Guest Post: A Child In Search Of…

Lydia Schnack is my momma.  She’s going to be blogging here more as we start to offer more events for grown ups.  Recently, she and my middle guy, Logan, have been church shopping, and she shares their experiences here.  My background, for those of you who don’t know, is in children’s ministry with a degree in comparative religious studies.  It’s important to me that my kids have faith, but it’s not important to me that they experience it in the same way that I do.  My eldest and I love my very contemporary church (Chapel Springs) but my middle guy hated it, and having studied the value of quiet, contemplation, and order for children, I had zero problem looking for a way for him to have that.  It’s one of the weird things I do (according to some people).  I try to value the uniqueness of each of my kids, even from a young age.  It’s why my eldest can be psychotically into Boy Scouts and my middle one doesn’t have to even try it. I want to honor who they are as people.  Anyway, this is a very long introduction to my mom’s experiences church shopping with Logan. 

One of the things I have most regretted from my child
rearing days was that in trying to tend to my husband’s religious needs, I
didn’t realize that my easy going, don’t like change, son was unhappy because
we were hopping from place to place.  
Hopefully sometime in his future he will find it in himself to return to
Anyway, because of my son’s experience, when my daughter contacted me to ask if I would take Logan “church
shopping” because he was unhappy at their very contemporary church I knew I had to jump on this opportunity.  
For approximately the last four months Logan and I have
visited numerous churches in the western Prince William area.  It has been an interesting ride and I am
still amazed at the things that are important to this 10 year old little
boy.  Our first Sunday, we attended Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran Church in Haymarket and afterwards we went
out to chat over breakfast.  Once our
food was ordered we began with the positives and I was surprised and amazed to
see the level of thought and consideration that Logan put into his
 “I like that it looks like a church.  I like the stained glass window over the altar,
it is beautiful and welcoming.  I also
like the ones of all the apostles in the side windows too.  I also liked the wooden arches on the
ceiling, they really made it look like a church.  Oh, and I love those hand bells, they sound so
beautiful.  I also like the outside,
especially the steeple and warm feeling I got when I walked in.  All of the people were so friendly and I really
liked the pastor and the way he spoke.  I
like all the traditions, order and quiet.”
Hmm, I thought, did you really listen to the sermon?  “Tell me about the sermon Logan, what did you
get from it?”
“I could not believe this sermon,
it was like he was talking directly to me.  Don’t
you think it was weird that his sermon was about “Doubting Thomas”?
Dislikes came last and the only thing Logan did not like
about this church was their Sunday school program and that was simply because
it was not very structured and their set up made for a very noisy environment
which does not sit well with him.
Wow, what an amazing start to our search! 
Well, after visiting six different churches twice each, and
starting an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of all the likes and dislikes Logan
narrowed the search to one Shepherd of the Hills Lutheran, St. Thomas United Methodist and Trinity Episcopal Church all with very
similar plusses.  They all looked and
felt like churches to Logan, had sermons that spoke to his needs, and were
populated by friendly people (surprisingly, not all churches have friendly
people – we even heard a sermon about a pastor that attended an all-day church
function and was not spoken to once!) 
We have been frequenting these three churches on and off for
a while now and I was beginning to believe that perhaps Logan was putting off
making a decision so that he would not lose breakfast out with Grandma every Sunday,
but low and behold, he finally decided that St. Thomas United Methodist was the church he wanted
to call home.  He has definitely put a
lot of thought into his decision and is apparently going to do his part to make
himself feel comfy.  
They had volunteer
signups and he definitely took me by surprise when he signed up to be an
acolyte.  He was a little funny after the
fact when he saw the acolytes during church. 
Whispering in my ear “Grandma, am I going to have to wear a dress if I acolyte?  It’s not a dress, Logan, it is a robe.  Oh, so a “man dress”?  We both giggled.  

Our next steps will include acolyte training, becoming
members, signing up for Sunday school classes and attending a Pokémon Go event
in Old Town Manassas that includes lunch (two of Logan’s favorites)!  
It’s been a fun experience church shopping with this serious little guy!
It’s Kristina, again! If you’re taking your kids (or family) church shopping, here are a few things to consider, from the perspective of someone who used to run a children’s ministry! 
1. How did you feel in your class/large group/small group? 
2. Was it easy to talk to the grown ups? Did they introduce themselves or have name tags? 
3. Did anything make you feel uncomfortable or scared? 
4. What was your favorite thing you did today? Least Favorite? 
5. Would you like to come here again? 

And things you should ask whomever is in charge:
1. How do you screen your volunteers? Do you do background checks? 
2. What type of curriculum are you using? (Google it, guys!) 
3. What type of volunteer holes do you have? (Because if nobody is volunteering, the programs aren’t going to go well!) 
4. What type of special groups or opportunities do you have? (Midweek programs, acolyte, baptism prep, communion classes, CCD, confirmation, youth groups, fun events, etc)