As parents, we want to belong to a community again following a pandemic. We yearn to connect with people who operate by the same morals and values as we do. We want to share our lives with people we can actually see, rather than seeing our own faces reflecting off the phone.
To say our lives were traumatically affected by a global health crisis is probably not too much of an exaggeration. In order to protect ourselves, our minds went into a self-preservation mode causing us to be very aware and cautious in social situations we once found acceptable. Was that a sneeze? Did they just cough? We’ve all instinctively turned our heads to determine the distance between us and the source while performing a risk analysis of potential exposure threat. So while our “mind” has tried to protect us by reclassifying social situations as perceived threats, our “self” still wants to still engage and interact with others. That’s simply because we are, innately, a social species.
But after years of social distancing measures, where do we find our tribe again? There is a place that stands ready to help facilitate fulfilling that basic human desire: belonging. That place is the local church or religious congregation.
But with so many different churches and places of worship, how do we determine which to attend?
It is important to note that in this article, the word “church” references any place of worship. “Scripture” is a placeholder for any sacred text identified by the religion, respectfully. As a person who has attended several different churches, has worked for a few churches, and, in all transparency, has had seasons in which I didn’t attend church, I have found that there are some core attributes that help in deciding whether a church is right for you.
One of the beautiful things about being an intellectual species is our ability to have different perspectives and interpretations. We can all witness the same event unfold before us and have completely different details in our recollections. Our reality is based on our perspective and knowledge.
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When it comes to scripture, there should be a mutual agreement on how you and the person teaching interpret the same text. However, there should also be a degree to which we learn from the teaching. Being able to discuss scripture with others will lead to building a stronger relationship, spiritually, and within the community.
As you reflect on the teachings or message spoken, ask yourself: What is something new you learned about the scripture presented? Does that new perspective align with your belief about the scripture? Who can you talk with to discuss interpretations of scripture to either learn from or teach?
Provides Access to Resources
Some of the best churches I have attended have provided several diverse resources that focused on growth and community. The most common resource was structured to be a collection of people who met periodically over a shared interest. Whether by activity based, life stage/age, or life events, these groups were designed to connect people together.
These resources also provide a more intimate setting to grow spiritually. Life can be hard. The struggles are real. When we meet others who are journeying through the same thing or who can guide us through, we find that we are not alone. The solace and trust built in these groups can help us find the connectivity we’ve been missing.
Another resource that might be available within the local church is access to counselors. Having access to counseling services provides a safe place to voice concerns as we retrain our “mind.” Our mind, body, and spirit are all connected. Prioritizing our spiritual and mental self can help safely ease our physical self back into social situations.
But before you even hear the teaching and get involved in a resource, you first have to walk through the doors of the local church. Each encounter provides insight into the church’s culture. How do they welcome first-time guests?
For some churches it starts in the parking lot, where volunteers will help guide you to a spot. You might be greeted at the front doors of the church. In some churches there are welcome tables designed specifically for first-time guests. How does the church encourage participation within the organized service and throughout the week?
These questions can help you reflect on if this particular church is a great fit for you. Don’t be hesitant to try different churches until you find one that connects with you the most.
When we feel accepted for who we are and what we are going through in the moment, we can feel safe about being vulnerable. Years ago I was very active in a church but felt intense pressure to look a certain way and show little vulnerability when life got hard. People I spent a lot of time with had no idea I was struggling greatly.
Contrast that experience to now, where despite if I’m put together or coming in late with wet hair, I am welcomed. Just recently, I had a complete stranger ask me if I needed help while in the parking lot. I was juggling my purse and a cup of coffee in one hand while the other hand was helping my toddler, who was having a slight meltdown. For someone to genuinely ask to help and be willing to lend a hand, that meant something to me.
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That is the church culture in real life. That is the “self” showing acceptance and selflessness. Building community means being willing to engage with others.
The Right Church for You
The local church, in my opinion, is the best place to find community. It is the safest place to ease back into social situations. You can get involved at your own pace. You can experience the sense of belonging by engaging with others. There are other personal preferences to take in for consideration of a church such as worship music, female leaders, children’s ministry, and more. However, I believe if you focus on scripture-based teaching, access to resources, and overall church culture, finding the right local church for you is within reach. Godspeed.
Be kind. Be safe. Be you.