So as I mentioned before, I am currently looking for a church closer to my home in hopes to thrive a little better and still get sleep. Grant it we have not made it to Any services lately because Shawn and I got sick…but I thought why not start checking out churches on their guest friendly time of year–Christmas Eve.
Well, heaven forbid you mention to people you are looking for a church. First, everyone wants you to check out their church, despite how often they go to it, how serious they take it or what they actually think about it. I was given so many recommendations no one considered asking me which churches I had in mind. It was frustrating none the least.
Second–I try to point out the positives of the places I want to see and of course no one acknowledges them or thinks “oh, that’s good for Sara.” I just don’t pick any ol’ church with the highest this or that. I did some research. Here are some of me personal requirements (not applicable to everyone church searching.)
1) church choir. And a good one at that. Okay, not super awesome perfect choir…but one I can learn to blend into and grow with. I will be honest when I joined Messiah it was not the best…but being with them over time I have seen them grow and it’s been beautiful. And they’re doing a choir concert next year! (Of course I’ll stay for that..it’s something I can prepare for.)
2) online presence. Yep, sorry. It’s 2016 (almost) and if you don’t have a basic website OTHER than Facebook or Yelp reviews then you need to adjust your priorities or hire a tech person. Even the Vatican has a site that they maintain and while my only acceptable churches not having a site would be monasteries specifically denying themselves that luxury it is not that difficult to have a place people can find information about your congregation. Messiah has a great function where everyone is in the church website and the entire church calendar is available. It’s why I can stay involved where I want even if I loose an email or note about book group. It’s awesome and very important if we have kids in the future and needed to know dates. But a church in Southern California not having an online presence is off my list–sorry, get a website.
3) another Sorry to say…but your theology and teachings along with actions need to stand out. I know Luther jokingly almost threw out The book o James…but faith does need works and I’m a theology major. I need to be able to use my hands and my brain. I can see these things by the web page (see why #2 is important) and by people telling me or reviews online. Yes, Yelp has church reviews. One church I’m interested in someone from Fuller recommended as his good friend goes there and nothing nothing but positive things to say when I mentioned what I’m interested in and knows (obviously) I attended seminary. Plus points there 😉 along with being 15 mins away.
4) Sadly, if I have already visited your church and was not satisfied (unfortunately no matter how many years ago) or I know of the past of this church that has not been positive or hurt people I love, then it’s going to take a little more than positive thought bubbles and pictures to get me there. All of the above still must heavily apply and considering in my last blog I have only get at home with Anaheim United Methodist (my childhood church) and Messiah Lutheran…I probably will not do well unless Jesus himself pops out of the pews (theological joke as he should be there anyways 😉 ). I will guarantee be over critical (something not good for worship or a new church home) and it will take basically a whole new YOUNGER congregation that can hold itself against my thoughts. I have been through this personally, know this to be true and have experienced it at another church. My husband went a few times with family, then didn’t go for a while yet family still attended and a year later, no one knew who the whole family was. Let’s just say I am already not going back there. To be fair, Messiah took me going back to several times to meet people, but not once did I feel like an outsider. I need that in my new church home.
So if none of these things are meet, I probably will not be happy. I can deal with lack of funding or limited ministries or even a small congregation. I probably can’t deal too much with lack of children support since the whole reason I left messiah was to find a church close to home where our future kids might go and be friends with people around the area. And despite others not fully agreeing with church theology–I spent way too long and too many school hours to come to a loose conclusion about what I believe…some things I do not give up on. Obviously a positive belief in women pastors, having bible studies where I can express my love for Scripture and places to connect for a 30-something are key too. I will also not be that person who says “everyone can just follow me” since I am searching for the congregation, not spoiling it.
So here’s to Christmas Eve…to the babe Christ coming into the world to being everyone home. Good luck church hunting!