So this week I read an article written in the Atlantic titled ‘Why a Christian Woman’s Place is Outside the Home.’ The article (by Jonathon Merritt) was based on a book by Katelyn Beaty. Ms Beaty’s first book ‘A Woman’s Place: A Christian Vision for Your Calling in the Office, the Home and the World’ is due to be published this month, and I would very much like to read it. The article can be found here: http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/07/the-conservative-christian-case-for-working-women/490025/?utm_source=atltw. Please have a read and let me know what you think.
Usually if I read something on the internet that offends me I just let it go and scroll on by. But this article really ruffled my feathers. And I don’t think I’m the only one. The 31 year old managing editor is proposing that God wants women to work outside the home. Apparently being a stay at home mother is a thing of the past. Beaty once believed staying at home with children is a mother’s “central call”; But her perspective has changed.
I’m wanting to tell wives and mothers that there is so much inherent goodness in the call to work and that we needn’t pit certain types of roles against each other,” Beaty said. “There are ways to be a devoted wife and mother and a devoted CEO. In the church, we need to make space for women who feel called to both at the same time.”
She’s 31, and doesn’t have children yet. I don’t wish to be insensitive about the fact that she is single and doesn’t yet have children, however it is hard to be familiar with the nuances of family life if you don’t have a family. I agree we don’t have to ‘pit certain types of roles against each other.’ And of course there is nothing wrong with being a mother and a CEO. In fact I am in awe of women who can do both, however (as many women who have done both have admitted), it is very difficult to manage both. Time is a very finite resource.
Ms Beaty argues: ‘We are all called to have influence—cultural influence outside of the private sphere of the home,” Beaty said. “It wouldn’t necessarily have to be a career track, but certainly all Christians, including all Christian women, are called to have cultural influence outside the home.” Well I can’t disagree with that. But how about these statements:
While Beaty said she wants to affirm the value of the labor of motherhood, she considers it a separate category. While she isn’t willing to call full-time mothering “sinful,” she encourages women with children to assess their talents and put those to use outside of their households.
So now full time mothering is ‘almost sinful’?
“When you talk about scales of influence or scales of societal influence, a woman who is staying at home with [her] children isn’t going to have as much influence on the direction of culture,” Beaty said. “We can talk about motherhood as a specific type of calling, but I’m not ready to professionalize it.”
I couldn’t disagree more. And I’m a bit baffled why The Atlantic would choose to publish something that is disrespectful to so many women. I don’t want to get into the tired old mummy wars. They really are a bit petty, and there are more important battles to be fought in the world. However, it’s telling that the author of this article doesn’t actually have children yet, and consequently, she may not really comprehend the enormity of the task of mothering. Guess what? All mothers work. Whether that is in the workforce or in the home – it’s all work. And not to mention the boatload of volunteer work that mothers contribute, whether they are employed outside the home or whether they work at home. Who do you think helps at preschools, runs the school fair, helps with the soup kitchen or runs the soccer club? Society would be lost without it’s army of volunteers.
One expects the devaluing of mothering and homemaking in the world. But now we have these disparaging voices in the church too? I’m not suggesting that women give up their jobs and tether themselves to the kitchen sink, however we have to be respectful of the different seasons that women are in. Furthermore, who says that how we influence society is a measure of our worth? God’s word says we are valuable just because of who we are, not because of what we do. We need to stop confusing who we are with what we do.
The author also raises the issue of women’s opportunities to serve in church and in society. This is a separate issue I believe. I agree that women should be treated as equals in ministry and should be wholly free to use their gifts and talents for God’s glory. I am sorry that the author has been overlooked in business meetings. This is not right. It’s not something that you would expect in 2016, but sadly many women still encounter discrimination in church and in the workplace. I agree that workplaces need to be far more family friendly for working mothers. And I also agree that not all women are cut out to be stay at home mothers or homeschoolers (God help me if I was ever called to homeschool!).
