Posted by: ME | August 20, 2011

Church hunting….grrrrrr

For anyone who has uprooted a family from a good thing, you may appreciate this post.

(just so you know, I interchange “old” church and HOME church)

In February 2010, we moved our family from our very southern, very family oriented, homeschooling, church going life in Covington, Louisiana  to Clermont, Florida. Clermont is in Central Florida, about 30 minutes from Mickey Mouse. Central Florida is a very transient place to call home. Clermont is less so, but still in Central Florida. Florida, while homeschool friendly, is not half so accommodating to my tastes in private homeschooling, but that is for another post. Churches here in this area are very up and coming, and not at all “homey” in general, to ME.

Here is my disclaimer as I move on: I am giving you my and possibly my family’s very straight forward opinions about churches we have encountered here in Florida. It has made us really look at why we go to church, how it affects our relationship with God and if you even NEED a church to have that relationship with God. It has made us ponder why the heck God led us to Florida, because this part of our lives has been the toughest to fulfill here, but the most important in our lives. We were in a good place in our Christian journey in Covington. Did He want us out of our comfort zone to grow and stretch our faith, to spread ourselves out, to touch ONE person who needed it, OR for them to touch us in some way? That was our church FAMILY. We spent and average consistent 3 days a week with those wonderful people between services, bible studies, choir, Wednesday Night dinners, and our kids plays with choir or summer drama camp. They were with us during the worst time in our family’s life- childhood cancer. My Disciple 1 bible study laid hands on her at a very low time in our lives and this meant SO much to me and still does, 10 years later.

So my opinions of these places we discovered started off very critically. Then we moved on to it being the ONE mission we needed was to find a darned church to commune with. Then I decided, and my family didn’t object much, to not going at all because I, personally, was burnt out on this HUGE task. I was happy to watch our “old” church online in my jammies and get grape juice and “Jesus bread”(what we call the new flat round sandwich bread) for communion with each other. After a few months of going to the closest church but not getting involved(tell you why later) once or twice a month and watching the “old” church on the laptop(and eventually the big screen), my family took a stand and demanded we “get back out there” and try again. I half heartedly got dressed that following Sunday and off we tromped to the very first church we went to after we moved here, hopefully with a different perspective.

February 2010- I don;t think we went to church at all because we were: first, in shock about how everything happened so fast, PLUS the Saints won the Superbowl one week after we moved. We were also in a temporary living situation, awaiting to close on the home we chose in Clermont. We watched our “old” church and loved it because we could celebrate our hometown’s Superbowl win. You could FEEL the energy coming through the little laptop screen and on TV after the win. Our city was AMAZING and I wish we would’ve been there. Anyway, more on that another time too! It made us want to get in our car and drive right back home!

March 2010- After getting into our new home, we just automatically went to the closest UMC to our home. Walking up it felt normal, usual, comfortable. Then we passed an EMPTY sanctuary. The time was right, so where was the people in the service? Walking on we started seeing people going into another big building which turned out to be the gym. The service was in the gym even though the sanctuary was empty?? Okay, so we went. Our first thoughts were, “this is groovy” because the praise band was not young like what we were used too, plus they had about 5 singers, so it sounded more like ABBA leading the praise and worship songs. Then the pastor came out and did the sermon. Seemed okay.

In the next 4-6 weeks we went here, we learned that children’s choir was NOT choir, it was VBS once a week. Our youngest was discouraged. The pastor scares ME. The Wednesday Night dinner was geriatric and the music was elevator-like, and my hubby said “it smells like a nursing home” when he met us there for dinner. There were literally 2, maybe 3 families in there besides us.

Not for us.

May 2010- We then moved on to the next closest UMC, which was about 40 minutes away. It was lively and we loved the music and the pastor(a woman about my age or a little younger). Our oldest went to Sunday school for her aged group and she wasn’t crazy over it at all. Her first impression was that there were a BUNCH of kids on their handheld electronic games and no one told them a thing once it started. She also witnessed not ONE child pray for something personal when asking for prayer requests everyone prayed for the “environment”. We met some really nice people there, even was invited to lunch to which we went, where we sat next to a lady who plays Lucy Arnaz at Universal, a producer for the shows on the new Disney Cruise line ship, an actor for Disney who was now called to the ministry, and some kids who were in a Harry Potter commercial for Universal. The most interesting person at the table was a little old man, father to the lady who played Lucy, who was telling us about all the fun he has in his retirement community. The old people in Florida have it made! I am totally retiring here!

