Recently I helped out with my church’s new member class. One of the best parts? Hearing their stories of just why they like our church and want to join. I just couldn’t get enough of these stories. Because even though I love the church we attend, honestly sometimes I’m a tiny bit surprised when other people, especially younger people, want to join.
Because the truth is that our church is pretty uncool.
And believe me, I know a little something about uncool. I have logged untold hours with a PC laptop in a coffee shop near a local university. Once a guy sitting right next to me actually leaned over me and my clunky PC to say to the person on my other side: “I knew you were cool because you’re on a Mac.”
Just because I am uncool, though, doesn’t mean I can’t recognize it when I see it. There is a cool church in my town. OK, there are probably lots. But this particular one is hard to miss. They have an army of volunteers just to help organize parking, and an hour or so before all of their many weekly services thousands of young, diverse, tatted up people flood into the church wearing expensive and occasionally ironic T-shirts and jeans and clutching their well-thumbed Bibles. I wandered in there the other day to check out their bookstore and saw, on the daily digital schedule that resembles nothing so much as an airport departures and arrivals monitor, such things as Island Dancing, Nutrition Counseling, and Rwanda Tuesdays.
In contrast, my church has two services, both on Sunday morning. We usually get a hundred, maybe two, at each service. Our congregation is diverse, but really only in terms of age. We have lots of kids and also lots of senior citizens. We don’t have a digital daily schedule signboard, probably because we’re not so great with technology. And we’re a lot more earnest than ironic.
But my family loves it here, despite its relative uncoolness. What my husband and I love most is that we are a part of the family. That most of the members know our kids and don’t even mind too much if they loudly drop their plastic train toys on the tile floor in the middle of the prayer. And that they will tell us if one of them is acting up or, in the case of my two-year-old, looking like he might run out the door and toward the street.
I love it that the pastor has known our names since the first time we attended and that when we run into him he is likely to pat the kids on the head and give my husband and me a hug. That he has invited my husband to be part of a small group that the pastor himself attends as a participant and that as soon as we joined, he helped us to find niches where we could start serving right away. Because if we don’t have defined roles in Christ’s body then not only is something not getting done, then also we are not likely to feel an important part of the family. I notice the same thing with my kids–it’s key for them to have jobs and important roles in our family, to know that we need them, that without them our family doesn’t work the way it should.
I don’t mean to put down the cool church. At another stage in our lives, we did attend a similar church and loved the sermons and worship and maybe even the relative anonymity being part of such a large congregation conferred.
Having small children has vastly limited our ability to be anonymous anywhere. It’s hard to fly under the radar when your younger son is known as “The Traveler” because of his habit of running back and forth between his older brother and me or his dad during the children’s sermon.
And I don’t mind that as much as I thought I might. In fact, having my children with me in church is one of my favorite things about our church–that they get to stay for a Bible passage, some worship songs and a children’s message before heading off to Sunday school–as opposed to either spending the entire service in Sunday school or child care or, perish the thought, sitting in the pews with their dad and me during the entire service. (If the latter was our only option, we might never be able to attend again.)
Other people like our church for very different reasons, of course. And a good friend of ours find that aforementioned cool church to be the only way to go. He goes back again and again for the top-notch speakers and the worship music.
It’s pretty remarkable the way Christ’s body has so many and varied parts and the way we can all serve him in our own, cool or not.
No wonder I can’t get enough of those stories about why people love our church and want to join.
What do you love about your church?