Recently I got a bit burned out on my church. There are some fundamental differences between the church’s beliefs and my beliefs. By this I mean, I take a bit more inspired view of the bible rather than literal and I believe that parents’ should baptize their children. Some other things were going on at the church that tipped the scales toward not being able to sit in church and accept these differences. So, I went church shopping to find a church that was closer to my beliefs.
I got to tell you for churches that really want to be inviting to visitors so that the visitors will decide to become members are really missing the mark by not realizing all that visitors look at when they visit. I do have a big pet peeve, which is that I expect young children who are in the worship service to behave. I will warn you now that a lot of what got me about churches were how children behaved during the worship service. But, if I can’t focus on God during the service than why do I want to spend an hour sitting in a room trying to tune out children.
First, if you are going to be miked, then turn it up loud enough so that those that sit in the back rows of the church can hear you. I do not have a hearing problem so when I can’t hear you than most others can’t either. Remember, that most visitors sit in the back so they have a very different view of the service than most everyone else.
One time I ran out of the church as soon as the service was over because I could tell the focus of the church was the child. I should mention here that I don’t have children. Anyway, I walked in few minutes before the service started. The only seats available were folding chairs toward the back of the sanctuary. Wow, I thought, this church has a very large congregation. Well, as soon as the children’s sermon was over, half the church seats were open. Yep, I was sitting on a folding chair because the children had filled the church. No, that wasn’t what drove me running from the church. One child about 4 years old that was “sitting” right in front of me began to pitch a bit of a fit when it was time for the children to go to their cool activities. So, the mother allowed the child to stay in the church. As I tried to worship God, the child walked up and down the pew. When he got bored doing that, he began to roll on the floor. The church floor got a good dusting on that day. In other words, he moved the entire rest of the service. At least he was quiet. Then, during the sermon a child began to cry very loudly on the other side of the sanctuary from me. Did the parents immediately make their way out of the sanctuary so that the child could be quieted outside the sanctuary? Nope, the pastor had to try to talk over the crying child.
Recently, I went to a church that I had decided I would make it work no matter what. Unfortunately, after one visit, I decided my first decision was wrong. A girl that was about 5 years old was quietly entertained during the entire service by her grandmother. The were sitting directly in front of me so I got a show the entire time. I don’t mean just during the sermon and they stood up during hymns and other times. The entire time the grandmother “babysat” the girl. The looked a children’s magazine most of the time. But, at one point the grandmother began to comb the girl’s hair to entertain her. This went on even while we stood up for the Lord’s Prayer. Then, a girl a year or two older caught my attention. As we were saying the Lord’s Prayer she was dancing in the pew and pantomiming talking on the phone. The parents’ did nothing to stop her actions.
In regards to children, do the parents not realize how much of a distraction they are as they try to quiet their child? Why are they partaking in the worship service if their attention is on their child and not God? How do others sit in the church and worship God if the child is making so much noise? If a child needs to be entertained during church, how much are they getting out of the service? Do they not realize that for someone who may be a bit ADD, that much movement is very distracting? Finally, I once heard that worship is in a way a show for God where you are giving him your attention in way to show your love for Him. Is this being portrayed when you spend the entire service quieting a child, entertaining a child, trying to tune out your child or another child? Do you want a visitor to spend the entire service seeing that your focus is on everything but God?
On a side note, I really dislike the friendship time of the church where you have to stand up and greet those around you. It seems to be a trend that is here to stay but I really don’t like it. With that said, it also bothers me that some feel that it is okay to make the time before church a social time in the sanctuary. I like to get there a few minutes early to have a bit of quiet time to prepare to worship. It is hard to spend time with God when it is social hour. That could just be me, but are we are church for God for others. I have to say that when others are so tolerate of the bad behavior around them, it sends a message to me that church is just a formality for them to be seen in church to be socially correct rather than being there to worship God.
During the service, you may not have much say on how people behave. However, you need to take it up with the church leaders on how to let the congregation know how they look to others. Many times, it is the congregation that is asking what is wrong with this church that visitors don’t return we do all that we are supposed to welcome them. As I went from church to church, at one point I felt like a secret shopper. May I suggest that you have members of your congregation come to church as a visitor. Ask them to view the service as someone would who is looking for a new church home. Don’t ask are we doing the right things, ask what are we doing that is sending the wrong message to our visitors. Ask yourself, if someone wrote a post about their church experiences as I have done, would I be embarrassed if they mentioned our church by name.
So, where did I end up when it came to church. I went back to my old church. Yes, there are still some differences that I have to accept. When I went back, I ended up with a small child sitting behind me the entire time talking. As a visitor it would bother me more than it did and I would probably not return. But, because I knew it was not the norm, I tolerated it and decided that I need to find a new favorite place to sit in the church. And, maybe that is part of it, the behavior I saw is not the norm for your church. However, I am a visitor and what my first impression of a service will dictate whether I want to return for a second impression.
(To those who may make negative comments about Christianity, Jesus, or churches, your comments will be deleted.)