Last year our family changed churches. This was a difficult, but important decision for us. It was not something we took lightly. The process lasted over a year. We thought it might be helpful to share how we approached changing church families.
To provide some background, we’ll summarize our timeline. We attended church together starting in 2011 when we started dating. Patrick had been attending a theologically conservative suburban church. Kara had been attending a theologically liberal church in the city. We each attended the other’s church, but realized neither would fit us as a couple. At the recommendation from some friends, we visited and started attending a church in suburban Lancaster.
We stayed at this church until we moved to Mechanicsburg in May 2013. We spent the entire summer visiting different churches. There was a smaller, newer church in Carlisle we were excited to visit. We went several times, but the main pastor was away all summer. This made it difficult to fully understand the vision and feel for the church.
There was another church in Carlisle we visited. The week we visited there happened to be a guest speaker whose primary language was not English. The experience was new to Patrick and he had a difficult time understanding the pastor. A few blocks from our small apartment in Mechanicsburg, we visited a church with a traditional, more liturgical service. This is something we were both interested in exploring. However, none of these churches were the right one for us.
Some friends from Millersville had suggested Daybreak Church. We visited there a few times. And after visiting these various churches throughout the summer, we decided to stay a Daybreak. We planned to reevaluate in the future. We needed to stay long enough to provide opportunities to meet other people and get connected at the church. Fortunately, we got connected with individuals and families at Daybreak. It was great being a part of this community.
During the next few years, Kara and I continued growing in our individual and family spiritual journeys. We got to a point where we questioned whether it was time to find a new church. During the summer of 2017 we visited The Meetinghouse. The Meetinghouse has two locations one in Carlisle and one in Dillsburg. We visited both several times that summer. Ironically, on one of the Sundays we were visiting the Meetinghouse church, we learned that the senior pastor at Daybreak was leaving.
This was a challenging time for Daybreak. A time of transition was beginning. We had several discussions about whether this was the right time to move on, or if we should stay committed to this church. After much talking, praying, and thinking, we decided to stay at Daybreak during this transition period.
As the year progressed, we discovered another church a mile down the road. We had driven past it many times. We had gone to some community events it held. One evening while at a Homeowners Association meeting held at Grantham Church, we saw a sign that Messiah College would be bringing in Greg Boyd to speak. He would also be speaking at Grantham Church. Though Greg is considered a controversial figure by some, he is someone with which we resonate. One of our frustrations with Evangelical churches in The U.S. is that they tend to stifle people raising questions related to the Christian faith. We both believe that faith can grow stronger through the process of questions and doubt. Seeing that Grantham Church was inviting Greg Boyd to speak, made us wonder if this would be a church that better fit with the faith journey we were on together.
After attending Grantham a few times, and learning more about it, we began to seriously consider switching churches. One thing we realized during this process was that if we were both single and living in the Mechanicsburg area, we believed this was a church we would have both been drawn to. We found that Grantham Church was intentional about incorporating elements of the history of the Christian faith. We also remember seeing a wallboard dedicated to peace and social justice issues. This excited us.
We’ve been attending Grantham Church for over a year now. It was the right decision for our family. But we’ve also stayed connected to Daybreak. Kara attended their MOPS group, and Patrick serves on their worship team occasionally. We made many friends while attending there, and are very grateful for those friendships and our time with that congregation.
So what are some tips for successfully changing churches? Hopefully you’ve gleaned some from reading our story. We’ve also listed some ideas below:
- Take your time finding a new church. And take your time transitioning between the churches. After we decided to switch, we waited two months to leave. During this transition period, we attended both churches. This allowed a smoother transition.
- Maintain relationships from your old church. You’ve invested time in these. Your friendships can continue even though you’re in different churches. What likely unites you is your love for Christ. That goes beyond church walls.
- Talk with your pastors and let them know why you are leaving. And thank them for how they have cared for you. We had a short discussion with our Pastor of Care. And Patrick had breakfast with the worship team leadership. In both cases, our journey to the next church was prayed over.