My whole life has been steeped in small church life. The kind where everybody knows everybody else. You laugh at inside jokes and notice when Sister Sue or Brother John is missing. The same few people are elected to the church board and dinner on the ground is a familiar term. The pastor shakes hands with everyone who attends. Maybe more than once if they hang around long enough.
There’s just something special about a small church.
The church I attend is in the next town over. Although you would never really know it was the next town over seeing as how the towns practically run together. Literally, only a bridge separate the two. You can give directions to my church by saying “go over the bridge, past the Piggly Wiggly then turn left at the Shell Station. It’s on your left.”
You can’t miss it.
In our church we still sing hymns some Sunday mornings and invite anyone who would like to come forward to the alter during prayer time. Not all of the ushers wear suits on Sunday and everyone sits in the same pew from week to week, have for years.
The church building is not new, but still looks nice. The pews are comfortable enough, each one housing a few hymnals and at least one King James Bible. Stray Kleenex boxes line up on the floor underneath different ones for the soul that is moved to tears. And stained glass windows allow the sun to peek in different colors on an especially sunny day.
Our fellowship hall, the gathering place for fellowship, is old and in need of updating. But that doesn’t stop us from showing up, casserole in hand, to sit and laugh together on a Sunday morning after worship. The Sunday School wing, although newer, has been duly initiated by the hands of many children. It’s seen its share of wear. In this building there are colorful classrooms with cut out art adorning the walls. Enough crayons to supply a small elementary school. Scissors of all shapes and sizes and glue sticks that work part of the time. Small tables with tiny chairs in some rooms and bigger adult sized chairs in others. Something for everyone, or at least that’s the goal.
A lot of learning about Jesus has gone on in this place.
We park in the grass, walk through dirt and cross a small road to get to the front door. But no one seems to mind. We sing and praise and raise our hands to the Lord. It’s just how we do it where I attend. Some of us volunteer to greet those arriving and it wouldn’t feel like church without the trusty old bulletin. And, of course, everyone gets one. It’s good for fanning when the pastor forgets to turn on the air-conditioner early enough to cool down the sanctuary on a hot summer Sunday.
Oh, and for the announcements.
The attendance board hangs proudly in the foyer showcasing how much money was given in Sunday School and how many attended last Sunday morning. A few dedicated ladies change the flowers each season and some holidays so that the front of the sanctuary looks festive and appropriate.
If you walked into our service on any given Sunday, you would see white and grey hair peppered throughout the pews. Seasoned old saints who could tell us a story or two about this life. If we’d only listen. Or you might see the middle aged couple who are working multiple jobs to keep their kids in school and college. Their eyes are tired but they smile anyway, God has been good, after all. There could be a baby or two crying on occasion, I’m always thankful that that young momma got up and beat the odds to make it to Sunday morning worship. Who knows what she really faced to sit in church and allow her children to hear the Word of God. Seeds are being planted.
Church attendance is a commitment. Especially in these busy times with so many other activities pulling, practically begging for our attention. It’s almost heroic for a family to make it week after week.
For a person to be faithful requires pushing through dry seasons, where you feel like you’re not getting a thing out of being there. Blasting past times when your children argue and don’t want to go. It’s boring they tell you. (You know what I say to that? “Tough, just tough. Your job will one day be boring too, you still have to go. Your marriage will have boring times, you still have to stay. Life will have boring seasons, but it’s still worth living. It’s the right thing to do, and one day you’ll see it was worth it. Now, get in the car.”) Ignoring what feels like common sense at times when you are just plain tired and there’s so much you could accomplish with some rest and a day at home.
You have to make up your mind.
And then you have to go. Set all of the excuses aside, set the alarm clock and just go! Pray for direction and discernment about the church you feel would best fit your family and then show up on a Sunday morning. Once you find a “fit,” get to know the people and commit to the programs and make it a priority.
You won’t regret it.
We recently had a Valentines Banquet at our little church. I knew everyone there and we laughed and broke bread together. It was a nice evening. I went home feeling full, loved and thankful for this little family of mine that I see a few times a week. We love God together, encourage and pray for one another.
It’s a refuge in this difficult world.
I still struggle some Sundays, the blankets are so warm and I don’t want to get up. But, I have decided that it matters too much to neglect. As long as I have breath and can get dressed, I will be there. I hope you’ll make that decision too.
Maybe I’ll see you on Sunday.
“Let us not stay away from church meetings. Some people are doing this all the time. Comfort each other as you see the day of His return coming near.” Hebrews 10:25 NLT