With the new year here, we finally felt ready to begin our search for a new church. It is quite overwhelming to find a new home in which to worship after 10 years. What we learned in only our first week will hopefully guide us through this process.
The first thing we learned is that we need to be clear about what we are looking for.
We learned that we need to be clear about which things are priorities, which things would just be nice, and which things don't really matter at all.
We learned that there were things about our old church that bothered us that we didn't realize bothered us until we saw a different way to run them.
This is how our first week went:
We picked a church under the same denomination that we had been attending. We don't necessarily feel that we NEED to stick with it, but it seems like a good jumping off place. Most of the churches around here that are the same denomination are very closely connected, so to get a fresh start, we are pretty limited in which ones we can try.
We walked into the very spacious and bright, new-looking building and Noah instantly said, "Can we stay here?" Christmas trees were still lit up and the whole building looked beautiful.
We went to go find where the boys would go for Sunday school and were greeted by a very friendly family who showed us where they would go. There were only two rooms...one for 3 year olds through kindergarten and one for first through third graders. More on that later.
We then headed into the sanctuary. The next thing Noah became very excited about was the fact that there were stained glass windows. He LOVED hem and continued to marvel over them. Our old church had none.
Aaron was excited to see the projector screens up front where all words for the music were displayed. As the service started, we were instantly drawn to the contemporary style of music, and pleased that we knew all of the songs. The music leaders seemed to be great and we enjoyed the music.
During children's time, the boys had no trouble heading to the front and the story that was told held their attention and was educational as well, a huge improvement from what was being done by the somewhat new children's director at our old church.
With the boys released to Sunday school, it was time to sit back and enjoy the "grown up" part of the service. One of the first things that struck me was that during the "greeting" time, the pastor came all the way down from the front to shake our hands and welcome us. We had never realized how awkward it was at our old church that the pastor never left the comfort of his chair in the front, even during greeting time. Our old pastor also never made an appearance around before the service either. This led us to discuss just how "stuffy" everything was kept at our old church and also made us realize that we had been uncomfortable with it the whole time.
The music was enjoyable. Their choir was tiny, but now that my music needs are being met by the symphony choir, I'm not sure that I need to be involved in a church choir. I think I will be content to sit back and enjoy music in church without having to be involved, at least for the time being. I liked that the praise band that led the music had a wide age range. There was a senior citizen guitarist and a teenage guitarist, with all age ranges in between within the group as well.
The youth pastor gave a sermon on Jonah and I actually learned things I hadn't known before, and it kept my attention the entire time. I don't think I had stayed focused on a sermon in our old church for at least three or four years. I learned that I need to be more spiritually fed during the lesson than I had been before.
So the service itself we really enjoyed. Then it came time to pick up the boys. The room for "3 years to kindergarten" was full of very young preschoolers and apparently Aaron was shooed into the room with the older kids, which I was glad for. But them the teacher told me that even though it looked like there was another little girl Aaron's age (or maybe a little younger), and even though he was perfectly behaved and interacted with the group fine, he would have to go back to the right room next week. I thought that was a little weird.
One thing I really liked was that they do their children's choir rehearsals right after church while the parents are enjoying fellowship, rather than bringing families out for another night activity during the week. I think that is a wonderful idea.
So as we have been reflecting on our first church visit, here's what we've some to decide. Steve and I really enjoyed the service but we're not sure if there are enough kids for our liking, or if there really even is a place for Aaron in this structure. We know we can't base our entire decision on one week though, since numbers and teachers fluctuate, so we will probably go to the same church a few weeks before we decide to move on and try another.
Like I mentioned in the onset, it is interesting to see how our factors have changed from what they were ten years ago. As much as we really enjoyed the service, we need to make sure the kids needs are met before we can even think about making a place a permanent home.
This is definitely going to be an interesting journey.