What I strongly disagree with is the idea that any work that is out there in the world is valuable and anything inside the home isn’t. If we really want to influence culture, this starts at home. Whether we work outside the home or at home, we need to prioritize our children, and this is going to look different for each family. For many of us, our greatest contribution to society may be who we raise. Much has been written recently about the crisis that we are seeing in children’s mental health. I would argue that disrespecting the important work that is done between the walls of one’s home really doesn’t help this matter. We need to value the home, for the health of the nation and the next generation depends on this.
‘The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.’
So I was quite looking forward to blogging about our little feline themed party that we had for our four year old over the weekend. And then I came across this in my facebook feed. http://www.newshub.co.nz/tvshows/paulhenry/have-childrens-birthday-parties-have-become-too-extravagant-2016061712#axzz4CAW2RpSN
Yep, I really like the author and blogger who was featured on the news, and yes…she really does have a point. Perhaps parties have gotten out of control. I would agree that no one needs to spend loads of hard earned cash on their child’s birthday party. After all, kids really do like simple things. But this was a bit of a downer. It seems like it’s in vogue to criticize anyone who wants to put their heart and soul into a kid’s celebration. But my take on it is simply this: if people want to spend time on creating a celebration then let them go for it. And if they don’t want to and it’s not their thing, then that’s absolutely fine too. It’s a heart issue isn’t it, and we can’t assume we know why people do what they do. Maybe parents aren’t trying to out-do one another. Maybe they just love it. And you have to do more of what one loves, whether it’s cycling, writing, going to the gym or throwing birthday parties. So I’m just going to keep on doing my thing, even if I’m misunderstood. That’s the whole risk with the internet isn’t it – that people will misunderstand us. See my post on this topic: https://latteslacedwithgrace.com/2015/06/11/each-to-their-own-my-response-to-the-birthday-party-guidelines-blog-post-that-went-viral/
If like me you really love creating celebrations, then be sure to check out this kiwi blogger: http://www.greatfunforkids.com. I really like her philosophy on birthday parties. You can read it here: http://www.greatfun4kidsblog.com/2012/03/why-party.html
My cat crazy kid ordered a cat themed party this year. And it’s a pretty easy theme to come up with ideas for. I started off by googling ‘kitten party’….which really isn’t a good idea – even with a safe blocker on our computer! Enough said.
This party took a bit of time to organize, but it didn’t cost much. In fact, most of the supplies came from Poundland (the equivalent of the $2 shop).
For decorations we decided on pink polkadots with a dash of black and white. We had a cat decoration on the door, balloons, a pinata and a cat themed photo booth. I made cat themed plates, which took a ridiculously long time to make, but I just sat in front of the telly while making them. It was downtime really.
For games and activities we kept it simple:
- We had a mat time, and my husband got out his guitar and sang cat themed nursery rhymes to the kids. He’s great like that.
- We played Pass the Parcel, Pin the Tail on the Cat, and Cat & Mouse.
- Then we decorated cat themed cupcakes and biscuits in the kitchen. Ten four year olds in the kitchen decorating cupcakes is not for the faint hearted!
- We then finished off with cat face painting and pinata bashing.
For the feline food, this is where I went a little crazy….but it was all good fun. We had:
A watermelon cat:
A cat themed veggie platter with crisps (rather than chips). As you can see I’m embracing all things British.
We also had cat fairy bread but I drew the line at cat shaped pizza’s. Normal store bought pizza had to do. We also had individual ice-creams and pink lemonade which went down a treat.
And in place of goodie bags, we gave away stuffed animals. Unfortunately Poundland didn’t have toy cats, so dogs and teddy bears had to do!
When it was all over, we all needed a cup of tea and a lie down!
I still remember the day when I saw someone in my university hostel being taken to hospital following an overdose. Thankfully she survived, but many do not.
Since the tragic death of Matthew Warren a few years ago, much discussion has taken place about ways Christians can meaningfully minister to people in our communities who suffer from depression.
Depression is not an easy subject to talk about, or write about for that matter. But it needs to be brought out into the open. For depression seems to be rampant today. And the effects can be deadly. Almost all of us have known someone who has lost the battle to depression. It happens in church too. I have been privy to the stories of those bereaved by suicide, including pastor’s wives.
