I grew up going to a small-town church. There were a little over 200 people who would attend every week, and my family rarely missed a Sunday. We arrived early for Sunday School, sat through the worship service and sermon, mingled afterward, and then met grandparents for lunch.
Sundays were easily my favorite day of the week. It wasn’t because of the traditional hymns — eventually accompanied by a soft drum beat and a couple of guitars for a more updated/contemporary feel. The sermons were great, and I enjoyed the potlucks, but what I really loved about Sundays was the people of the church.
The church wasn’t perfect and faced a lot of brokenness and division during my upbringing — like many other churches — but there was something about the congregation that embodied grace and became the village everyone looks for to support their families.
After I was married, we moved away for a bit and tried out some other churches. But after having two kids with one more on the way, I missed home.
So after four years of college and five years of marriage, I finally moved back to my hometown.
My family had come from a city church with a large concert-like worship service and sermons that were recorded for their transformational impact all over the world. And to be honest, I was nervous about returning to my hometown church. I knew it would feel so different than what I was used to for the past five years and thought its traditions would feel foreign and maybe even outdated.
But I went back because of the people.
As I returned my first Sunday with my husband beside me and my children in the classrooms where I, too, met Jesus, I couldn’t help but have tears in my eyes. I realized that I was not raised by just my mother and father. No. This entire church community raised me!
From their encouragement after my very first solo singing “Away In A Manger” when I was three-years-old to letting me lead a worship band for my youth group all throughout high school. These people read me Bible stories in the nursery and later supported my idea to start a church library. Many of the women at one time or another were my “cabin moms” at church camp, and these same women sent prayer and financial support during my family’s first adoption journey. The people in the church mentored me, encouraged my faith, came to hear me perform at school events, attended my graduation party, threw me both a wedding and baby shower, and more!
As a mom, I do the wrong thing so much of the time. You know the Fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control? Well, I often do the opposite of those things. But as I was sitting at church looking at the people seated around me, I realized that I’m not required to have it all together 100% of the time. Because these people have my back and are strong where I am weak. They will love, support, encourage, and foster a deep faith within my children, just as they did for me.
Maybe your family is growing and you’re looking for a church. There will be churches that catch your eye because of their popular programs, upbeat worship services, and powerful sermons. But I want to challenge you to find the church that is up for the challenge of being your village. Maybe that will be found in a big church, but it can also be hidden in a church down a long country road. Sharing Jesus with your kids is no easy task, you won’t be the best example at all times. But when you surround yourself with people who spend their lives trying to be more like Him, you can guarantee some of that will permeate into their little hearts.
Tell us, are you involved in a church? How has this involvement impacted your family?