Many of you know that our family has recently changed churches. It was a long time coming. A lot of prayer and soul searching and doubting ourselves, but we made the move. We're not 100% settled in a new place yet and we haven't cut all of our ties with our old church. We've stayed involved in our Wednesday night small group. After all after a year of spilling our hearts and celebrating our joys - they've become family and you don't just walk away from family. I really respect our leader - he reminds me a lot of dad and honestly our group is one of the reasons we resisted letting go of Sundays at Life as long as we did.
There certainly wasn't one reason we walked away. There were several things that over time just began to feel wrong for our family. One of them was definitely the way the Children's Ministry is run. After all we have an almost 4 year old and yes the children's ministry is an important part of church to us. I volunteered in the children's program for about 5 years. Some months I would only actually be in church 1 Sunday because the others were spent teaching. In August last year when our world imploded and we had the miscarriage I felt like I needed to walk away from the children's ministry. Things had begun to change there and I was also falling to pieces. I felt like I needed to be in church - I was fighting to hold onto my own faith and I just didn't feel like I could be a teacher when I was lost myself. I explained that as well as I could to the people in charge and I stepped back to fall apart and try to put myself back together. I stepped down around the time the person in charge was changing. The whole program changed. They went from having several different classes divided by age to having the toddlers class 1 - 3 which WeeMan was in and then the next class was 4years old through 5th grade. (Yes you read that right and no we don't go to a small church.) The switch was gradual - it was 4 - 1st grade (not too bad) and then we went to where they are today. It doesn't seem to be b/c of a lack of volunteers either. Every Sunday there are several adults helping with the youth. There are usually around 30 kids in the group. Knowing that WeeMan was getting close to that move up age was a factor in our decision to go ahead and move. As a teacher I don't believe that 4 year olds in the same class as 5th graders is beneficial for either group - at least not for the entire time. I could see doing some whole group and then splitting - but not lessons and all together. I don't talk to a 4 year old the same way I do to an 11/12 year old - they don't think or reason the same way and they certainly don't have the same understandings.
Like I mentioned there were other things that factored in to our decision also. To be honest our concerns about the ministers leadership and his lack of shepherding our congregation were also a BIG issue. We had been devastated when our world fell apart and he wasn't there for us. When he finally sat down and met with us - he said "Oh I didn't realize it was so bad" (Slight rant here - we had called him the day the miscarriage started - he knew what we had gone through to get to that place and he knew everything that took place afterwards all the ups and downs and uncertainty with what was going on - and he blew us off over and over for meetings - then to say that. It was like are you serious? How many Sundays have I stood in church (not in the back) and let the tears fall. Did you seriously not notice that we were struggling to find faith) Okay but back to focus - that being said there were things he was saying in the pulpit that didn't go along with the God that I felt like my father had taught me about. Things that made me go "What? " and not in a good way.
So fastforward to July. I needed to let the hospitality director know that we were moving on. So I sent her an email explaining that we felt at this time our family needed to find a better fit. I told her only that we were thinking of WeeMan and did have some concerns about the children's ministry and wanted to find a better fit for him. I didn't vent about the pastor or how wrong I felt he was or any of that - just felt better to keep it simple and not sound bitter.
I should also add at this point that Hubby wanted to talk to the pastor when we started looking - but our pastor has a bit of a God complex and doesn't like to hear that you disagree with him or don't have the same ideas or even answer questions - we've had personal experience with how ugly that can get with him and also had several friends who have had very bad experiences with him in that situation. So I said - no I think we just need to go - I don't do confrontations and I didn't feel that it would change anything. So we went.
Tonight I heard that we were an example of how not to be in a sermon a few weeks ago. Oh he didn't mention us by name... but another couple in our small group was sharing about their decision to leave and the wife was telling how she doesn't feel comfortable the way he uses specific people and conversations as negative examples in his sermons. (Never mentions names - but still ) One of the others asked her what she meant and she shared how in this specific sermon he was talking about how if you don't like something then fix it and said there was a family in the church who recently had left because they didn't like the children's ministry but they never volunteered in the children's area and they wouldn't help with VBS either. Okay he could have been referring to several people who have left for the same reason recently - but I felt like he was probably talking about us. I had been asked to help with VBS but had training for school that week and I had said no I couldn't take over a month of children's ministry in the summer b/c we had vacations planned.
I know it's silly and I need to let it go - but I'm irritated. I'm working on breathing in and out and keeping my mouth shut. We're going to keep going to our small group - they are family and at this point our issue is not with them. They know all our reasons for leaving and still welcome us. I am irritated that we might feel a little uncomfortable walking in to the building to get to our small group - we shouldn't though b/c our church has a public coffee shop in the lobby so it's not like we're going into the church to meet. I'm irritated that what was once a strong place of faith appears to be slowly toppling but no one can do anything about it. The elder team has been taken apart piece by piece and the pastor is the person in charge of the whole church now so there's not really anyone to stand up to him. One of my friends called it "The church of M..." when I was telling her what was going on and sadly she's right. I'm going to pray that in spite of what's going on they can continue to grow and make a difference - many of the kids in the youth program are kids from my school. They walk there on Sundays by themselves. I just have a bad feeling that in the end - they are the ones that are losing out.