I’ve always said that whenever we move the first two things that are imperative to find is a stylist/salon and church. Since moving to Ventura from my home in Northern Virginia almost four years ago in September, it was important to me that we found a church in which we felt as though we belonged. Luckily it didn’t take much searching as a neighbor, who would become close friends of ours, was on her way to service one morning and happened to be carrying a Bible under her arm, which caught my attention. A fellow Christian, I thought! So I linked up with her and she invited me to Easter service, which both my husband and I really enjoyed.
Since our first service and flashing forward to just this past year we’ve loved attending and quickly considered us a part of our church community and family. We had Greyson dedicated there, I joined in small groups, volunteered, and this was the church where my husband was beginning to find faith after years of distance with God. Each week we found ourselves being filled up with the Lord, having deeper conversations as husband and wife, and walking away with an appreciation for what our church has given to us, spiritually, as a family.
God intends for us to settle down with a group of Christian friends who become our source of strength, help, support, compassion, comfort, service and who journey through the Bible with you as you develop strong spiritual muscles.” – Pastor Roger Barrier
Although there were so many things that we continue to love about our church, we couldn’t help but feel as though we weren’t connecting in the same way we once did so many years ago. All churches go through transition at some point and just because they experience this from time to time it’s no reason to immediately jump ship. Church is like a family and sometimes families go through difficult periods, this I understand. However, I personally think that it is important that church-goers don’t feel pressured to stick with a church if they don’t feel as though they’re spiritually growing and learning in meaningful ways. For us, we’re relatively new in the church family scene and for years I’ve been trying to connect but never quite found a place where I belonged.
So, let’s talk about this important subject as it relates to faith and a few things to keep in mind when thinking about leaving your church.
Let God lead you.
No matter where you are on your faith journey, be prayerful for the right steps and have hope that God will lead you to a church family that will fill you up. It’s important to have a keen eye and open heart for God-lead opportunities to explore different churches before making the ‘choice’ for you and your family. Ultimately it’s where God places you that you find you can authentically and organically grow in Jesus. Here are a few ways just how you can do that…
Do you feel welcome?
This goes beyond just the simple greeting of ‘hi’ or ‘welcome’ at the front door. It’s a feeling that you know that everyone you interact with is sincere and is excited to see you on Sundays. We all desire a sense of belonging and to belong to a safe place that allows us to spiritually grow, ask the tough questions, get connected, and learn about God together is something that fits for everyone.
Is it diverse (and more than just racially speaking)?
When speaking to my husband about this post he brought up such an important aspect to church I didn’t really give much thought to. He told me that one of the things that’s helps him feel welcome, and encourages him, is how diverse the church is. For him, he’s only rediscovering his faith and who God is and it’s important for him – and others like him – to feel accepted by church. Jesus was about loving people – finding and connecting with people from all walks of life and our churches should reflect that same mindset.
Does the sermon/service speak to you?
When you’re lead to a church and are sitting in the pew listening to the service, you can’t help but ask yourself whether or not what the pastor has to say is meaningful to you. Are you learning about who Jesus is and diving right in into the Bible? Do you find yourself connecting with and continuing to think about the message hours afterwards? Are you eager to share this message with others, strangers, family, or friends? These are all important things to consider in determining if each week you’re being spiritually filled because when you are, that’s where you begin to overflow in grace and happiness.
Is this where you see yourself for the long haul?
Making a commitment to a church family is a huge, yet exciting, moment. It’s a moment where you belong to something greater than yourself and, much like in marriage, you dedicate yourself to a community of people through thick and thin. A church is always growing and it’s important that it’s members see themselves rooting with the church and making a sincere commitment to be an active part of it (i.e. tithing, serving, volunteering, leading, etc.).
Why we decided to break up with our church.
If I can be open and honest here, for all the wonderful aspects our church has given to my family and I over the years we found that over the course of a couple of months there was a palpable shift within the leadership. Our lead pastor abruptly resigned, then many worship leaders, and now our secondary lead pastor. Among other things, we’ve noticed a slight difference in tone when it came to the services and the last straw for myself was a sermon whose only message was about why we shouldn’t leave the church. I can admit that there were many valid points made that morning, but the effort seemed to reflect something bigger happening within our church as a staff and leadership. Ultimately, it felt less like God’s Word and more like a church struggling to keep their congregation together.
Since then we’ve been lead to a new church that has, in many ways, picked us up where we left off with each message speaking directly into our hearts. We’re excited to continue attending and growing in our understanding of who God is and how we can make meaningful connections has husband and wife, as parents, and as Christians in our town of Ventura. So, if you’re feeling as though God is moving in you to find a new church, don’t be ashamed or guilted by this feeling. There’s a huge difference between church hopping and church searching – your church home is out there waiting for you so go find it.
Have you broken up or left your church? What is your opinion about this topic? It’s okay to disagree – I’d love to hear your thoughts!