Some Thoughts on Church: Find a Family & Settle In

 

Image by Patricia Lyons

 

I’ve mentioned this before, but when I think about the many things my parents have instilled in me, one of the biggest lessons they have taught me is the importance of investing in and committing to a church family.

Since I was two weeks old (over 30 years ago), my parents have planted themselves in one church community and endlessly given their time, talent, and resources to strengthening “the family.”  Make no mistake, their commitment has not always been easy.  Sadly, like many churches, our church has seen it’s share of drama–the “youth pastor scandal;” clergy disputes; serious issues within the larger denomination; a massive, painful church split–you know the kind.

Yet their motto has been this: come hell or high water, until God calls out of this church, we are staying planted.

I wrote about this before, but during what I would consider the most difficult season the church walked through, my mom always said, “Though it’s often tempting, we need to be careful not to run from something, but wait until God gives us something to run to.”

My parents’ example has taught all of their children the importance of finding a church and plugging in.  Fortunately, for me, I’m able to plug into the same church I’ve called home for the past 30 years.  A definite plus to moving home (that and the occasional free babysitting!)

The great thing about being invested in a church for so long is that it becomes your family.

Last week, I had two very special encounters with long-time members of my “family.”

The first involved a road trip with my mom to Richmond to meet up with two women who had been part of our church family for years.  Though life’s circumstances called them both to separately to relocate to Richmond, they are still very much a part of our larger church family.

These two women were some of my mom’s first friends when she began to attend our church.  As a young mom with two small children, they, along with many others, embraced my mom and welcomed her into the fold.  They laughed together, brunched together, and prayed together.  They rocked each other’s babies, hosted tea parties for their kids, and invested in one another’s lives.

And now, we’ve reconnected, once again, to work on a ministry endeavor together in Richmond.  One that is near and dear to both my mom and me, and one we are excited to share with our “family.”

As I sat at this luncheon last Tuesday, in a room filled with women I didn’t know, excited about the potential of what’s to come through our partnership, I just couldn’t help but think how amazing our God is–that even after all these years, the ties that once bound us together in a church family, were so very much still there–what a gift!

Fast forward two days, and I attended a women’s Bible study at our church.  Following an AMAZING video from Priscilla Shirer, we broke up into small groups.  This particular day, the group was larger than usual and leaders were sparse, so our small group evolved into a “large group.”  And in it, were several, incredible women from the church who have known me my entire life.

As longtime members of “the family” they have watched me grow up and been part of the village that raised me.  One of them hosted a baby shower when I was born, and then 24 years later, hosted my bridal shower.  They rocked me as a baby, saw me as an angel in the church nativity play, taught me in Vacation Bible School, witnessed my incredibly awkward middle school years, prayed me off to college, and now have welcomed me back to “the family” with my own little family of three.

And as I sat there in our small group, I couldn’t help but think how cool it was to have lived my life surrounded in such a rich community and now be in a stage of life, where we could sit together and talk about things like focused worship, how to listen to God, and what things hold us captive–to sit in a circle and glean from their wisdom was a true gift!

So what’s my point with these long-winded stories?  Just how important it is that we each find our own church home.  We may not have the luxury of planting ourselves for 30+ years, but all of us need to find our own “family,” get planted, and invest.

For many of us right now, there are SO many uncertainties in our life, it seems we’re constantly moving and transitioning.  And when it feels like things are spiraling out of control, if we have nothing else, church can be the one thing each week that grounds us.

Sometimes, for me, it’s the ONE thing during the week I can count on–I KNOW it will start at 9.  We will sing.  We will read the Bible.  We will pray.  We will hear a sermon.  We will pass the peace. We will have communion.  There will be familiar faces.

When nothing else is certain, you can count on your church.

But beyond the consistency of a weekly service, once you find the right “family,” there is such a rich community into which you can dig.  People who can pray for you.  People who can bring you dinner when you’re sick or have a baby.  People who can teach you new insights about God, or even an important life skill like how to arrange flowers.

Though many churches may have had their share of drama, in the right place, the community within the church can be SO rich, and when we take the time to invest in the family, we are SO blessed.

So my challenge to you is this: if you’ve been shopping around, or reluctant to commit to a church, take the time to settle down and invest.  Or if you’ve been ducking in and out of the same place for a while, stop ducking and take the time to be known.  I promise, you will not regret it.

No church is perfect, but there is something so beautiful about laying down roots, finding your family, and weathering the storms together.

  • Caroline McCain

    Love this post, Elizabeth. Your family truly has lived this so well, and people like me have been blessed by your faithfulness!

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