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Sweet Seasons

I’m torn…about church.

I’m torn…about church. I’ve gone to church my entire life. I’m not one who can boast that I’ve never missed a Sunday or is always there whenever the doors are open, but church has always been a part of my life.

A couple of years ago, I found MY church. The place where I felt both the music and the sermon speak to me. The place where I felt welcomed by people of all ages. It was an unfamiliar feeling to want to be involved in every way that was offered. To crave more. To WANT to grow more. I had been involved in other churches (growing up, I went to 11 consecutive years of church camp and the memories made there will be with me forever). I attended bible studies and Sunday schools, but this church was my jam (and let me make VERY CLEAR this is of no fault to any other church or member; this was a personal growth moment for me. Personal).

Fast forward to present. Because of changes in our location, it is no longer feasible for us to attend the church I felt most at home, so we began the daunting task of finding a new church home. Here’s where I’m torn…about church. In the new town we transplant ourselves to each weekend, there are ALOT of churches. What there doesn’t seem to be a lot of is young families. This is something that is really important in our book because not only do I need the accountability to stay focused, but we want the same for our kids. So, we tried church after church and then we finally landed on the one we are currently attending, but I’m a little torn.

We’ve attended this church, somewhat regularly (until recently when opted to avoid putting our kids in any form of zest pool in hopes of avoiding a very nasty flu). We’d checked out of church service for about a month to avoid the plague.

The first time we checked in, I basically could have sat with my arms crossed and a three year old’s pout on my lips. The music was FAR tooo loud for this traditional service lover (Churchtastic as the husband labeled it). But then, the pastor took the stage and I slowly uncrossed my arms and wiped that frown off my face. It wasn’t so bad. It was pretty good. Really good. I wanted to come back. So we did. Again. And again. But, after the first Sunday we attended we noticed something…different. Something we’d certainly never experienced before. Absolutely not one single person (not the pastor or the neighbor to the chair next to us) welcomed us. No one single person said, “Hey, I haven’t seen you here before, I’m xxx.” Each Sunday we arrived. We left. Our hands unscathed of germs.

I’ll admit at first this was somewhat refreshing. I’ve never gone out of my way (or out of my pew, rather) to shake hands during the meet and greet minute. I always stayed planted and shook hands with those within my reach. One church we visited actually asked you to form small handheld circles, with those around you, and take turns saying a prayer within your circle, in lieu of a simple handshake. So very completely uncomfortable to a new person, Church. If you’re thinking of starting a church, please don’t add this to your itinerary. So what, someone didn’t corner us at this new place? How nice, right? But, after a month? Since September? It was just a bit odd. Didn’t they care that we were there? We’re the lights so low that they missed us entirely? Did they recognize us from weeks prior? They had volunteers for coffee and juice, and a childcare system that was as legit as Fort Knox, but no greeters? No visitors cards? Would we ever meet our peers?

Here’s what happened recently that has me torn…about church. When we first landed at this establishment last fall we asked about small groups. This would be our chance to meet new people right? I’d loved small groups at our former home and met some amazing people through the experience. I’d hoped to have the same happen at our new place. The info desk volunteer explained they had groups, but they didn’t meet until February. So, each time we attended we went about our routine and each time we left feeling both moved by the sermon and let down that we still didn’t know anyone. Until today. It’s February and small group sign ups were completed with a church wide dinner. We approached the sign up desk, gave our names, answered a few questions, and were ushered to a table. I’ll admit I felt a little bummed as we approached our table and saw that we’d been placed with a group, that from appearances, we had nothing in common with (not our age group). Before I’d so much as pulled out a chair to sit, we were greeted with a most awkward situation. A man shook our hand (there’s a first) and proceeded to literally pout and huff and ask us repeatedly, “Who placed you in this group? This group? Are you sure they meant this one?” 😳 I mean, should we move somewhere else?!? Before I could ask, the guy disappeared. We later saw him sitting at a different table. Had we peeved him so much by sitting at his exclusive table, that he couldn’t bear to sit with us? We spent an hour and a half at this meeting and left without a small group to participate in and no further leads on meeting new people.

So, now what? We really do enjoy the service, but is this a dead end? I’m pretty perplexed by this conundrum. Do I continue to go knowing that we will likely never be included? Do I contact someone about this situation? Would they give a rip or are they just interested in a headcount? Is this where I will find success as a Christian? As a Christian parent? Am I putting too much of my own Christian responsibility in the hands of someone else? Do I learn something each week? Yes! Do I feel uplifted and moved each week? Yes. Do I want to be involved? Yes! What should be most important here? Has anyone else ever experienced something like this? I’d love to hear your input.

*I’m sure that it is unlikely someone will pinpoint this as being about their church as it is not in WP (or close). I hope not, but in case you do peg this as a place you know, please message me. I’d love to hear where I’ve missed the boat. I’ve read the online reviews of this establishment and they all boast how friendly their church is. What have I missed?

