When Cody and I got married and moved to Minnesota, we knew that finding a church would be a top priority. We tried many different churches, but only found one we liked.
Our “perfect” church
I have so many mixed feeling on this. On one hand, there is no perfect church. We had our priorities though – they needed to be close enough for us to drive every week, be a place that we could bring friends without them feeling scared off, and we needed to feel encouraged and pushed.
Personally, I had one other key factor in determining our church home. The church had to be small. I grew up in a small church and loved that I knew everyone. In college, I was the choir director at an even smaller church that welcomed me with open arms and showed me such love and hospitality. I wanted to feel connected, and I was certain that feeling wouldn’t happen at a larger church.
Church shopping is hard!
We were feeling defeated. We hadn’t found a church that felt right, and it had been a few months. Some coworkers of mine suggested a church that was meeting at the local high school. At first that sounded great. If they meet at a high school they must be small, right? Turns out, it was one of five campuses for a much larger church. In fact, it’s one of the largest churches in the country.
I laughed. Like, I’m pretty sure I legitimately laughed out loud. There was NO WAY I would go to a church like that. I refused to be at a church where I would be a number instead of a name, but we didn’t have any other ideas to try, so I agreed to go for a week. I had so many different emotions and experiences:
- It was overwhelming and confusing being in a school.
- We were greeted by dozens of people from the parking lot all the way to our seats.
- The music was amazing!
- I was so distracted by the message being streamed, instead of live, that I couldn’t focus.
- They announced that their permanent location was opening the next weekend!
It didn’t feel like a fair shot to give up after one week right before they opened their own building, so I agreed to go again the next week. Long story short, that was four years ago.
Big yet small
When we went back for the second time, it was so much easier to focus on the message. I realized that the high school just wasn’t equipped for streaming the same way the campus building was. Being at the campus, I forgot within minutes that the teaching pastor wasn’t actually there standing on the stage!
The facility was spotless and huge, and yet felt cozy and friendly at the same time. I couldn’t explain it. Even though we didn’t know ANYONE, we were welcomed with open arms.
After about a month, when we were still there “giving it a try” I realized that I liked it and Cody really liked it. That’s when I told him unless we could actually get to know people I was OUT. No more being a number – even if being a number at Eagle Brook Church really felt more personal than that.
We decided to volunteer. Cody chose tech and I chose to snuggle toddlers. Honestly – we didn’t love it right away! The first month or two was super uncomfortable. Suddenly we had responsibilities at a place we barely knew with people we barely knew. It wasn’t “fun”, but we also knew it’s what God was leading us to do. Not just to help others, but to get ourselves plugged in and connected to this new church we wanted to call home.
That all changed after just a few months. By volunteering consistently, we were working with the same people month after month. I started to look forward to seeing the volunteer team leaders and the kids’ pastors who I was getting to know.
Since then we’ve been in a handful of small groups, switched volunteering roles (Cody is a tech lead and I teach preschool), and have transitioned into leaders in the annual Financial Peace University class! Through these things, we know basically all of the staff at our campus (and beyond), and we have friends. We know others and we feel known.
If you haven’t tried a big church, don’t write it off too quickly. Give it time and get involved. When you allow yourself to get connected in community, you will find that even a big church can have a family feel!
ps. If you are in the Twin Cities area and want to try our church with us, we would LOVE to go with you and show you around!