If you read the Ok, God, I'm Here...Now What? post back in April, you might remember I laid out four specific areas of prayer and focus:
The job search,
The home search, and
The community search
Their have been a few updates on the adoption process, now waiting on the home study report to say I'm a sane and will be a relatively good parent.
I'm settling into the new job and getting acquainted with my coworkers.
For the most part all of the boxes are unpacked and I'm settled into my new home.
I've been "church shopping" a bit. I hate to put it that way. I hate the way it sounds like I'm in the dressing room trying on pants. I hate the way it sounds commercial and materialistic. I hate the way it seems to cheapen the many great churches I've visited. But really that is what it is. I'm shopping.
I'm evaluating churches on what I hear from colleagues, friends and family.
I'm perusing websites and have admittedly been turned off by many outdated or poorly designed sites, leading me not to even consider the advertised church as a possibility.
I'm visiting and trying not to let first impressions be too powerful or too judgmental.
I'm worshiping alongside believers I don't know and worshiping in ways familiar and unfamiliar.
I'm trying on churches on to see how they fit and how I fit in them.
Church shopping is an intimidating thing, especially when you're introverted. While I'm not extremely introverted, I do lean to that side of the scale, and in a crowd I don't know, I'll do my best to remain as unnoticeable as possible.
This is absolutely a honed skill.
For starters, do not sit on the back pew. Sitting on the back pew makes you too conspicuous. You may think it is easier to arrive late and duck out early, but most ushers and greeters are looking for new faces on the back few pews. Better to sit middle-back where you blend in a bit more.
During the inevitable greet your neighbor time. Greet your neighbor first. This way you seem like a regular and the other person will assume you're a member they don't know. This keeps the conversation short and allows you to quickly spin around to greet other neighbors and avoid personal questions.
Bring your Bible or at least be prepared to whip out your Bible app on your smart phone. This makes you look seasoned and as though you are very familiar with the pastor's teaching style--even if he/she does not reference Scripture once, you are prepared.
Tithe. I mean why not. Whatever this church is going to do with it, what they're doing, they are doing in the name of Jesus. Take the opportunity to bless his kingdom and avoid standing out when you whip the collection plate, bag, basket, etc by you.
Tell people to "have a nice day" on the way out. You're being nice and avoiding the deer-caught-in-the-headlights look as you make a break for the parking lot. And don't run out of the sanctuary/auditorium/meeting room too quickly or you'll single yourself out. A casual stroll at the same pace as the rest of the congregation will do nicely.
Seriously, though, church shopping is not for the faint of heart. But if your goal at the end is to find a community where you can give of the gifts and talents God has given you and find the support you need for your everyday, then the effort to push yourself outside of your comfort zone, introduce yourself to a few people, and yes, even fill out the dreaded visitor's card that will most definitely mean a phone call from one of the pastor's later in the week (I got a free t-shirt for filling one out this week), is necessary and hopefully in the end well worth it.
What's great about this church shopping experience compared to others I've had in the past is that this time I'm not community starved. I have my family around me, and my colleagues who are slowly turning into friends while a few old friends are becoming new friends. I'm hoping this puts me in a much healthier position to seek out a church where I can give and receive and does not allow me to get to a place where I'm only able to receive because my community cup is running so low.
I'm also hoping to invite a bit of wisdom and maturity into the shop. This is not the search for the perfect pair of jeans that make my butt look perfect and my thighs look skinny while elongating my legs to make me look super tall and sexy. This is rather a search for a community not perfect but striving for Jesus, getting it wrong from time to time, but willing to admit, refocus and move on. This is not the search for the relevant church but rather to myself be relevant in the Church.
Church shopping is exhausting, and my family can attest, after the past few weeks, I've felt ready to throw in the towel and give up the search. But I hope my heart to be in and be of and be part will lead me to a place to be in and be of and be part.
Until then, I'll keep honing my being unnoticeable skills...