My oldest also wanted to join their version of “choir” which was not choir. It was a cool thing though, where the older kids basically run a service(music, moves, etc) for families with younger children. We felt more comfortable here than the previous church, but in comes a new pastor for the contemporary service(both their contemporary and traditional services went on at the same time, so it was like having 2 different churches under the same roof, in different rooms. The new pastor came in summer, when the lady pastor took some time off. This new guy dressed in jungle gear and his whole message was basically about being green because we need to protect God’s creation. Ugh. There is a time and place people, and maybe even a SERMON, but not a whole summer of it. That did it for us there, plus if we were to be involved at this particular church, it was very far to go 3 times a week.

Summer 2010- Okay, so by now we were feeling discouraged and desperate. Our kids WANTED a church they could get involved in the way we could get involved at our HOME church- choir, bible study, plays, and maybe even a weekly dinner. My hubby and I were NOT finding ANY of that for them. Not one thing. I tried offering it to our homeschool group and due to time and distance from each other, it just didn’t work out. I tried finding it at home, encouraging the kids to look for it with what we had already with friends and such. I had been doing this all along and even still. Paul, the hubby, suggested we try outside of the UMC circle. Our oldest was NOT happy. She had just been confirmed a Christian through our HOME UMC and she took those exact words seriously. The words they say are something to the effect of supporting the UMC with your tithes, offerings and service. Paul and I overruled that and tried a HUGE non-denominational church near us.

During the 6 weeks we were there (and more because this particular church wound up being our fall back church when we were sick of looking), we enjoyed the sermons and music, as it was most like the “old” church. Well, the music was anyway. We completely enjoyed the sermons too, most weeks. There was something about this place that made me uncomfortable, but Paul liked it, so I gave that up to the fact that I was probably a bit depressed about missing our “old” church. We called the music “Chad-like” after Chad, who led worship at our home church. We really like his/their style. We brought our oldest to youth group there, staying with her, for 6 weeks. Well, let me tell you I was not happy with the first impression at all. There were like 500 kids there.  On Sundays there were like 12, or at least under 20. Where were these kids on Sundays!?! We alternated bringing her and Paul agreed, it was SCARY. No one listened, paid attention,a nd some got into it. Her small group leader was 15. I. do. not. think. so. Youth pastors came up to me one by one telling me that when school started it would be different. It was an outreach and not a place for the kids who wanted to be there. It was a drop off opportunity for lazy parents in my opinion. Not all, but most. Here was a free thing for kids to do at a church, so how bad could THAT be??? Well, come to find out, many of the kids were being dropped off at “youth group” and were then going across the street to skateboard in the hilly parking lot, make out behind the church or go to a movie at the theater. The youth pastors told me they goal was to put a stop to that, but not fast enough for me and my daughter.

So we tried another church.

Fall 2012- We then tried a tiny non denominational church that we went to ONCE. It was very very very very out of our box. I CAN step out of my box, but these were hand raising, amen shouting group of God loving people. Just not our thing. We are much more reserved conservative praise and worshippers.

After that experience, we went to another non denominational church for about 6 weeks. We liked it, we liked their youth group except they are picky about who helps with youth group(good thing) but that meant while I was welcome, I couldn’t do certain things with them, like mission trips. Okay, understandable. I like protection of my kids. I would just have to hang around long enough for them to know me better simply because my daughter wasn’t going to any of those things without me anyway. I don’t know these people! The pastor is passionate and the overall feel to the place was homier than any others we experienced. No choir, no drama, no Wednesday Night dinner. Hardly one building, too(but they are growing!). By now we had given up on finding anything remotely alike with our “old” church. My kids still begged for it though. And it is one thing we cannot give them. More life lessons. Yuck.

Let me tell ya’, I was pretty much DONE. Fried. Started looking into HOME church, which I never really agreed with. I started thinking that maybe we didn’t need a church family because we had so many resources already: a Christian homeschool group, homeschooling with Christian materials, Give Kids the World(where Jesus IS for me), and bibles.  I know many people who live a Christian life and don’t go to a church. It always bothered me a little, because I learned that God WANTS us to be in a community of believers, that He requires it. Yet, here we were, thinking that may be our life now. I will tell you that coming from a wonderful church family, I knew we would be missing out on something great if we never settled on finding a church to become our family. I just don’t think it IS here. (That is me, lying to myself. I really know in my heart, that if God brought us here, He has something planned, we just need to have faith that it’s out there somewhere, or maybe that we have already been there and didn’t realize it).

I will continue this later- my kids keep saying “mom”!

Lori

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