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10 Comments

  1. i think its great how honest your article is. My advice, reach out to the church! Let them know how you feel,Im sure they could help. I work at the connection tent at my church, and speaking from experience, I know Sundays can be a bit hectic.. but Im sure someone would be happy to help you get plugged in:) xo

    1. jstauff10 says:

      Thank you Katz! I know from personal experience it’s easy to dodge out before anyone can corner you. We’ve done it. I think we should have been caught by now 😂. I think I will reach out. I’d hate for this to be something that is, or has, happened to others. Thank you!!

  2. I like how you’ve put this out there. I don’t think you’re alone out there. There are a lot of people who make the effort to attend church yet feel so alone while they are there. When people visit my church, they almost always comment on how welcoming we are. Then I stopped to consider if I contribute to that and I must say that most times, not. We must try to reach out to others so they feel welcome. Hopefully someone will reach out soon. Failing that, search for the preacher/pastor’s email address and drop him a line.

    1. jstauff10 says:

      I’m feeling more and more motivated by the moment to reach out to the pastor. Thanks Joleisa!

  3. I know exactly how you feel. We transplanted to a completely new state and I thought church would be the perfect way for us to meet new people in our community. I thought we had found the perfect church. It reminded us of home, even found out the assistant pastor grew up about an hour from our home town. But when we signed up for small groups, no one reached out. Finally got a text message about a new group starting up, when I replied that we had 4 small children I had no day care for (and honestly with the move could not afford a sitter for 4 kids every week) they did not even reply back. Nothing. And every service we have attended since we have gotten the cold shoulder. Never heard another word from the staff or the members. Very discouraging, I needed to find families to make friends with and I couldn’t find it in the church. I found it at the super market, through Facebook, at work, not at my church.

    1. jstauff10 says:

      Well, go you for making friends at the supermarket!! That is the coolest thing I’ve ever heard. I’m usually the one with the cold shoulder at the supermarket. lol. The small groups issue is why we ultimately didn’t leave with a new group last night. They waited until the end of the meeting and then said oh by the way please do not bring your children. Well, that counts us out. I totally understand why children are discouraged, but as a new person in town my sitter options are limited.

  4. I’d tell you not to let one bad seed ruin the whole bunch, and wow that man was rude! But the experiences you had there had been far from stellar before that. I’d continue to look around for a place I feel at home 😕

    1. jstauff10 says:

      It was definitely an uncomfortable situation. I appreciate everyone’s encouragement!

  5. Ok, I’ll give you a little different perspective to chew on. As a pastor’s wife myself, I sympathize with your plight. Our team is always looking for ways we can be as welcoming as possible to new visitors. We don’t want to overwhelm, but we don’t want to underwhelm either! But I have learned that no matter how hard you try, you will not always be everyone’s cup of tea when they walk in the door. But I think if we changed the way we think about church, the church itself we be more effective. I’m a firm believer in every member being a minister. The church doesn’t run or succeed because of a pastor or ministry team. Every member of that church is the machine that keeps it going. So when looking for a church, it’s easy to try to find a place that checks off the list of your personal needs. But I’d challenge you to ask the question, “How can I minister to these people? What can I give that they don’t have?” I think you’ve seen it! They need a good example on how to be warm and welcoming to people who come in the door. Go out of your way to find new faces. Go shake their hand and introduce yourself. We are here to serve as a church, but I wish I could help instill in each person the importance of personal ministry when it comes to the greater mission of the church. Our society has become so inwardly focused that we seldom think about what we have to give instead of what we expect to receive. And we’re all guilty of it. Anyhow…just a different voice to add to the mix. I’ll be praying that God shows you exactly where to be and used for His purpose.

    1. jstauff10 says:

      Thank you for your reply! It’s nice to have your perspective. I agree that every church will not fit everyone’s needs. After some encouraging, I considered reaching out and talking to the pastor. I hadn’t reached out, but recieved a call from the woman that I mentioned in the post that had sent us to the table where we were so apparently unwelcome. She had thought we hadn’t joined the life groups because of a time conflict, which would have been partially true. I held my breath and thought it over for a second and decided to go ahead and tell her about our experience. She profusely apologized and said that she herself was the chairperson of the Greeting Committee and she was saddened to hear that we hadn’t been once greeted, until we were, very negatively. We talked on the phone for close to 15 minutes and it was nice to have a voice from the church. I did think however that it would have been the cherry on the cake if the pastor himself had recieved word of this and took it as a task to at least email or call us and explain the mission of his church. I wasn’t seeking this, but it would have been the reassurance that we needed to know that we were important enough to be there. I do agree that it is our job to contribute as well and we felt that we were trying this, by putting our kids in the children’s programs, (trying) to join a lifegroup, inquiring about bible studies, attending most sundays, and participating in their very impressive Christmas donation programs. We hadn’t personally approached people and I can see why that would have been a good ice breaker, but do you disagree that at SOME point in going there for four months, someone, anyone, could have extended their hand to us? I don’t disagree at all with your point, but we were the new comers, the guests; we were visiting their house. I would be very appreciative of your opinion, as a pastor’s wife, if this church is a place we should continue to attend or if we should go elsewhere?

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