I shall clarify...I love shopping for boots, jackets, clothes in general, home decor, yummy food, and gifts for friends.
I hate shopping for clothes for Matt, printer ink and lightbulbs, craft supplies, and furniture.
I loathe shopping for churches.
Matt and I started this shopping trip by making a list of churches that seemed like they would be a good fit for us and then started checking them off one by one each weekend.
Well, until this weekend.
Last night I actually "attended" two churches simultaneously via my computer...while shopping for home decor. Yep. Live stream baby. It was a great way to get a feel for the worship and message to determine if I really wanted that particular church to take up one of my Sunday time slots for a visit.
Of the two I sat in on last night, both seemed like a possibility so we headed on off to church A for the 10:15 service. I must admit I walked in the door in a bit of a funk. We followed the directional signs to the kids area and stood looking at 3 computer screens telling us to check-in. Electronic check in has been available at almost every church we've attended so I know the drill. Wait for someone to register our kids in the system, print out a tag, drop off kids, go to church. The problem here was there were 3 computers and no people. After standing there for a few moments looking confused and hearing the church service start, we turned around and walked back to the foyer. Here I asked Matt in a very snobbish bratty tone "do you really think we are going to attend this church?" Poor Matt. We then started discussing what to do. I wanted to leave. Matt was indifferent. Gabe still didn't know what was happening and Eli voted to go back to the last church we tried out.
After a calm cleansing breath we decided that we will all go into the church as a family. This decision was based on two vital factors: first we didn't know how to get our kids registered in order to send them to kids church and second we could easily escape if we decided to mass exodus out of that place.
We walked into the sanctuary after being greeted by lots of friendly people. There were 15 people choir-like getting their swing on, a vibrant worship leader, and contemporary band on stage. The meeting area was half empty but since the area isn't large it felt cozy and then (cue screeching record needle) we saw that all the seats, minus the first 5-6 rows in each aisle, were combat engineer roped off. I'm not talking about that little golden tassel braided rope laying across the chairs to block them off. I'm talking some serious rope with a little retractor gadget probably equipped with alarms and booby traps. There was no ducking under or crawling over this thing. So our only seating option at this point is to try to squeeze into the mostly full rows that were right up front, risk SWAT team invasion by breaching the rope, or leave. We left.
That 15 minutes drained me. Am I being to judgmental? What if this is our church but my bad attitude caused us to leave before we could experience the good in it? I asked Matt what he thought. He quickly responded "heck no, I wouldn't want to ever attend that church". Not only was the kids church and seating a cluster, it just didn't feel good, didn't feel right at all. So we moved on.
We went to Starbucks, grabbed some pastries and located another church to try that had a later start time.
Church B was actually a church that we attended here many moons ago when we were stationed here our first time. It wasn't our first stop on the church hunt because there are some things about it that we were not really excited about. We knew we wanted to try that church but we were making our way through the other ones on the list first, mainly because we knew what to expect at church b.
Our visit went fine, the message was good: biblical, relevant, engaging. The service was contemporary but didn't have strobe lights and fog machines (not judging, just not a fan) and the worship was good. When we got back in the car after service we had our family chat about what we liked and didn't like about the church. Matt and I were both willing to come back for another visit, Gabe liked it because he got a popsicle and the music was fun, and Eli hated it because "it wasn't like church it was a party".
So here we go again. I'll spend this week trying to see if I missed any potential churches out there and then decide what one to try on next week. I am planning a back up church with a later service time just in case we have a repeat of today's tantrum.
They haven't all been bad. There is a church that the boys go to for AWANA that seems good. It is of a denomination that drives me a little crazy... but other than that, the message was good, the worship was fine, and they have an incredible children's ministry. Matt and I didn't love it. We didn't feel an overwhelming since of "oh this is home" so we are still looking and still praying that we'll find our place soon.