwelcoming for you. That should be a priority in any church. People should always feel at home when they walk in the doors.

    What makes me sad is that since I resigned from my position on the student ministry staff because of health reasons, my former boss now ignores me. I feel “used” and “unwanted.” I have a few members of the senior staff who will check up on me (the church counselor and the director of women’s ministry) but other than that, I am shunned by the senior staff. I don’t think churches should operate like this at all. I feel like our current church cares more for its TV viewers than the ones who are actually sitting in the pews. I know that no church is perfect, but these are simple things that can easily be fixed with a little bit of effort.

    I hope that ya’ll find the right church soon! Praying for you both in this time of transition!

    Reply

    • Megan,

      I hate to hear that. We left on less than great terms from our last place and I can totally relate to the “used” and “unwanted” part.

      I really think that our churches’ biggest problem (in this area) is that they are too engrossed in their own world that it’s hard to see what they are lacking. I remember that we would talk and talk about how to reach out to others, but we couldn’t really see what others were looking for… and how could we? We were IN the church, they were OUT. Totally different perspectives. Because our perspectives were different, we would work in a certain area but it would snowball until we were too consumed over it. (Ex. wanting to reach out to others –> advertisements –> alternative ways of showing services –> TV Ministry –> Being so consumed in the TV ministry that they forget that real people are on the other side and in their pews.)

      Now that we are on the outside looking in, we see these more clearly. Another example: We would agonize over how we could get new people to attend. That led to a lot of events and showy fliers and the pastor did all these radio shows and stuff. What REALLY is getting us in those doors? Word of mouth. That simple.

      Reply

  2. I’d like to offer my perspective as a pastor, if that’s OK. I think that when it comes to making guests feel welcome, it starts with me. I make it a point to learn names of people who visit, say goodbye to them by name after the service, and contact them during the week. The way I see it, they took an hour out of their Sunday to come visit us, the least I can do is take five minutes out of one day and call them.

    Reply

    • I agree, Jared, and I think it’s wonderful when the pastor calls and leaves a message. The pastor of this church did that this afternoon and I was very pleased by it! I think that what we experienced today was the culture of this church. The volunteers were uninformed, I think. I know that I was the type of staff member that went way out of my way to make a person feel comfortable with what was going on. That’s really a requirement of Children’s Ministry. There were several things that were going on and we didn’t know what to do, but we were expected to do something. The volunteers didn’t talk to us to say, “Here, each of you take one of these. The pastor will explain in the service.”

      I’m not expecting a welcome parade, by any means. In fact, I’d rather make as little of a ripple as possible. There was a LOT of stuff that a person was just supposed to know, and I think that kind of exclusion doesn’t give off a welcoming feeling to the newbie.

      Reply

  3. I just have to say up front that I don’t envy you at all. Finding a church is HARD. I spent four years of college trying to find one and never found one that met my “checklist,” the biggest search criterion being the second one you listed (expository preaching). It made me VERY thankful for my pastor and his commitment to expository preaching and actual shepherding; I had no idea it was so rare.

    Your expectations seem spot on. Keep us posted on the hunt!

    Reply

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