Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Changing Churches: Our Story

Have you ever done this?  Found yourself changing churches, not because of a move or because the church disbanded, but by choice?  We did this past summer and it's been an interesting and rewarding journey.

While Jamey and I were still in college (and dating seriously) we visited many churches in our area.    Choosing a church was a no pressure, go-where-it-feels-good kind of task at that point in life.  By my junior year (Jamey was in the class below me, four months younger), we had settled in to attending a Mennonite church in town.  This congregation was refreshing.  It was very different than both the Mennonite churches Jamey and I grew up in.  It took us awhile to really feel connected because we didn't commit to more than just attending Sunday morning worship until after we were married.  Once we were settled, we joined a small group, taught Sunday school, went to our own Sunday school class and made dear friends.

But over time and off and on, we began to sense that we were changing.  Our church needs and wants weren't the same as they were when we initially started attending there.  We felt slightly out of place.  No one made us feel out of place- this was a feeling from within.

This brought us to the whole question of 'What should one do if they are not satisfied with their church experience?'  I read once that you should stay, help change the church to be more of what you need.  Wow.  Change a church.  Maybe we should have rallied ourselves and spoken out, but imposing our convictions on an entire congregation?  Not our style.  And not fair to the many who were being fed and ministered to there, those who really felt at home.

By this time, we'd had Sam and Sadie.  Our church family was immensely supportive in our new venture as parents.  For each birth we had at least a dozen meals brought in to us.  Dedicated nursery staff and Sunday school teachers cared for, taught and loved our children.  They made friends.  We had friends.  It was hard to imagine leaving.

About once a year, we hashed out the question, 'Should we visit other churches?'  Part of (both of) us was ready to, but part of us was afraid.  Afraid of uprooting our kids, uprooting us.  Afraid of in some way offending a church family we had grown to love.  Afraid of not finding what we wanted elsewhere.  Afraid of starting all over again- making friends, fitting in, being the 'new attenders'.

Last year, our convictions finally tipped the scales and outweighed our fears.  We shared this with our small group and with their understanding support, began visiting other churches this past summer.  After multiple visits to three churches, we both felt we had found our new church home.  This was a strange time.  We were excited about what we were seeing, hearing and feeling amidst the new congregation, but we were having to say goodbye to the members of our old church.

The kids were a bit confused to say the least.  On more than one occasion, on the way to the "new" church on Sunday morning, they asked when we'd be going back to our "real" church.  We didn't explain that this was now our real church until a couple months in.  We decided not to start them in Sunday school until we were absolutely sure that's where we would be staying.  When we were finally ready to take that step, the kids were thrilled to get back into Sunday school and made a seamless transition.  We are so thankful for that.

I've made really good connections with women at our new church through their Women's Bible Study.  This group is what sealed the deal for me.  Meeting with a group of women, of all ages, studying God's word and being honest, vulnerable and encouraging to one another is something I had been dreaming of.  Funny thing was, I didn't know I was dreaming of it until I experienced it.  Does that make sense? We are slowly getting to know other people through our own Sunday school, church potlucks and boys club for Sam.

What we thought would be a terribly hard, difficult change has proved to be much less painful than we expected.  In part, I think this is because we were truly ready to make the change.  It was time.  There were no more (or at least very few) pangs of indecision left.  Being ready, the support and love we've felt from the pastor and friends at our old church and being welcomed at the new one all have made this change a good one.

Our new church home is not perfect, no church is.  But, it seems to echo our values and beliefs and this is bringing us peace.  Should we have stayed at our other church?  I don't think so.  Do I think people should switch churches willy-nilly?  Absolutely not.  It's been our experience that with prayer and the passage of time, with talking and thinking about what our hearts were telling us, you can be led to leave.  The Spirit might have plans for you elsewhere.

We're excited to see what the Spirit has in store for us and are thankful for the courage it took to act on It's leading.  May you find peace where ever you are or strive to achieve it.  It makes a world of difference. Pin It

17 comments:

  1. Speaking as a person from your new church, I have to say that I'm so glad you felt God leading you there! :-) Your family blesses ours! So go ahead and take off your coat, stay awhile... ;-)

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  2. I'm glad you've found peace in your 'new home' and that your children are adjusting well. I've heard pastors preach that God calls you to a pastor and that it's wrong to leave. I don't personally believe that. I believe that sometimes a congregation is strong in an area that God is working out in us and leads us to that place - for a time. Sometimes, it's a really long time. Sometimes, it's not. In some cases, maybe it IS forever. I'm just glad to know that you're listening to Him and letting Him lead you. :0)

    I'm slightly curious (not that it matters) - are you in another Mennonite congregation?

    Blessings,
    Pam

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  3. Church shopping is hard. I have an entire blog (ok, not the ENTIRE blog, but close) about how my ex and i both refused to give up the church we go to - we both love it that much - and that come Sunday mornings, you will find me, Vance and the kids, flanked by my ex, his fiance, my ex mother in law and in sister in law's families all in one pew. Sometimes 2 if everyone shows up that day. Yes, we are THAT family in church. The weird, divorced, extended family. But the reason we stay - our church accepts as one family, and supports us all. And that's why we stayed. It's so important that your needs are supported and you're uplifted - good for you for finding your heart.

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  4. I really love this post. My husband and I struggled to find a church when we moved here after graduating college.

    We had a wonderful campus fellowship and we wanted to find that similar feeling in a local church. We just couldn't find it. We liked churches, but never felt at home in any of them.