As heart breaking as these stories are, there are also many stories of hope. Individuals who have seen breakthrough, healing or maintenance of their depression. I’ve always thought of the church as a hospital for hurting people and this is not a new phenomenon. The church has a significant ministry to those who are depressed. Jesus spent a large part of his ministry healing those who were ill. And we as his followers are called to do likewise. Consider Isaiah 61 where it talks about:
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,[a]
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor’.
I love this verse. It’s my go-to verse. God wants us to ‘bind up the broken hearted’. This ministry can operate collaboratively with those in the secular mental health field. Sadly though, the church has historically fallen short in engaging in helpful conversation about depression. Sometimes Christian folk are made uncomfortable, and they can’t understand why the depressed person hasn’t ‘snapped out of it’ and declared amazing victory through their faith. Until one has been through it, one may struggle to understand it.
Many people in church leadership can feel lost when it comes to ministering to the depressed. We may be able to relate to feeling down in the dumps, but true clinical depression can be somewhat of a mystery to many people. Perhaps the worst mistake we can make is to expect church leaders to be able to solve all the problems the depressed and their loved ones have. In a study cited in Leadership Journal, BuildingChurchLeaders.com, and other publications for people in Christian ministry, it was found that of the 500 leaders who responded, 16 percent indicated they felt “not equipped at all” to minister to people with mental illness. Another 53 percent felt “somewhat equipped.” Only 30 percent felt at least “competent.” Expecting ministers to be able to solely address depression may be equivalent to expecting them to perform bypass surgery, and the damage done can be extensive.
There are many misconceptions that abound when it comes to depression, and perhaps the first thing that Christians can do to help those who suffer is to become educated. It can be as simple as browsing some good websites about depression, like Psych Central,MentalHealth.com, Web MD, Revolution Health, and Everyday Health; checking out nonprofit groups such as NAMI (National Alliance for Mental Illness) orDBSA (Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance), and others; visiting a library to see what kinds of literature they have available on depression; attending a lecture by an expert in the field at a nearby university; tuning into one of the top 10 psychology videos found on YouTube.com; visiting an expert’s website or blog; and finally, making an appointment to speak to a psychiatrist or psychologist in the area. There is a wealth of information available today.
Wrestling with our theology of suffering
Part of becoming educated about depression is wrestling with our theology of suffering and how it relates to depression and mental illness. We need to recognize how depression and other mental illness fits within Christian teaching on the effects of original sin, the presence of sickness in our world, God’s unconditional love, redemption in this life, and complete healing in the next. We need to be able to make peace with the questions we can’t answer. After all, this side of eternity there will be many, many questions that we simply don’t have answers too. I think many Christians are not all too comfortable with mystery. Many of us want to have definite answers, rather than walk a journey of mystery. We have a tendency to want to explain out the mystery of life and faith and God. But the older I get, the more I am at peace with not having all the answers. We can be assured of the overriding hope offered through Christ’s love, His purpose for all people, and His coming renewal of all creation. There is no need for us to have all the answers, but we must have assurance of God’s truth, or our own uncertainty will leave drowning people gasping for air.
The church also needs to talk more about depression. It would make a good subject for a sermon. After all, so many heroes of the faith suffered with depression. Consider David, Job and Elijah, amoung others. Job was known to despair: “I cannot eat for sighing; my groans pour out like water. What I always feared has happened to me. What I dreaded has come to be. I have no peace, no quietness. I have no rest; instead, only trouble comes …. I will never again experience pleasure … I would rather die of strangulation than go on and on like this. I hate my life” (Job 3:23-26, 7:11, 15-16, NLT).
In a piece over at CNN’s religion blog on mental illness and the church, Ed Stetzer argues the following really important points:
- There are people in the pews every week—ministers, too—struggling with mental illness or depression.
- People of faith know that God has freed them to love others, and that love extends to everyone, even (and sometimes especially) those we don’t understand.
- Christians need to affirm the value of medical treatment for mental illness.
- Compassion and care can go a long way in helping people know they don’t have to hide.
