Wednesday, January 26, 2011

How Do You Church?

Since Eamon and I got married, we've been asked the same question, one hundred different ways:

"So, where do you go to church?"

The answer is almost always "We haven't found the right church for us, yet"
There's a joke here in DFW that if you throw a rock, you'll hit a church. And it's true! On every street corner there is a church of some sort FILLED with people. The obvious question then becomes
"Why haven't you found one?"

At first, the answer was simple-
 I hate mega churches. Okay, hate is a strong word, but the idea that one man can stand up in front of thousands of people and have the word penetrate into each of their hearts as if he was Jesus Christ Himself, rubs me the wrong way [obviously...] Not to mention the million dollar sound systems, overly gelled worship teams, everyone wearing clothes that looked like they had just been purchased that morning, it all makes me very uncomfortable. [NOT that Jesus ever called us to be comfortable!]

Here's a picture of our home church in Rockport:
There are about 300 people all coming in, greeting each other. There are very few people who don't know everyone's name. With a few exceptions of some button up shirts and slacks, most of the men are wearing shorts or blue jeans, and fishing shirts [the hawiian print t-shirt is in there somewhere, if not a couple!] Most of the women do wear a skirt or dress of some sort, but if you're under the age of 30, no one expects anything more than jeans and a t-shirt. Worship was uncomplicated, and the message was either comforting or deeply convicting-every week. I was baptized there, I was saved there, we were even married there. Every time I walk through there doors, I feel the presence of Jesus, and He is so happy.

This picture of our home church is what a lot of people describe when they come home from mission trips around the world. The simplicity is delightful. My immaturity in my spirit to this day makes it extremely hard to just walk into these huge churches here that are modeled after colleges-some without pastors in them, just a big tv broadcasting another sermon?!?- and not judge, just receive the spirit. But eventually, I sucked it up. That was not before we gave "home church" a try. My experience turned into a bitter one by the end of that too, and I was left with a sour taste for "church" in my mouth by the time Lily was born.

We stop judging, and start trying.
Eventually, we had enough. We needed to go to church. So when Lily was just a few months old, we started trying churches out. From the televised sermons in front of a thousand people, to the small "traditional" church, to the gathering of just a few friends, we gave a little bit of everything a try. But one thing became apparent - Lily did not like church, or rather, the church did not like Lily. When we went to church the greeters always showed me where the "cry room" was [some that you could see/hear the sermon, others you couldn't]. It always felt like they were saying "Oh look at that little angel, be sure she doesn't ruin church for us" So after a few Sundays of getting dirty looks for breastfeeding Lily in the congregation, I started going to the cry room.

It started to really bug Eamon and I that in order to go to church and be fed, we were to be separated. I know not everyone feels this way, and that's ok!, but being together for worship and learning is very important to us. If we wanted Eamon to receive the word every week and then relay it back to me [pretty old testament if you ask me] this would work out fine for us, but we don't, and it doesn't.

But now, Lily is older and can go to the nursery without me and Eamon and I can receive the gospel, no problem! Right?
Even if we tell the nursery workers, "She will DIE if she eats a peanut, WATCH HER!" We both sit through the sermon terrified. If one kid had a pb&j beforehand and has some on his fingers and touches Lily, we only have minutes to save her life. Not every nursery worker who has 10 other kids to watch is up for that responsibility.

Where do we go from here?
With a toddler, and a newborn on the way [starting this mess all over again] we are left aching to worship with others and receive the word. It just seems impossible. So, I'm here asking you with similar family situations "How do you church?" Is it possible? Please share your ideas! We'd love to hear them :]



Maryn said...

I'm Roman Catholic, and the church that we attend in Bedford doesn't have a cry room. There are often moms nursing babies or holding babies in the congregation around us, and if they're the loud kind of fussy, the parents will walk around with the babies or go into the vestibule for a few minutes. More often than not, there's a sweet-fussy or a talky baby in Mass and I've never seen anyone say anything negative. In fact, there were twin girls (pre-walkers) in front of us a few weeks ago that the parents were passing back and forth, and everyone around us was smiling and waving at them. When my daughter was younger, we brought books or toys and just made sure to make extra room in our pew for her to spread out . It worked well for her, and we'll see how well it works with our new addition, coming in a couple of months.