    We went to dozens of churches and finally found one that we really enjoy. It feels like home!

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  5. We changed churches last September. It's not an easy thing to do because of the human element- not wanting to offend anyone, etc. But we were feeling that we didn't 'fit' as a family in the old church, because of us not them. We've found a new church that fits us more completely. And, while taking a membership class a couple of weeks ago, the pastor explained that once you are saved you are a member of The Church- Jesus' Church. (This was kind of one of those "no duh" moments that I stumble upon in my growth as a christian- something I should have known but never understood 'til now.)It doesn't matter what building you're in. What matters is fellowship and involvement and growth as a christian. I liked hearing that. Finding a church is so stressful to me because there are so many 'false prophets' out there. And, now that I have kids, there is even more to be considered. I'm glad your search was successful. I love our new church and look forward to getting even more involved and connected. In the end we just have to let go and let God- He always knows what He's doing!

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  6. Thanks for posting this. I needed to read THIS today. Be blessed, strengthened as always by your sharing, Laura

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  7. Very eloquently put...Chris and I just recently made a change, too. It was time. We'd outgrown our church...there was no place for me to serve there anymore. At least not where God wanted me to be. We were thinking of leaving for probably three years. But it wasn't until very recently that we were released from our old church...and we KNEW it. Thank goodness we didn't move out on our own...becuase after finding our new church, we KNOW that we had to wait because God was preparing a place for us there. It's like our puzzle pieces finally fit again. I know exactly what you mean about not knowing you craved it until you actually had it. It's how I feel at our new church...hopeful, peaceful, safe. And I didn't realize I did NOT feel those things until I actually FELT them again. God is good...all we have to do is wait on Him...even when it's uncmfortable. xoxox Thank you for sharing...it'll be exciting to see what God has in store...He's positioning us...I'm ready!

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  8. I'm so glad you found your new church home. I have also been told that it is wrong to leave a church...that you should stay and try to bring about the change you are looking for...but I agree with you. I would feel utterly selfish trying to change other people according to my own needs/wants. We have been looking for a new church home for four years now; well, if I'm really honest we don't look that much anymore. It has been a really discouraging process. Where we live, it seems the only choices available are the ever-growing mega-churches (not at all what I want) or the small, dying churches (dying 'cause everyone is leaving them and flocking to the mega-churches). I pray that God leads me to the right church for my family...there must be one out there somewhere.
    Debbie

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  9. These things are always difficult, no matter why you leave. But look at Paul and Barnabus! God used their differences for his purposes. The main thing is that people are kind, the leaver and the leavee! don't be offended if someone leaves, don't talk badly about why you left. Do everything to promote peace and goodwill and not cause disunity! Do all things in love.
    Blessings to you and your family!

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  10. Thank you for sharing this. No matter your denomination, I think the internal struggle of leaving a church that you love, have cherishe memories in and have no tangible reason for leaving is always a hard decision. We have gone through the same thing in the past year. When you said that your children asked about their "real" church, I can totally relate. Our 6 year old says he wants to go back to "our" church not the "new" one. Realizing to listen to what God has in store for us at "this moment" in our lives is a scary and rewarding lesson to learn. Hearing the same scenario from another family is really helpful. Thanks so much.

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  11. It's one of those things where you know you're not the only ones on the planet making a particular change, but during the actual process it can feel lonely. Thank you all (so much) for sharing your stories.

    Pam, we have found ourselves at another Mennonite church.

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  12. Wow. Can I ever relate to this post! My husband & I recently changed churches. We had been part of a very small community church for most of our married lives. 3 of our 4 children were born while we were there. We knew everyone and everyone knew us. It was truly our church family. Unfortunately, the church kept dwindling in size. We stayed a long time hoping that there would be growth. (Not just growth in numbers, but spiritual growth). By the time we both felt released by God to pursue looking for another church our congregation was down to about 20 people. A major part of our decision was that our boys were getting older and we wanted them to be part of a strong children's program in a church.

    It's hard though, because my children are much like me in that they have a hard time with change. They still ask to go back to our 'old' church. And, even though we've found a wonderful new church they still haven't really accepted it as our church yet.

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  13. I just found your blog today while looking for some gardening information and have found it to be very informative & inspiring! My husband & I have been thinking about trying out a few new churches for almost a year now, but still haven't taken that step. This post has helped me feel a little bit more at peace about the idea! Especially because I'm nervous about my 3 & 2 year olds reactions (they love our church!)Thank you!

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  14. Church shopping is made so much easier when there is no denominational baggage associated with the assembly. Those churches whose goal is to preach the gospel, exalt Jesus Christ and make disciples are always closer to the biblical church than are those who add their own distinctiveness to it. In Scripture you never read of the "First Baptist Church of Corinth" or the "Mennonite Church of Macedonia" but simply the church at Corinth or the Church at Galatia. We are experiencing so much freedom of worship having dropped all added titles and identities other than Christians loved by God and who love Jesus.

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  15. Thank you. I have recently changed churches after having attended the same church for 17 years. It was hard. It is still hard. I believe that God is leading me to the new Church and I am anxious to follow His lead. After reading your post, I know that this is the right choice for me based on the plans He has in store 4 me.After all, He led me to this message.

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  16. Thank you so much for this article. We are in the same dilemma right now after 12 yrs at the same church. Reading this helped. :-)

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