- Mental illness has nothing to do with one’s beliefs or the beliefs of one’s family. It can impact anyone.
Churches can also provide a library of relevant literature and could even consider hosting support groups and a special service for those suffering. Before it’s needed, churches can create a network with local mental-health professionals. Get to know the Christian counsellors in your area; you may have some in your own congregation. The network ought to include professionals from across a spectrum of specializations—psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, general practitioners, who can address not just depression, but also anxiety disorders, eating disorders, Autism Spectrum disorders, psychotic disorders, and others. Perhaps consider hosting ‘mental health first aid’ for your church. ‘Mental health first aid’ may help people to understand the basics of various types of mental illness and how to respond. And you may like to ponder these questions – How can I handle conversations around depression? And how can I extend grace to someone struggling with depression?
So recently I’ve been approached by a few companies and asked to review different products. And I was particularly interested to review the latest gadget – a Beets BLU Heart Rate Monitor. Anyone who knows me will be aware that I am by no means an exercise junkie. However I do like to stay moderately fit and I’ve recently taken up cycling again. This was the perfect opportunity to review the Beets BLU Monitor. Control of one’s heart rate is very important for training, as it helps you to achieve your desired results. Depending on the goal of one’s workout, you can:
- Strengthen your cardiovascular system
- Increase your stamina
- Burn fat
- Avoid your heart beating too fast
The Beets BLU Monitor is a wireless heart rate monitor that sits around your chest with a comfortable chest strap. It features:
- Heart rate sensor with belt around chest delivers the most accurate heart rate readout thanks to ECG-based technology
- Smoothly sync with iOS phones (iPhone 5, 4S) and selected Android devices* No dongle required
- System consumes low energy therefore a small firmware battery is enough for more than a year
- A recorder that works with all popular apps like Endomondo, Runkeeper, Map My Run, etc
- Wearable tracker approaches to running, fitness, crossfit, spinning, workout, exercise and other athletic sport.
The Beets BLU is compatible with:
— Apple iPhone 4S (and later)
— Apple iPad 3 (and later)
— Any smartphone with Android 4.3 (and later) with Bluetooth 4.0
- It also works with Ipads.
I found the Beets BLU easy to use, once I had downloaded the app (which was a bit fiddly). But this device is comfortable to wear and provides a very accurate heart rate measurement. The only downside to this product is that you have to take your phone with you, which for runners may be a little tedious if you are used to running without carrying anything with you.
Overall, this is a great product for those who wish to maintain an active lifestyle, or those with cardiac problems. Father’s Day is coming up in the UK next weekend. The Beets BLU would make an ideal Father’s Day gift!
Have you heard of ‘Unashamed’ the recently released title by Christine Caine? I’ve heard Christine Caine speak many many years ago. Her testimony is powerful and simply inspiring. Caine is an Australian activist, evangelist and international speaker. She and her husband Nick are best known for founding The A21 Campaign in 2008, a non-profit, non-governmental organization that combats human trafficking, as well as Equip & Empower Ministries, which seeks to aid the development and growth of Christian churches and church leaders. In 2015, Caine founded Propel Women, an organization designed to honour the calling of every woman, empower her to lead, and develop a sense of God-given purpose. Caine is the author of several books, including “A Life Unleashed”, “Run to Win”, “Can I Have (And Do) It All, Please?”, “Undaunted”, “Unstoppable”, and “Core Issues”. I’ve read ‘Undaunted’ and I was excited to get my hands on a copy of’Unashamed.’ Shame is such a pervasive issue for so many people, especially women. Whether it is about our background, our past, our appearance, our marital status, or mental health, many of us will have areas of shame in our lives that we are aware of, or perhaps even unaware of. Shame hides in different places.
In ‘Unashamed’, Christine talks candidly about her struggle with shame and the journey of healing that God has taken her on. She writes very transparently, and it’s her vulnerability that will really minister to millions. “I know. I’ve been there,” writes Christine. “I was schooled in shame. It has been my constant companion from my very earliest memories. I see shame everywhere I look in the world, including in the church. It creeps from heart to heart, growing in shadowy places, feeding on itself so that those struggling with it are too shamed to seek help from shame itself.”
