Tuesday, December 19, 2006

When to leave a church....

When is it acceptable to leave a church for another one in the same area? I've never been comfortable with the idea of "church shopping" that you so often see - where people go from one church to another looking for just the right place to attend. No church is perfect. There will probably always be things you don't like about your church and people that you don't get along with very well. But that's part of being a member of the Body of Christ which is comprised entirely of fallen people. It's a beautiful thing when Christ-followers can set aside their differences and worship together.

But are there valid reasons for leaving one church for another?
- if you disagree with the way a leader chooses to run a class that you are in?
- if the church is so big you feel lost every time you walk in the door?
- if you don't like the style of preaching?
- if you have theological differences?
- if you don't like the style of worship?

What, if anything, constitutes an acceptable reason to "church hop?" A church is meant to be a family where we find ourselves fed, where we can serve others and where we can bring in those who are not yet part of the family. Given that analogy, how can I "give up" on my family and move on to another one? It doesn't work like that with my blood relatives, why should it work like that with my spiritual family?

To be more personal about this, I miss student ministry. When I was in college, I did a lot with youth groups. I was a youth ministry major so I often had assignments to go to local churches and participate in youth ministries. Apart from that, I chose to serve with AWANA clubs, first as a leader with 3rd & 4th grade girls (for 2 years) and then with Jr. High students (for 1.5 years). I also worked at a Salvation Army church to begin a youth group for the kids there. When I graduated, moved to Wheaton, IL and joined a church, I just assumed that I would continue my involvement in student ministry. At first I was so busy with grad school that I did have time to commit to a ministry but after about 10 months, I reorganized my schedule so that I could. And I began searching my church for opportunities to get involved. First I tried the Jr. High group but they didn't have a need for leaders. Then I tried the high school group but found the same thing. I waited about 6 months and then tried again with both groups and with the college group but with no luck. I belong to a church that is blessed to have enough volunteers in their student ministries. There is nearly always a need with the younger kids and I have had the joy of working with kindergartners and the 5 year olds.

So here I am, with a desire to work with students, particularly college students/young adults and I resonate is some ways with the first two reasons I listed above. What am I to do? Do I find another (smaller) church where I can get involved? Do I find a para-church ministry to serve with such as Campus Crusade (as mentioned in a previous post)? I have one friend who is seeking to start a young adult group at his church. It's a church of about 200 and a pretty close-knit community. It's been awfully tempting to check it out and see if I could be a part of it. Then there's a friend from grad school who is working with his wife in a college group at their church and they could use another woman to come alongside the students.

Just a thought rolling around in my head....

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