So why, pray tell, would we ever want to leave such a marvelous hotbed of Christian goodness? Very simply, for the sake of my family’s spiritual well-being and for my children’s protection.
Pretty dramatic, eh? 🙂In short, it was dramatic, and we did leave for those reasons. Yet, the church was not doing anything deliberately to us that would warrant us running and screaming from the pews. They were just TOO BIG. The youth group was gigantic, and our older kids got lost there. I am sure that the youth pastors were trying to gear their material to ‘reach the masses’, but dumbing down God’s word is not acceptable to us. Neither is bringing up all of the worldly examples in today’s society, in hopes of trying to get a point across about following Christ. My children do not need to discuss Lady Gaga in church. Good grief.
We have always been a very close-knit family, even before we began homeschooling again. Eventually, after my husband and I were completely frustrated with the topics that our children were coming home with from their ‘church time’ on Sundays, we brought them into our church service instead. Which brings me around to another problem area in some churches; the discouragement from the staff on having your whole family in participation with the congregation. Surely I can understand some reluctance from church leaders if you have a baby who is always crying during a sermon, or your toddler is constantly out of sorts. In that case, it is necessary to reevaluate whether or not the nursery should be utilized for your infant, and more time working at home on obedience training for your little wiggle worm. Even if it is an infrequent concern, you should always leave as quietly as you can until such problems are resolved. But, as a rule, why should our own children be ushered out of the ‘big people church’ and miss out on worshiping together as a family?Last year, however, our children were teens, so having them in the main church area was not the issue, nor was it really an issue at all. The kids were loving our Pastor’s services almost as much as Dave and I did. It was little Coconut’s arrival that finally put the last nail in the coffin of our family attending this particular church. That sweet child was so severely abused, that we could not take him anywhere for the first few months that he was in our care. I made the mistake of taking him to the park one day, because he loved being outside so much. At only two-and-a-half, he was such a ball of energy, and I knew he would enjoy the swings and slides. Let me just say, people DO NOT understand when a child looks like Coconut did. Forget polite stares, or even hostile stares……..people went into attack mode when they saw this boy’s face. I had my two teens with me, and they could not believe the boldness of strangers who marched right up to me and asked me what happened to my child. Sadly, the terrible bruising on his face was just a fraction of the horror; he had so many bite marks, pinch marks and bruises all over his body that he looked like a Dalmatian. On top of his physical appearance, the moment I took him into my arms, he did not want to come back out of them for six months. If a stranger so much as looked him in the eye, he went into hysterics. Taking him to church was not an option.
Our departure from church was directly related to having our first foster child, but at the time we figured it was just temporary. However, our new-found status as church orphans, came soon after. I emailed our pastor to explain our absense, and to ask him if he would pray for my new son, and the rest of us, as we learned to deal with this tragic situation. We were not emotionally equipped to deal with all of the problems and issues that Coconut had, but through much prayer and God’s grace, we labored on. In the preacher’s defense, he did email back with his promised prayers……but, we never heard another word from him, or any other person at that church. We were dismissed from memory the moment that we stopped showing up.
It was not a huge surprise, as there were no Sunday School classes for adults, no bereavement committees, no food ministries, etc. They had ministries, but it was for things like missions to Nicaragua which cost way more than we could ever afford, and a homework and child mentoring house in an impoverished neighborhood. Nothing that would help to create lasting friendships and bonds with other church members. Nothing that would bring us all together as a ‘Church Family’.
We ventured to a few other churches once Coconut was healed physically and on his way to being healed emotionally, but by this time I had done so much research on living for Christ, that I had very specific needs and desires for our new church home. No longer could I tolerate a youth group that was all about socialization and where grown adults who knew better, tried to ‘relate’ to teens in hopes of winning them over. We were just starting to teach our children about courtship and dating with a purpose, and we needed to find others who believed in the same things. We are still searching to this day.
I am not sure if this type of structure exists, perhaps I will just have to wait for Heaven to experience such a place as this, but here are my ideas of a great church for my family:The members are willing to do all that they can to protect the purity of their teenagers. Setting up outings and events so that teens of this mindset can gather without too much temptation (because as a realist, I know it will always be there). My teens love interacting with their own age group, and want to know that they are not the only ones who are being taught this. Because they did not receive instruction about courtship right from the start, all of these practices are new to them. Abstaining from sex was the name of the game before, and now they realize that even kissing can cause serious attachments, which can lead to heartbreak. My husband and I both carried a lot of baggage into our relationship, and we want our children to know the dangers of casual dating. Things are simple and old-fashioned. My family always jokes on me for this, “You are not living in the days of Little House on the Prairie”! I know that, I do, but I yearn for the more basic needs of a church. Things like reading straight from the Bible, singing hymns that do not require an electric guitar or keyboard, and a service that your whole family stands together as one. It’s not that I want to live way back in those times, because I don’t……..I like having medicines and I cannot live without Diet Pepsi. There was just such camaraderie among fellow believers and a togetherness that made you know in your heart that you belonged. Of course, my husband and I do not always agree on the music. He likes the loud and modern, and I could sing out of the old Baptist Hymnal all day!
When your sick, I will bring you soup. When we moved into our house, not one neighbor brought us muffins, and most did not even acknowledge our existence. Now that the world is so huge, we cannot possibly meet everyone in our immediate surroundings. However, that should be the beauty of your home church. God says in James 5:14 “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.” Taking care of each other is how we show love. If I know that one of my family members is ill, I will have a casserole or soup ready to be delivered. Such trifles are worth their weight in gold to a mother who doesn’t feel well, yet has many mouths to feed.When you cry, I will cry also. A lot of churches have bereavement committees. I want to be on one. The need for people to rally around a family when they have lost a loved one is huge. No person who is grieving should have to think about making casseroles and ham sandwiches to feed an army of mourners. I also want a church that will pray for me when I have a small inconvenience like a child who needs their tonsils removed, to a major heartache like a beloved foster child who must return to a not-so-great-home. Investment is all it takes. I will invest in you, and you do likewise. We will break bread together and have fellowship. As Christians, it can be hard to stay on the path of righteousness. We are all sinners, and no person is better than another, but yet, we still try as hard as we can to honor and obey God and His Word. Having friends and family who live out that walk for Christ every day with you is most fulfilling. If we stumble, they can help to pick us back up and if need be, point us back in the right direction. Fellowship of other believers in our Heavenly Father is the sweetest on earth.
I pray very often that God will reveal the church that He has for my family. Perhaps I am naive in my wish, but I must keep the faith that there is a church out there that will fulfill our needs. He called us to live this life, and I know He will always provide for those who believe in Him.
I would love to hear from others who have these same wants and needs from their church. Have you found your church home? Did you have to start your own, or conduct a home church like the Duggar’s have?
Thanks for reading and God Bless!