Our children were pre-teens when we found ourselves shopping for a new church.
Where to start? We wanted a church that had other young families. We wanted a church that believed as we believe. We wanted a church where we felt at home.
The choices were overwhelming. Did we want a gymnasium with a full basketball court? There were plenty of those. Did we want a church that offered its own school? A few of those were also on the docket. All very nice.
There had to be a way to filter all that was out there to find the perfect church for our family.
We narrowed our church search initially by eliminating those denominations with which we don't agree, belief-wise. We narrowed it further by geography, knowing full well we would not drive more than 20 minutes to a service.
So, with our narrowed list we began drive-by church searching.
We eye-balled their curb appeal. We checked to see if they had anything on their signs out front to entice us in, or to let us know when the services were held.
So, our first week we chose a church near our home that looked nice. They had an active youth group, according to the front-yard sign. They could be our new church, we thought.
The people were very nice. The service was good. Music was fine. But we just didn’t feel like this was “the” church for us. Nothing negative, but nothing that made us feel at home.
The next week we tried out another church. Very nice looking building. Very friendly people, but not many of them. And, we were told after finding an empty pew that we were sitting in a section where no one ever sits. We would need to move. They showed us where to sit, and we obliged. For that week. All of us knew we would not be returning.
The children were getting tired of this search. Truth be told, their grumbling was only mirroring the thoughts my husband and I were also feeling.
The next week we went to yet another church.
We got there in time for what the sign claimed was the starting time, yet no one was around. There were lots of cars parked outside, but no sign of people.
“Maybe they had a trip somewhere today. Let’s go home and try again next week,” one of the kids said.
Sitting in the car, we hedged for a few minutes on whether to go in or follow the wisdom of our child. Finally, my husband bit the bullet and said he would scout it out and see if the service had yet begun.
The last I saw him, he was opening the door and going indoors. He was there for a few minutes before heading back out and signaling all of us to head in. However, we didn’t go in that same door he had come out, we were directed to another door, the one the church actually used.
Turns out my husband had gone to the original front door, which was now used only as an exit. In fact, the door he entered now opened into a little glass-enclosed vestibule. And my poor husband, not knowing that, had gone in late to their service, and stood in front of that glass enclosure.
Naturally, it took a few seconds for his eyes to adjust from the blinding sun of the outdoors to that indoor light. So, in his blinded stupor he had gone to the window and probably pressed his nose against it to see if anyone was inside the church.
The 100-person congregation that saw him do that welcomed him warmly, and in turn, they welcomed us.
We felt really comfortable there, and have gone there ever since.
And while it worked out well for us, it took us a long time to get beyond our embarrassment of that first visit.
Which is my way of telling you, if you forgot to move your clocks ahead last night, you could be late for your church services today. But trust me, head out anyway. The folks there will welcome even the late arrivers.