We lived in Graceville, Florida while I attended the Florida Baptist Theological College (now the Baptist College of Florida). Graceville is a mostly farming community that boasts a Baptist college. After moving into our apartment and getting ourselves settled, we started the process of looking for a church home. Since I was a college student in a small town with a Baptist college, I figured finding a church to belong to would be easy. I was wrong. We visited four or five different churches. We were new somewhere every Sunday. It was tiring and sometimes frustrating. We finally joined Holmes Creek Baptist Church in Chipley and enjoyed our time there.
I think back to that time in our family’s life and am thankful. I am thankful that we found a church home to serve in and grow as a young family. I am also thankful for what I learned in that search process. If you have ever been through the process of finding a church to call home, you know how tiring and stressful it can be. As a pastor, I am sympathetic to those seeking a church home. I understand their plight. When I see a guest at church and they declare on a communication care they are actively seeking a church home, I know what they are going through.
Think about the process for a minute. You wake up on Sunday morning and get your family dressed and ready to attend a worship service at a church that is totally unfamiliar. Perhaps you were able to find a campus map on their website. Perhaps not. Perhaps there are signs directing you where to go to find restrooms, the nursery, and the information desk. Perhaps not. It is likely you won’t know anyone. Introductions are made, and you tell the story of what brought you to the community. You answer questions about your family, your job, and your past churches. You feel like you’re in a Senate confirmation hearing.
Once the service begins, you are officially welcomed from the pulpit. Something is likely said about first-time guests. Hopefully you are NOT asked to awkwardly stand so everyone can make sure you know you’re the new person. You’re likely told what’s happening at the church through some system of announcement. You quickly discern what is important to this church and whether you will fit in or not. During the worship service and sermon, you’re asking the Lord for a peace about whether you should return or not. As you leave, you likely meet some new people who may ask you the same questions you were asked about an hour or so ago. You leave thinking one of two things: “That wasn’t so bad” or “Thank God that’s over.” As you drive home or during lunch somewhere, several critical questions run through your mind.
- Is this the place the Lord would have me or is this the place I want to be?
- Does this church share my biblical beliefs and theological convictions?
- Can the spiritual walk of my family be deepened by attending here?
- Will this church provide for me the opportunity to utilize my spiritual gifts?
- Can I positively impact this church, so its mission and purpose will be fulfilled?
Stress enters when the above process is repeated multiple times in multiple churches. It can be very tiring being “new” in church every week. It can be tiring investing time and energy, doing your homework, and seeing no immediate result. For these reasons I believe that searching for a church home can be one of the toughest and most important jobs that a believer will do.
For many, this process is foreign because they have never had to work this process. Some people are members of the same church their entire life. As our society changes and becomes more transient, this process, or one similar will become common place. Pray for those who are looking for a church home. As members of the body of Christ, we each have a responsibility to make this process a little easier for them. Be intentional in making this process a little less daunting and stressful for those families looking to connect.