Church Searching and More
July 19, 2014
On July 27 (eight days from now, if you’re counting), I plan to begin my church search.
Now that I have begun working at a my first full-time “good-for-the-moment” job, my next challenge is to find a new church home. I have several fears about this next step in my post-college journey. What if I don’t feel welcomed? What if I don’t connect with people? What if I don’t find a way to get involved? What if I get hurt really badly? What if I struggle with the same challenges I have faced between middle school and college? These are the biggest fears I have listed off the top of my head.
In fact, I was so worked up on these fears, I emailed a very distant brother I have in Christ. I apologized to him about dragging him into the drama I had in a conflict between his friends and myself. Although the issue has been resolved over two years ago, the shame I have lingers. On really bad days, I feel spiritually attacked. On these days, I boil over in bitterness I had towards the people who treated me poorly. Then, shame bombards me about the wrong I had done towards those same people in my junior year of college. My fear is that this baggage has marred me and that it will follow me wherever I end up attending church. It’s like I have real fear that I will either repeat the same mistakes with people or that people will hurt me in a similar manner.
Maybe facing these fears is how God wants me to grow? I’m not really sure. While on a quiet walk with myself yesterday, I started feeling that was another piece for me to grow. Along with the fears I have about church, I felt similar fears about work. During that walk I started feeling, “You’re going to be challenged. Prepare yourself.” It’s a good thing I’ve kept up with journaling and reading the Psalms frequently in this season, as my counselor and others supporting me have encouraged. Still I fear that I’m still under-equipped. Just another reason why I need God, and I cannot get through these fears on my own.
What I do have going for me are expectations. I don’t expect any community church I visit in the next few weeks to be like my college ministry. In fact, I strongly hope it is nothing like it (no offense to my college ministry for which I have no ill feelings for).
For one thing, I will feel less out of place knowing the leadership of a community church will be different. I will feel less pressured to become a leader either because I’m expected to at some point, because of my desire, or because of comparisons between myself and my peers. In my college church, I would say roughly 95 percent of those in my graduation class were leaders. Additionally, roughly 10 percent of the student church members at the time (approximately 60 out of 600 +/-) were leaders. Looking at these numbers alone and then observing the culture of my college church and its leadership model, I felt a false impression — that every student would become a leader. I happened to be an outlier among my cohorts (seniors and juniors with tenure and underclassmen with leadership experience) who were leaders. Despite feeling like a glaring abnormality while often comparing myself to those around me, the question of why I wasn’t a leader was asked to me only once my senior year.
Secondly, I will embrace stability. As you could surmise, a college ministry lacks stability. Every four years, a typical graduation class passes through and moves on. So therefore, as the wave of students cycles through, a college church constantly changes each year to keep up with its changing demographic of students. Staff members also come and go. The nature of my college ministry was to constantly recruit new staff members as well-tenured staff left to help church plants at other colleges and universities. In a community church, I will find a stable community of families, staff members and pastors. Changes to the people, operations and structure of a community church occur far less frequently (Can I say once in a blue moon?). Stability and continuity is an element of a church that suits me well.
Diversity is a third expectation but also very strong concern I have. One thing I did enjoy about my college ministry was its diversity. We had people of different ethnic and church backgrounds. It was remarkable to see a melting pot of all types of people making up the the student congregation. That’s what you get when you have a ministry for students at a state-funded university — diversity. As I search for a community church, I realize there will be a lack of diversity because of the rural area in which I live.
Although I have several fears about finding a new church home, I have armed myself with realistic expectations going in and my continued devotion with God. I have a feeling I am going to learn and grow a lot from this scary experience in my life.
♦ Congratulations to the Germany men’s national football team winning the 2014 World Cup. I picked them to win it all. (Bragging rights to me?) Thomas Müller should have won tournament’s best player. Not Messi!
♦ Commendations to LeBron James returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers! I hope he wears No. 23 and the Cav’s revert back to the vintage jerseys they donned during James’ first stint with the team.
♦ I have reached a slump of motivation in writing my novel. Great. Just when my life gets busier again. The timing couldn’t be more perfect.
♦ I am no longer wearing blue jeans. I have found cargo pants to be more comfortable, durable and fashionable for me.
♦ I want to start collecting flags. I want to first get the flags of England and Germany, for the possible ancestry in my family.