The “church shopping” experience

church shopping

Asking my daughters to guest blog for me has been a gold mine in terms of readership.  The days their guest blogs appeared have been my blog’s biggest single days, so it’s time to hear from one of them again (and the other one too if I can convince her to do it).  Here’s a post about looking for a new church when your parents don’t select it for you.  Thanks, Elizabeth.

I grew up with a distorted view of joining a church. There was never any “church shopping” in my family. We always knew what church we would attend because my dad worked there. The transition period was pretty short; congregations full of wonderful and welcoming people would embrace my family and make us feel loved from the moment we arrived.

I am slowly but surely learning that this is not most people’s “church shopping” experience.

My husband and I recently moved from Ann Arbor to Seattle, and we have been looking for a church community to join. The first church we visited was the University Presbyterian Church adjacent to the University of Washington campus. This church is huge and fascinating. The 9 a.m. contemporary service we attended was energetic, and the congregation spanned almost every age group – a young couple’s church-shopping dream!

What it lacked, however, was the personal greeting with which I had grown up. Where was the welcome brunch? Where were all the handshakes and introductions? Why wasn’t my calendar rapidly filling up with church events?

Because joining a church is hard work. It takes a lot of time/effort (when you are no longer a spoiled pastor’s daughter) to go to events, to introduce yourself, to join groups, to seek out volunteer positions. And after all of that, it takes time and commitment to build the relationships that can make church such a special place.

So, while I will probably be attending new member classes soon, that won’t be enough to really become a new church member. As my older sister, who is also a pastor, so wisely told me, “You will get out of church what you put into it.”

It looks like I have my work cut out for me.


Who could resist?  

About Doug

I have been a writer ever since fifth grade when I won second prize in a “prose and poetry” contest. I am also a Presbyterian pastor, and for several years toward the end of my career I lived and worked in Zürich, Switzerland. I am now retired and live just north of Holland, Michigan, along the lake.

3 Responses to The “church shopping” experience

  1. Bob Sadowski June 10, 2013 at 3:23 pm #

    wouldn’t happen at first pres, we would suck you right into a committee or something.

  2. Doug June 10, 2013 at 6:08 pm #

    I hope that’s true, Bob.

  3. Paul Burgess June 11, 2013 at 5:52 pm #

    This is what churches need to understand: that there are people who are shopping, and they need to be welcomed “just like a pastor’s daughter”! Doing that would make a wonderful difference!

    … AND, it is important to have a person (or a group of people) who help to provide the necessary connections of people to other people or organizations. It is a role I had at First Pres Wheaton for 7 years, and feel that it is really necessary, even though the current pastor doesn’t!