Being on the lookout for a new church home has been quite an experience for me and my family. I served on church staffs in Texas for almost 18 years as Minister of Education, and I was looking forward to being on the non-staff side of church for a change. My wife and I thought we’d quickly find a new church home and get started serving in some capacity, but the hunt is proving harder than we thought. Take my experience at a local church today, for example.
This was our third visit (her first, actually, since she and my son just moved from Texas to Tennessee). We visited the same church I’d first attended about six weeks ago. This was the same church where the student pastor walked me to a Sunday School class for parents of youth and introduced me as “fresh meat” to the adult learners (no kidding, and yes, he was serious). It was on that first visit that the teacher told us he’d had a busy weekend of graduation celebrations (late May/early June) and we’d just “wing it” and study a chapter from Proverbs. No curriculum…no prior studying on the teacher’s part. Yikes.
We were hopeful that today would be a different experience for us. We enjoyed the pastor’s sermon, and were excited to try the same adult Sunday School class I’d visited weeks ago to give it a second chance. Who knows, maybe that first visit was just an anomaly.
Alas, it was not a new experience, but quite de ja vu. The classroom was overcrowded…again. No room for guests…people being forced to sit on the front row…and the crowd of 25-30 talked among themselves again prior to class while ignoring my wife and I. Thank goodness for the one couple on the front row who turned around and said hello to us. If not for that, no one, not even the teacher, made us feel remotely welcome. As for the lesson, we covered only three verses….three….and did not follow any lesson plan, but rather the teacher’s rambling about topics that were so loosely tied together we could barely make sense of it. Needless to say, after these experiences in Sunday School, we decided that this church is probably not the one for us to attend. I just don’t have the patience to give them a third chance…surely there is a church out there that would like to add a solid family to their membership! Assimilate us! How can you attend a church, make the effort to go to a Sunday School class, and be ignored by a teacher and his class members? Did I mention that we didn’t even talk about prayer requests?!
How many times is this scenario repeated throughout our country on Sunday mornings? Churches may think they are friendly, but what they may not know is that people like us are looking for friends. It certainly wouldn’t take much effort for a church in my community to impress us and convince us we are valuable to them. Now, I know it’s not all about us…I get that…but what about people who have no staff experience like I do? What about those families that are hurting and in need of prayer? Confused and in need of answers? Lonely and in need of friends?
Sunday School is the right place to have effective assimilation practices, so next time I’ll share why Sunday School is the best place to assimilate people, and then I’ll share tips on things a class and church can do to help people get assimilated. More next time.