Another church I love is Chase Oaks in Plano. Their children's program was really good - my daughter attended sometimes and loved it. As a mom, one thing I really liked was that each kid got a numbered wristband and you had one that matched. If there was any issue with your kiddo during church, the number would flash up on a little screen in the service so you could pop right out to them. I think that's a great system - better than just hoping someone will come and find you if there's a problem. The only bad thing is that it's a good 40 minutes from the Mid-Cities.

Kate said...

we are in the season of life where church is difficult as well. All of the service times are right in the middle of Asher's nap...and I can't just keep him up and drag him there just so he will scream and arch his back through the whole thing- not worshipful for anyone involved.
For us, it's just accepting that this is what this season of life looks like. The Lord understands young families...not that you have to be at church to please him know what I mean.
For us, listening to a sermon together, worshiping as a family, and being very involved in a small group where accountability and discipleship is at the core is what church looks like for us right now.
Hope you find yours too!

Mae Burke said...

My husband was raised Catholic [was even training to be a priest!] and I've always marveled that kind of tolerance in their Mass services. He's no longer Catholic, but I can definitely see the advantages of going to a service for this reason :] Our church in Rockport has little pagers, lol. You get a pager when you check in with them and if anything's wrong they buzz you. It kind of feels like waiting for your seat at the Olive Garden "Is it buzzing yet?" Thank you for your suggestions!

Lily was A's age the last time we went, and I totally understand what you mean. The more I wrote for this post the more I started to understand "this may just be our season" I don't know if that means watching sermons online and being more purposeful about worship with friends, or getting a sitter when we go to church, but I DO know His Grace is enough :]
...we'll just see how long this season is. I mean, if I keep getting pregnant at this might be a while, lol!

rachel.lyn said...

we go to a small church here...there is a nursing mother's room (i usually sit in service with Willow until worship is over) and to be honest, i enjoy it! there is a tv in there with the music and message playing and often times i find myself in there with another mom...sometimes it's a new mom and sometimes we don't get a chance to watch the message because one of us is to busy encouraging the other. i told this to my mom recently and she reminded me that church is also for fellowship and sometimes a woman in the beginning stages of mommyhood needs to be there just to talk to other moms...moms who are experienced and moms who are new. moms who have that common bond with you and who can give you advice & encouragement that the world will not. i know when i would sit in that small, dark room during my first few sundays with Olivia there were times I would find myself crying to the other moms in there. They would pray with me and reassure me and I would walk out of there the most refreshed and encouraged i had been all week...which in turn, was great for my home life. Hearing the Word is important too...but I also believe God brings us there to be bound together with other believers and to be encouraged by them, held accountable by them, and loved on by them. we are all family in Christ and whether or not you are sitting next to your husband because you need to leave to nurse or leave with a crying baby, you should still allow yourself to soak up the fellowship. It's so important to have that too!

i'll be praying for you to find somewhere your family is comfortable going to!

"And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching." -Hebrews 10:24-25

joannalee said...

I can totally relate! We've gone through seasons where church happened when nap needed to happen, where I felt like all I did the whole service was chase my child, where getting out the door and getting there and coming back took more out of me than i got during the service, etc.

So yes, the seasons change and I can tell that your heart is right. You want the fellowship, the time to worship with other believers, and getting the Word poured into you. And the Father is going to provide exactly what you need!

I don't normally try to get my friends to come to my church, because I figure they're happy where they're at. But in this case, I would be glad to tell you a little about it in case you want to visit and see if it's a good fit. If not, no hard feelings!

