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Five Non-Theological Reasons We're Not Attending Your Church

We moved about a year ago, and being church attenders our whole lives, finding a church was important to us, slightly above the importance of finding a good burger place. (lighten up, that was a joke.) My husband and I have spent hours discussing church over our marriage. We have processed things with my brother and his wife (a former pastor and pastor's wife) and with close friends so that we could come up with what we were looking for. We are also - if we're honest - fighting that feeling of being "older" and no longer really feeling needed in the church, as opposed to when we were younger and asked to be involved every time we turned around. I don't say that in a brag-way, I say that in a, what are we telling older people way, Church?

As to whether it's worth it, yes. It is. Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck's book on Why We Love the Church: In Praise of Institutions and Organized Religion was an encouragement to me in this area. Read it if you're debating this question in your mind at all.

As to what we're looking for, meh, there I have more of an issue of wondering what exactly I'm "supposed" to look for. I have to decide: What is my opinion, what is my want, and then what aligns with what a church should be (based on the Bible).

As we looked at churches in the area, we visited four in person, and I viewed an additional two options online. Here are five non-theological reasons we did not stick around at 5 of them:

-The preaching was bad. I know, I know, this is extremely subjective, but hear me out: At one particular church, different people on staff were being brought in to speak, over the course of the three weeks we visited, the messages got more and more garbled, boring, and unorganized. You are speaking the gospel message of the Lord Jesus Christ, act like you care. Act like you have been changed by it. I believe older (more mature) Christians should show patience and grace to a newer speaker who is learning to be a better speaker, sure, but to anyone speaking: Please show some enthusiasm for a message that you are privileged to speak. In a land of TED talks and YouTube vids on how to speak, please learn how to present a message in a listen-able manner. It's on us to make the gospel message clear, and presented well.

-Never mind the message, Your service was dull. Along with the non-energy of the message, we were also sitting in virtual darkness. The strength of church coffee was no match for the low-strength of the flickering fake candles on the few tables around us. The music was slow, the lights are down, the message is droning, the communion took 20 minutes. Now, hear me well, slow and somber can be well-done and in a way that involves attention. Sacred is beautiful and can present a message well. On the other hand, spirituality does not equal seriousness and darkness. Turn the lights on. Let me see other believers. Celebrate the life-changing message. Take the message seriously, but consider turning up the lights enough for us to read the words in our Bibles.

-Your older ladies. and older men. and younger ladies... oh, and younger men. At one church, we had all three of our young adult children with us. We traipsed past the older ladies standing at the doorway to the sanctuary, and clearly heard them say to one another: "ooh, teenagers!" Afterward, we could hear them analyzing the music and how loud it was. Talkers, for sure, but not talkers to us. Which was weird because we knew we were part of their conversation. This wasn't the complete reason we didn't attend this particular church, but it turned into a big red flag combined with other factors. Older ladies (and men) (and younger ladies and men), please just say hi. Say I'm glad you're here. Say "we have different ministries available, can I introduce you to any leaders that could answer some questions"? Greet my young adult kids. They're not scary. Other young adults, greet the newbies. No need to analyze music, the loudness of, in front of other participants. Save it.

Oh my word, this is not hard. If we're family (as your banner says), we probably should know each other's names at the very least and use some politeness. Be welcoming. Ask to lunch. Ask questions. Invite. This ties in to the next point...

-You put the entire burden of being visitors on us. We attended a church for 4 weeks, and I'm not exaggerating when I say nobody other than the greeters at the door said hi. My husband is the one that went forward and spoke to a man (who knows our extended family) about how they run their worship team (my husband being an amazing guitar player), the man answered the questions, but that was it. No follow up, etc. After we stopped visiting and went to another church, we heard through mutual friends that the man had said to them, "oh, we almost had them, didn't we? too bad we lost them!" You know how you maybe would have "kept" us, sir? If you or your wife had acknowledged us, said hi, followed up with our questions, LITERALLY ANYTHING TO SHOW WELCOME.

A larger church we attended had no name tags on volunteers, the welcome table was hidden against a wall behind people with it being very unclear who - if anyone - was standing by the table as an official greeter. Since everyone congregates in the lobby before and after church, it was hard to tell who the greeters were, where the children's programs were or who was (wo)manning any sort of welcome. Pastor's names were not clearly written on screens when they were on the platform. We never did figure out who the leaders were. I filled out the connection card, and never heard back.

-The Poor Pastor Was Way Too Desperate for Us to Attend: At a smaller church we introduced ourselves to the pastor and made a connection by mentioning a mutual friend. When he texted my husband and I to welcome us, he also said that since I had mentioned young adult ministries, that if I wanted to head up a new college aged program at their church, to let him know. ummmm... Two things: 1. You don't know me, sir. 2. If you're that desperate to have someone lead your college ministry after talking to them for three minutes, that makes me immediately wonder who is volunteering and serving now. (Answer: Probably nobody.) While I sort of understood where he was coming from in his text, it also freaked me out in the sense that it was too much too soon and that spells Desperation and desperation means that man needs help and that man needs help means nobody is helping him. {To follow up, I found out more about the church through a lead pastor who oversees this church plant/campus and yes, my read of the situation was correct. I just wanted to include that so you didn't think I was being overly mean to the pastor. I felt for him. With due reason.}


Of course there's nuance in all my points. And no one point made us decide not to attend that particular church. The burden on me, as a believer, is to not get stuck in here. To move forward, to make a decision about a church and then... be in. But we'll discuss that in part two...

I am the granddaughter, daughter and sister to pastors. I have my undergrad and graduate degrees in Bible and theology and did my time in multiple message prep for women, church history, church theology, pastoral care classes, etc. I've been on staff at a church, volunteered in music, kids, jr high, high school, Bible clubs, pianist for services, funerals and weddings, and mastered the Art of Moving the Church Chair. Yes, I feel deeply on the subject and I also feel educated on the subject - with ever more to learn and grow in.


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Jun 07, 2023

All flattery aside, Kelli, this is amazing! I’m going to venture out to say your writing reminds me of your late Mom. I am pretty sure you’ll take that as the compliment it was meant to be. We used to work for the same organization. It’s been while since our paths actually crossed in person but I thank you for your candor—and kindness all in one. (I’m still there by the way :) I look forward to more!


Jun 07, 2023

I totally identify with your experience. Appreciate your frank observations.

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