Thursday 2 May 2013

Dear pastor who laments church shoppers

I was at your church that Sunday when you criticized church shoppers. My husband and I were there with our three children to see if we could find a home in your community. You know. Church shopping.

I understand your concern. We're a culture that doesn't value pushing through the tough stuff, a culture that values the freedom of wings over the growing of roots. And probably we criticize too easily and leave too quickly and focus too much on what we can get instead of what we have to offer others. I get it.

But we're not in this place because we didn't like the music at our old church. We're not looking for a new church home because our feathers were ruffled by a hard-hitting homily. We're not here because we want the church to serve us and entertain us and meet our every need.

We're church shopping because our deeply loved church home closed its doors. Our cherished friends moved back to their home country. We were, in so many ways, mourning very deep and real losses as we sat down in your church that Sunday - and all we heard was shame.

What you didn't offer, however, were any solutions for those of us thrust against our wills into this very place. You mocked the post-service question, "how was it?", but what else are we to ask each other as we leave your church and consider whether we might be able to put down roots there? You criticized any consideration of music, preaching, ambiance, congregants, really anything at all, but are you truly suggesting that we close our eyes and hearts and simply walk into the nearest church and call it home?

This process of finding a church home has been both immensely challenging and deeply painful for us. We didn't want this. We didn't choose this. But we continue our search because we value, as you do, having a community in which to live life together. Instead of extending grace and understanding to those of us on this road, you heaped more shame upon us for not easily stepping into a new community. What place, I wonder, does discernment and wisdom have in your vision of what it means to choose such a community?

These past weeks haven't been easy. Each Sunday, we have been surrounded by strangers. We have answered all the usual questions, week after week, and left exhausted from the emotional toll of this process. We have walked into each new building only to be met by someone shaking our hands and informing us that they would take our children to Sunday School. (Where else do we do this? Where else do we hand off our children to complete strangers and assume that they will be fine?) We have been to churches too large for our introverted selves to feel comfortable in, churches that our children have loved simply for the massive screens overhanging the fog-filled stage. We have been to churches with scarcely any other children at all. The service at the first church we visited began with a woman's testimony of a half-hour lecture she had given to her friend on the gift of spanking, and how by the grace of God, her friend was brought to tears and convinced of the mandatory place spanking has in the biblical raising of children. So that was awesome. And by awesome, I mean oh hell no.

And you're suggesting that in our search for a home filled with both love and truth, we should question nothing?

Maybe it's shallow to leave the church and discuss the music, the message, the atmosphere, or our general gut-level reactions, but we can't help but give at least some consideration to these things. If the baby can't even stay in the service because the band is rocking out too loudly for her comfort, well, it's just not going to work out for us. If you come on too strong, demanding that we hand over our children despite our (and their) polite refusal, well, it's going to freak us out a little bit. And if the best testimony you can give of God's work in your life is your ability to convince another mother to hit her children, well, we're going to think that's a pretty sad sort of God to worship in the first place.

It hasn't been all bad, not at all. We've met some lovely people, witnessed some lovely services, worshiped in holy places. But what we haven't yet found is a place to call home. We're certain we will, but in the meantime we're stuck in that much-maligned role of church shoppers.

Please. Extend us some grace and encouragement as we walk this road, and I promise you, we will commit ourselves wholeheartedly to our new community when we find it.

In Peace,

A Church-Shopping Family


  1. Hugs Cynthia.... :( if you need to chat, you know where to reach me...

  2. May God bless and guide you in this journey. Thoughtful and well written. I hope you will consider sending a copy to the pastor who criticized shoppers.

  3. I know how tough this is and I can't imagine how awful it must have felt to sit through that sermon :( Praying for your family as you look for a church to call home.

  4. I know how difficult this is especially since we move so often. Praying for your family as you search for a new church home.

  5. I just found your blog...and am disturbed by the pastor who criticized "church shopping" as well. Church is where you go to feel connected to God, a place to feel at peace and to worship, a place to be with your family and feel close to those around you. I'm sorry you haven't found that and hope you find it soon.
    I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (they call us "mormons"). I'm not sure where you live, but I'm sure there is a "mormon" church near you. :) Please know that you would be more than welcome there. The people are friendly and accepting, and you are welcome to attend any Sunday, as many times as you like. For more about our beliefs or to see what the Sunday services are like, visit :) Hope you find what you're looking for!

  6. Thank you all for your kind words. They were very encouraging to me during this very difficult process of searching for a new church home.