“Shame can take on many forms. It hides in the shadows of the most successful, confident, and high-achieving woman who struggles with balancing her work and children, as well as in the heart of the broken, abused, and downtrodden woman who has been told that she will never amount to anything. Shame hides in plain sight and can hold us back in ways we do not realize. But Christine Caine wants readers to know something: we can all be free. In Unashamed, Christine Caine reveals the often-hidden consequences of shame—in her own life and the lives of so many Christian women—and invites you to join her in moving from a shame-filled to a shame-free life.”
The book’s subtitle: “Drop the baggage, pick up your freedom and fulfill your destiny” says it all. But Christine is realistic about the healing journey for most people – it doesn’t happen overnight. It can take time. I appreciated the stories of the many different women that were interwoven throughout the book. The stories of women who had been trafficked and later rescued by A21 were harrowing and rather hard to read. But I’m glad I didn’t put the book down as it was encouraging to see the transformation that God has done in the lives of these women.
Shame is such a pervasive problem for so many people. You may not have suffered horrific abuse like the women who were trafficked, however there will be areas of shame hidden in your heart, regardless of your background. Shame affects mothers, grandmothers, single women, children, teenagers. Everyone. This is an important issue and it’s one that has been sensitively tackled in the book ‘Unashamed.’This book is grounded in scriptural truth and has the potential to reach so many hurting people. A must read.
Rest. We all need it right? But sadly rest seems to be undervalued in our culture today. I’ve written about this subject before, and when the book ‘Rest Assured’ came across my path, I knew that it was a must read. Rest Assured is written by Vicki Courtney, a speaker to women of all ages and the best-selling author of many books and Bible studies including 5 Conversations You Must Have with Your Daughter and Ever After.
Rest is such an important subject. Jesus asks us to come to him, all who labour and are heavy laden. In return He promises us His rest. This is a rest that the world cannot offer, but one that is so desperately needed. Frequently we find ourselves overcommitted, pressured, overconnected yet without community, overburdened and overwhelmed. Our lives our full, but what about our souls? Our souls are longing for rest. But if we really want rest, we need to paddle upstream in a downstream world. For rest is countercultural, or so it seems.
Rest Assured is divided into two parts, and it offers a study of rest and also an intervention and recovery plan. It cover topics such as:
- The Badge of Busyness
- The Exhausting Pursuit of Happiness
- Tethered Souls
- Worried Sick
And a recovery plan:
- Prioritize the One Thing Needed: Time for God
- Create Room to Breathe: Time for Solitude
- Give Yourself a Break: Time for Leisure
- Pay It Forward: Time for Others
A “Rest Stop” challenge is included at the end of each chapter for use in Bible studies and book clubs. Bonus material includes a 30-Day Restitution Plan and 100 Ways to Give It a Rest.
While I found Rest Assured to be a helpful and encouraging book, I would also add that I disagreed with a few points that the author made. Courtney asserts that busyness “is not a scheduling problem, it’s a sin problem.” Some seasons just are busier than others, and not necessarily because we make it that way, but because of legitimate reasons, such as being a single parent, having very young children or a demanding job. There are many life situations that we really don’t have control over. Being busy by itself doesn’t qualify as a sin. It’s the heart attitude of the person that determines whether busyness is a “sin problem”. Busyness might be sinful if you are making busyness an idol or you are not prioritizing time for the Lord – but I don’t think that all busyness is sin.
Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone who is feeling swamped, or anyone who wishes to pursue more rest. ‘Rest Assured’ is the book for women who really want to challenge the status quo and lead healthier more restful lives. After all, God doesn’t want us running ourselves ragged.