We just moved (used to be a stone's throw from you) to Grapevine, down the street from the HS. It's called Open Door City Church. Service starts (or is supposed to... we're working on starting on time instead of 15-30 min late) at 11am on Sunday, goes till 1 or so. One of the reasons we fell in love with this church is that it is incredibly family-friendly. There are tons of other young families. It's not a mega church by any means, I would guess maybe 150 attending? Some people wear shorts, some people wear dresses, and there's everything in between. The pastor is usually in jeans and an untucked shirt. Some people keep their kids in the service, some put them in the nursery/toddler-room/children's church. Whatever you're comfortable with. The kids are usually running around and dancing and everybody is fine with it. I'm not talking about craziness or chaos here, of course you have to make sure they're not climbing on the stage and unplugging stuff, but there's a freedom in worship that the kids are encouraged to participate. Not everybody knows everybody, but we all feel like a family. I agree with Rachel Lyn's statement about the mom-fellowship. There have been times that I've spent half the service with Josiah in the nursery, talking to other moms. And it's just as soul-nourishing. A lot of times I still chase the kids around during worship and wish I didn't have to. But, I know it's good for me just to be there. As far as breastfeeding, there is a nursery you can go to if you wish, but nobody is going to look down on you if you stay in the sanctuary to nurse. Neither will you get dirty looks if your baby is crying. I don't want this to sound snobbish, but the majority of the babies born in our church are breastfed, so it's welcomed. Toddlers (16 mo-3.5y) have workers the whole service, but you can choose to wait till the middle if you want. The ratio is nowhere near 10:1 (more like 3:1), every child has an allergy sheet, and you can get from the sanctuary to the toddler room within 5 seconds if you had to. The worship teams are amazing, the teaching is very sound, and the Holy Spirit is always allowed to change everybody's plans.
Ok sorry that was incredibly long, but if you want to try it out, please feel free to come!

Hannah said...

I totally understand what your saying about the season we are in and it being hard! I feel like we just got in a good routine and Jeremy and I both are able to hear the sermon and really focus while at the service and we are about to start the baby thing all over again!

There was a season that it was hit or miss for us but I will say this our family does SO much better when we fellowship and worhsip in a corporate setting on a regular basis. We don't have the allergy issue but our church doesn't serve snacks so I'm not concerned about the food isse. I love that Ava gets a quality lesson with songs and readings on her level and she LOVES going! Wasn't always that way but something changed and now she does.

We do attend a "mega" church and feel it is right where God has us for this season. Neither of us were raised in a church of that size so it has been an adjustment for us both. Jeremy more beccause he was raised in a small family church that his Dad pastored his entire life so it was a big change. We both feel that if God's word is being taught and the gospel isn't watered down to attract a crowd then we don't have a problem with it. Lots of people turn there nose up at churches like Gateway but it was been such a huge blessing to our family and our pastor preaches the truth. I'll be honest I think people are attracted to the raw truth of the gospel preached with tact and that is exactly what our pastor does and the church has grown a ton. It started as a small church in his home and he never intended to have the next big church around but God did. I could judge there building or the people leading but they are very honest about there spending and in my opinion its done with excellance.

Just my 2 sense! Know your not alone but I would encourage you to do something as a couple. It's amazing in our experience what tithing and attending a local church together does for our relationship. Hope your getting some encouragment from this!

Mae Burke said...

Thank you ladies so much for your encouragement and ideas! It's good to hear a) i"m not alone [are we ever, really?] b) there seems to be options c) that God meets you where you are, always!

I'll def keep you updated!!

Mommypotamus said...

No suggestions, but I can totally empathize. Sitting in a room by myself rocking a baby that needs to sleep does not nurture my spirit. Like Joanna said this is a time that for me trying to participate takes more out of me than I get back. So for now I listen to sermons on my ipod, worship with Katie (sometimes to Veggie Tales music) . . . and spend my Sunday morning in a luxurious warm bath with the boy ; - )

I do feel the need for community, though, so I'm trying to get back into our Wed morning routine