faith + belonging

Those of you who have moved or looked for a new church, what requirements or criteria did you have (or consider) when searching for a faith community?

Denomination?

How they live out scripture?

Age of members?

Distance from your house?

How sacraments are practiced/observed?

Egalitarian vs complimentarian?

Worship style?

Programs for men, women, youth, children, elderly, other?

???

Since moving, our family has been having a difficult time travelling to our church (about 35 minute drive). I would love to find a home church within our community (or nearby at least). I was born and raised in the church I’ve been attending for (nearly) 28 years. Even when I went away to university for 4 years, I came home almost every weekend in first year and then found it so difficult to find a place of belonging in my university town knowing it would only be for a short time and not being able to get used to the feeling of unfamiliarity.

How do you approach finding a church home without being completely methodical about it – where is the room for God’s calling?

I believe that Christians can overcome differences to focus on their shared calling: to love and serve Christ. But when it comes time to finding and choosing a longterm faith community – somewhere you would like to consider home and family – I feel like I have a lot of factors to consider.

My Reformed roots are important to me.

I want to serve our new community, and I want to grow in our new community. As A.J. grows and becomes more involved with youth programming, I don’t want to have to drive long distances to have her connect in programs and with friends.

Also with our daughter in the picture now, I would like to find a community with families in similar life stages as us.

That being said, I also value having a diverse community – of ages, ethnicities and interests.

And I feel very strongly about empowering both men and women in all forms of leadership.

This last area is where I am struggling the most. It has brought me to tears and frustration. Especially having a daugher, I want to raise her in a church where she feels that she can answer God’s calling in her life without being questioned about her sex and gender. Yet I’m having many difficulties finding a good fit which encompases all of these values.

And then I come back to the statement “I believe that Christians can overcome differences to focus on their shared calling: to love and serve Christ.” At what point do I throw out my list of criteria? At what point do I say “these factors aren’t as important as the act of loving Christ”?

I just don’t know… It’s been something I’ve been wrestling with for weeks, and it’s really starting to weigh on me… I’m not writing to share any profound answers. I just needed to write and to think through the process of writing. And perhaps hear what you, dear reader (whoever you are!), have to think?

Can I just leave you with this: you know how people often judge a book by its cover? I admittedly judge a church by its website…. It’s true. If a church doesn’t have a website at all, I’m all

If a church has a website with no information about their location, service times, etc. I’m all

Just saying…

BUT if I could find a church that meets all the factors I listed above yet didn’t have a website…

I would go!!!

And then create a website for them…

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3 thoughts on “faith + belonging

  1. Jamie Carter says:

    Ideally, it would be non-denominational with a progressive stance in general. They would have tons of ministries from the biblical ones like feeding the poor to modern ones like freeing women from sexual slavery. Members would be all ages, all races, all everything all participating in everything. The closer the better, but I’d be okay with a further away drive – it would be worth it for this church. I’m not coming from a liturgical background, but I can see that it’s important so I’d prefer an approach that does it different ways for different people. Egalitarian all the way. Worship would be different kinds, traditional, bluegrass / country style, contemporary, each service would be geared for different tastes / styles just like Paul’s advice: “I’m all things to all people so that I might save some.” They would have lots of programs, but not just one for women or one for men, but a few to choose from, so that people can actually learn scripture and theology and not recipes for scones or metaphors how a starfish is like God. An updated website is plus if it’s actually full of useful content, sermon archives, teaching notes, and ministry updates.

    But such a church does not exist anywhere within a two hour drive radius of this place. All the churches I have been to are similar: Southern Baptist, church is one day a week there is no living out Scripture the other six days, regulars are mostly 50+ in age, some close some far, Southern Baptist Traditional-Style: 2 hymns, greet, 2 more hymns, take up offering, give out communion, preacher takes up the rest of the time talking, one last hymn (newest hymn: random Gaither song, oldest hymn: Doxology from the year 1500 something,) very complementarian (but women can cook,clean, or watch nursery, they can’t preach because that would upset God somehow,) everything done the way it always been done because God hates change, programs tend to exist for elders, married women, and children, anybody older than 18 or younger than 50 doesn’t count.

    As a regular at these churches, I’m regularly ignored because I don’t fit their definition of what they think I should be.I was asked to lead a bible study once, it was an autobiography of a woman who had a drug problem and then said we can learn a lot about God from the ocean and then something about starfish and dolphin pods. I suggested that we should teach out of the Bible, but they said that was ‘too much’ and ‘too difficult’. They never asked me to lead again. I was the only one my age in my life situation, so I was a group of one. My church doesn’t exist, their church has no place for me, but it’s better than nothing.

  2. Traci-Lynn Burt says:

    Hey Jenn, I feel your pain. I went through this after leaving my family church too. For me, sound Biblical teaching was a must, but the church had to embody this as well. I had to see evidence of their faith at work, it couldn’t be all head knowledge. Coming from a Heinz 57 background of Reformed and Baptist, I had no issues with tradition, or “grey areas” where interpretation kicked in, but sound doctrine had to be there for the big issues and evidence of the Spirit had to be present.

    As a parent who is raising 4 children, I need a church that will help me to practice faith at home. The church needed to understand that as parents, we were the primary spiritual influence for our children. This is important for me because it changes how they will walk with us as parents. I need a church that will disciple me, the more I grow, the more I pass on to my children. I need a church that supports and encourages me, seeks to be a partner with me in raising my children.

    As a parent with daughters, it is important for me to be in a church that respects and cherishes them like Christ does. That allows God to determine their calling, not tradition. I need a church that they can belong to and be embraced by. For my sons, they need a church that will help them to be godly men who will empower their wives and my future grandchildren. Unfortunately, I have seen way to many women leave the church because the church doesn’t have a place for them to belong. I didn’t want to place this stumbling block in their paths. A church that was willing to alienate 1/2 their congregation over a “grey issue” was not a church I was willing to be a part of. My daughters spiritual lives were far to valuable to be dismissed.

    As for style, I had to look at how we best connect to Christ. Did the style help us to do this? Can we do this on our own apart from the church? For me this was not an issue, but for my husband it was. As a marriage that practices mutual submission, we made this a priority for him.

    Finally, I looked at growth. Was this a growing church? I want my children to have the stability of one church for as long as God allows. I want them to have the joy of ongoing community, inside and outside the church. If a church wasn’t growing, I didn’t consider them. Perhaps that was unfair, maybe even wrong. We were willing to commit and help the church grow, but we didn’t want to attach ourselves to a church that was dying. Perhaps it was because we had left a dying church and we needed to heal. This last one sounds so selfish to me, but I am being honest. I needed to see a healthy, growing church. It gave me hope that my children could grow their too.

    Praying God leads you where you need to be.

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