What’s for dinner? It’s an age old question isn’t it and getting dinner on the table is a significant daily task in most families. We seem to be busier and busier these days and I don’t know about you, but I want a meal system that is quick and easy to organise so that I have time for other pursuits. I’ve always planned out our family meals on a weekly basis, because I’ve found that it works well for us. I typically shop on a Monday morning and I buy all the ingredients that I need for seven meals at a time. Then I write down the meals on my little blackboard:
Now that we live in England, my two eldest children receive school dinners every day. And the school dinners work on a three weekly system. It’s similar to the system I recall having as a boarder in a university hostel, where you could tell what day it was by what was on the menu for dinner! As an aside, I’m pretty impressed with the school dinner system. They are all prepared on site and are pretty healthy. It’s not nuggets and chips everyday, thanks to Jamie Oliver.
Along the lines of the school dinner system, I decided to formulate a three weekly family meal rotation. This way there’s never the decision of what to purchase or prepare, it’s all arranged. Other benefits of a meal rotation include saving the old pennies and becoming a dab hand at the meals one prepares.
All you need to do is to come up with twenty tried and true family favourites that you know your family will eat (the homemade fish and chips is repeated twice in the rotation). You can even arrange the meals into categories such as Meatless Monday or Thermal Thursday (Curry Night). Selecting meals is perhaps an overwhelming task but there are so many recipes available online today. If you are anything like me you might try to buy what is in season and what is on special. In which case, you might like to devise a three weekly menu for each season. This may work well especially if you get tired of the same recipes. And you can still experiment with new recipes whenever you like by altering the rotation. Have you ever meal planned before? Are you a fan? Drop me a line, I’d love to hear from you.
‘What are you going to do with yourself once all the kids are at school?’ – Sounds like an innocent enough question and one that I’ve been asked rather frequently in recent times. Sometimes it’s a statement rather than a question, such as ‘You won’t know what to do with yourself!.’ I put this question in the same basket with other curly questions that people often encounter, such as ‘Are you still single?’ ‘When you are going to have kids?’, ‘Are you going to have more kids?’ and ‘Have you lost weight?’ But ‘You won’t know what to do with yourself’ has been said to me a few times recently, and not wishing to sound too defensive, I usually say something along the lines of ‘There are always plenty of things to do.’ Because that’s what I’ve found – even though two of my children are school age now, it’s still really quite busy. It’s perhaps not quite as intense as when they were little. It’s a bit cruisier and I have a bit more down time, however mornings before 9 o’clock are frantic, and afternoons after 3 o’clock are full. Though we don’t do a whole lot of after school activities, the engagements increase as they get older, as does the homework. I have a preschooler at home on Mondays, Fridays and Wednesday afternoons and I have a little down time on Tuesdays and Thursdays. But as it so happens, my preschooler is about to start school in September at the ridiculously young and tender age of four and a quarter. I’m not too happy about it. In fact I think I’ll go and have a good cry into my coffee when she starts school, but I know that she will be fine, and I’ve taken the approach of when in Rome, do what the Romans do. She herself, can’t wait to go to school! Thankfully the curriculum involves a large component of free play in the first year.
If you’ve been a stay-at-home mum with children reaching school age, how have you found that question? I know that it’s probably said in jest, but sometimes that question does feel like a pressure. And there is a lot of pressure for mothers to get back into the workforce. I feel like it’s acceptable to be at home with children when they are preschoolers, but society expects you to get a job once they are school age. Yes I’d like to get back into the workforce in a part-time capacity, and of course it will help the old bank balance, but there are weeks that I wonder how that is going to operate in practice. My husband works twelve hour days. Being in a new country, the children have come down with one illness after the another in the last few weeks, and I wonder how I would manage this if my husband and I were both employed. There are also twelve weeks of holidays a year to think about.
I know this is a touchy subject, and I should probably add a disclaimer – I know that all our circumstances are different and this is in no way intended to be a dig at mothers who work outside the home. Truly. Kudos to working mums. Please hear my heart on this. I have been reluctant to address this touchy subject for fear of offending someone or stirring up the ‘mommy wars’. I know that I’m fortunate in this day and age to be able to stay at home. But do people really think that stay at home mums with school age children have nothing to do? Even with school age children most mothers find that their day fills up rather quickly. I’m inclined to think that all mothers work. Yep, that includes those with children at school.
