So it's about that time again folks... It's Church hunting season! I've been feeling lately that it's time to settle in somewhere and be a part of something, but oh what an adventure this can be.
There are a few things I had to settle on before I began my research: what area of ministry am I targeting, am I going "local" or outreach, & am I wanting to find support/friendship? The rest of the details seem to be worked out easily when these 3 questions are answered. Here were my results: Music is making a comeback in my life. Definitely a local church. And yes, I am looking for relationship building opportunities. Step one complete:)
Now moving on to the process of choosing a local church that would allow me to serve in music & is attended by people that I can truly relate to. I've got a few places in mind, but most are churches that I've never been to, only heard about. I am extremely uncomfortable visiting churches & a hand shake or a hug doesn't ease this anxiety at all. I hate the feeling of being in room with hundreds of people who claim to be family and have the hardest time being natural with each other. But in order to choose a church, one must attend a church.
First impressions are lasting impressions. When I finally make it past the lobby greeting, I'll proceed to find a seat. Are there tons of reserved seats? If so, boo! Is there loud music forcing a predetermined energy level? Boo! Are there young people and senior citizens? Yes? Yippee! Are there kids in the service? Yep? Hmmm... Wonder if the children's dept. sucketh. Enough of that, the service is beginning.
Is worship a production or an opportunity to unite us in the presence of our maker? What I mean is, are my eyes watering from the fog machines or the presence of God? Ha ha ha, I made a funny! Are the stage people diverse in age, ethnicity, gender, & personal style? It just matters to me. How many people on that stage have the same last name? Not a deal breaker, just curious. Do I get a sense that I am surrounded by genuine people or church droids? Hmm.
On to the word... 5 points or 7 points? Malachi during offering time? Is this being recorded for TV? Was the sermon pulled from trending topics or from the latest Christian self help book? It's just my process folks. Does the speaker disappear behind a curtain when it's all done or maybe he'll make his way to the back of the church and shake our hands as we exit. i love that! Does the worship team hang out with the congregation or do they head to the back for a snack & a chat with the other stage people? It matters. Does anyone even talk to me? We'll see.
If I'm thinking this may be the place, then perhaps I attend for a month or so playing secret agent, testing the waters, asking all the right questions, giving all of my honest answers. Will I have to clean toilets or work in the nursery before I'm allowed to sing? No? Woohoo! Glad to see grace in operation. Do I join a team, do a casual audition (not american idol style), and we'll see how it goes from there? Count me in. Umm wait... Is there a worship pastor? You know, someone with a revelation & vision for worship that's been granted spiritual authority & artistic freedom to genuinely lead the people in worship? There is? Perfect. How often does the team rehearse? Once a week sounds totally doable!
Then it's time to join a class, or a small group, or perhaps a bible study. I decided to go "local", so I'll join a group that's close by. I'll cross my fingers and hope to God that this is it... friends will be made! Are they doing a book study? If so, who's the author? Oh no, not that guy. Deal breaker. Perhaps I'll find another group. Wait, the whole church is studying that guy's book? Urggh! Okay, I'll go anyway and try to behave. Do the groups socialize outside of the designated time frame? Very cool. Are these people genuine, legalistic, ambitious, or well trained? Genuine!!! Yippee!!! I can see sparks!!! 3 weeks in, perhaps I'll join them on an outside venture. We're building homes for Habitat for Humanity and getting free Disney passes and then actually giving those passes to the kids of the families who come weekly to receive groceries from the benevolence ministry at the church? Hell yeah! I have found my home;-)
Okay okay, I know this may sound cynical, critical, nit-picky, or perhaps perfect, but what if we treated "choosing a church" the way we are instructed to "choose a mate"? Settling on a less than a "workable" fit for either seems foolish and hey...Partnership is partnership. It's church hunting season folks and this is my process;-)