I haven't updated on our search in quite while. And there has definitely been stuff to say, but the last few weeks have been so busy that I haven't really been forming a lot of coherent thoughts in my head. So this post that was started two weeks ago is finally getting done (if Aaron lets me sit here long enough without inviting me to come watch Curious George with him).
But for now, I thought I would share out latest church thoughts.
I had quite a list of things we were going to be looking for in our new church. Putting aside the painful personal problems with our old church, I would like to stay somewhat diplomatic in my approach :)
We went to one church to try it out for a few weeks. There were some things we liked but some things we weren't sure about so we thought we would continue on in our search. But each time, each of churches we were going to try just seemed too small so we figured, "Let's try a 'mega-church' we knew about". We have returned to this church for about two and a half months now and are trying to decide if this is a good permanent fit or not.
Here are some of our thoughts:
So many people would view this first point as a negative, but for us it is a HUGE positive. For all of our married lives, we have always stood out in any church we go to, mostly because of our singing and also because we are not the kind of family to be able to quietly sneak anywhere. Because of this, people always know us and we wanted a chance to just worship without being noticed. Because of the large size, this is indeed possible at this church.
2. Preaching I
The church has over a dozen pastors, but the main one is a very dynamic speaker who pulls his message right out of scriptures, which has actually led me to also look up verses on the computer while I'm doing other things (including blogging and facebook). The visiting pastor last week was amazing as well.
3. Preaching II
This guy can preach for 30 minutes straight and I stay focused the whole time, whereas before after 10 minutes we were struggling to keep our eyes open and not bit of scripture had been mentioned within the entire sermon
Extremely contemporary. I thought that we were pretty up to date with the current music, but many of these songs we don't know (yet), although I find that I am singing them throughout the week. Drums, keyboards, sometimes orchestra members as well add to an all encompassing musical experience that goes for 25 minutes before the message starts.
5. Music II
Noah's worship service (in a separate sanctuary) also has a praise band and Noah is reporting that he is actually singing the songs, which he NEVER did in any other church we have been to, even when he knew the songs.
6. Sunday School Aaron
In every other church we have ever visited and the ones we were looking in to visit, kindergarten kids are usually mixed in with other ages, either with younger preschoolers or with first graders. It always seemed that Aaron didn't quite fit in with either group. At this church, there are two rooms dedicated just for kindergarten kids and they can go back and forth between room each week so they get a chance to meet all of the kids that go to their service. He enjoys it and we love that there is a place that is actually geared toward his age. It should be interesting in June though when all of the other kids move up to first grade and he stays there since he was in Young Fives this year and will still be in Kindergarten next year.
7. Sunday School Noah
This kid is SOOOO happy in his Sunday school "class". They start out in a separate sanctuary for a short worship service for just first through fifth graders. They sing, watch skits, and who knows what else. Noah is excited because they pray with their hands in the air, even though we will continue to pray as we always have at home. Then they separate to classes depending on grade. His teachers every week report how attentive he is during lessons when they break the big group into a dozen small groups. Another huge difference from our last church, where the teachers made it clear that they didn't like him. He has made a lot of friends, and when we pick him up, he is usually playing air hockey with a few other kids in the big room where they have class.
8. Outside Acquaintances
One of the many things that always bothered us about our old church was that it was a different world from every other aspect in our lives. We didn't have any other contact with the people, both because it was so far away and because the people were just very different from our lifestyle. Since we have been at this church, we have run into people from Noah's scout pack, Aaron's school, Noah's class, and even a family who left our old church after a short time because they didn't feel welcome. I think it's good to have church reflect the rest of your life instead of it being something completely separate. Since we started, we even found out that the piano student that comes to my house on Saturday mornings attends there as well.
Another thing we were hoping for is to make some friends with other families and have a more broad social group of people to get together with. After ten years, that never really happened at the old church and we always felt like outsiders. Although I have become friends with one woman from our old church whom I enjoy spending time with and I think that friendship will last since we walk the mall every week. One of the things that concerned us about all of the small churches we looked at was just the small number of other people who were in similar life situations as us, therefore potential social friends. Although we have not gotten together with anyone outside of this church yet, I think there is a lot of potential and the people are very friendly when we speak to them while picking up kids from class after church.
This church s about five minutes from our house, rather than the former 20-25 minutes.
I know I mentioned it during preaching above, but I just wanted to mention it again. It is awesome how many things are in that book that we have either forgotten over the years or missed altogether. I am definitely drawn to try to read more than I was before.
12. Future Kids Activities
The middle school and the high school each have their own separate worship centers just like the kids groups do and it looks as if we stay there, there will definitely be opportunities for the kids all the way through, including service projects and fun activities. There is a summer camp for kids, but I'm not ready to send Noah over night yet, especially since we don't have $200+ burning a hole in our pocket and we have already told him that he could do the scouting day camp this summer. But it's nice to know that those opportunities are there for the future
13. Sunday Morning Attitude
This is a less-concrete thought, but very much present. Where Sunday mornings used to be so stressful and plagued with "I don't want to go" comments from ALL FOUR OF US, now it's a non issue and we just get up and happily go to church. That's the way it was supposed to be before and we have that now.
Although it may look like our decision is made, there are a few things that DO concern us about making this a permanent place, so we are holding to not making a decision until at least next fall about a permanent new church home. I also have discovered that I am still harboring some negative feelings about the situation from our old church that keep creeping back every so often and I think I need to somehow put those to rest.
But for now, we have found a place to go where we are moved spiritually and our children are happy so what more could we ask for?