If you have faced that question, how have you handled it with grace? I usually try and think of a witticism like ‘Oh I’m just going to lie on the couch, eat fairy buns and paint my nails.’ When children start school it can be a time for redefining our role. It can also be a time of great growth and opportunity for women. The opportunities are overwhelming and exciting. If you have returned to the workforce, how did you find the transition? Drop me a line, I’d love to hear from you.
Have you ever searched for a church? Seeing as we recently moved to the other side of the world, we have been hunting for the right church to commit to as a family. I hesitate to use the term ‘church shopping’, however you get what I mean. My husband and I have never really church hunted before. But this time we wanted to have a good look around. You know there are even apps around to help one with this whole process! But we just comprised a mental checklist and I looked at various church websites to get a feel for the heartbeat of the church. On our list were the requirements that the church be:
- Committed to biblical truth and missions. We also wanted to be discerning about the doctines that the church teaches.
- We also stipulated that the church be gracious, and a place where there is loving community.
- We were looking for a place to belong, a place to be known.
- We also wanted a church with a thriving Sunday School and Youth Group, and a critical mass of children that our children can grow up with.
We live out in the countryside, and so we began our search for a church in a nearby town and city after visiting our local village church which has only one service a month (and is also very traditional). So we set about visiting around six churches and two of them made the short list to the next round! All the churches we visited were different denominations, but all were denominations that we were familiar with, and we took the premise that it’s the same God after all! There will be no denominations in heaven!
I was initially reluctant to go to another inner city church, as I have spent a large part of my life in inner city churches and have found that sometimes it is difficult to have community when the congregation comes from all over a city. However of the two small town churches that we visited, one just didn’t feel right and the other didn’t really have a critical mass of children. Last Sunday we went to the church that my husband grew up in which is a large and very vibrant C of E church. And they were so friendly. They had the welcoming of visitors down to a fine art. I’ve started going to a Monday morning women’s bible study at this church and they told me that no matter what decision we make about church, the group is for all women, regardless of what church you go to.
We also took into consideration the feelings of our eldest child. And the church that we have chosen to go back to is one that he is really enthusiastic about. Yay! And if the kids are happy, I’m happy. Sure it’s a 25 minute drive into church, but that is doable. So for now we have decided on an inner city church. I’m glad that we have decided on a church for now, as I didn’t want the whole process to take a year or so. I want to be in community. But here are some thoughts on church hunting:
If you are in church leadership, you may wonder what people in our culture are looking for and how you could best welcome them into church. I think many people in our culture are hungry for community and connectedness. For church leaders, it’s important to get the balance right between engaging visitors to make them feel welcome and giving them space so they don’t feel pressured. Churches need to be friendly but not pushy. One of the pastors we met put it rightly – ‘I realize that you might want to have a good look around, but you are always welcome here.’
Obviously a church can’t spend all its time trying to make visitors happy. If a church tries to become what it thinks people want, then it may risk watering down the gospel. And a danger for church hunters like us is that we can easily move into a consumer mentality. When we look for a church, we can think about it like we are visiting someone’s home. We can be gracious rather than evaluative. Rather than focus on the things that we don’t like, instead we can affirm what the church does well. Perhaps the music isn’t quite our cup of tea, but they do pastoral care really well. We can seek to worship rather than evaluate. And we can look for a church where we can serve. After all, we go to church to give rather than to receive. I also think that we need not worry about our ‘fit’ with that church. Sometimes we can worry too much about ‘fitting in.’
I now have a new appreciation for what it is like to be a visitor to a church, and when we find a church home I want to make it my mission to be friendly and welcoming. It can make such a difference to a person’s day if someone has a simple chat with them at church. But of course, for community to flourish it needs to go deeper than this. In our hunt for a church, we haven’t been hunting for a perfect church, just a welcoming, healthy and vibrant one. It’s a difficult thing, finding a church that will spiritually feed all members of the family, and also be a place where you can impact the church and have a role. And it’s even more challenging if you have been hurt in church. That’s most of us, right? If you have church hunted, what have been your experiences? I’d love to hear from you.