At the age of 7 I really didn’t have a lot of say in where my family went to church. I can remember my mom and dad taking me to this “new” church one Sunday. We pulled our car into the parking lot of a school. As we entered the school I really cannot remember questioning our whereabouts at all. I just trusted that my parents knew what they were doing. After all, this was a school and it was Sunday.
As we entered the building, we went right into a large gym area. There were chairs set up and a small amount of people gathered around. It was warm and welcoming; cozy and peaceful. Our large church that we had left was familiar, but it lacked what my family needed (at the time I didn’t realize it, but I do now). This church seemed more fitting of who we were.
As the weeks went on, I found myself immersed into this small community. Meetings were held in homes, vacation bible school was at a beautiful home with a pool, and Sunday School was set up in the hallways of the church. Sundays were Christ-centered and filled with pitch-ins, fellowship and love.
Being the youngest of five, my siblings will tell you my life was one of privilege. My dad was established and financially successful. We rarely scraped for anything monetarily. We weren’t rich, but we definitely were not struggling. Whereas when my sisters and brother grew up, life was more of struggle financially. Sending kids to college, paying for a house in a nice suburb, and trying to find a job that would pay all the bills was a serious hurtle for my mom and dad. Yet by the time that I was old enough to remember, my dad had a successful career and loved life.
All of that was great, but what really made me privileged was this church community that my parents introduced me to. If not for this foundation of faith, I truly would not have overcome many of the struggles in my life. Our church was a family. We suffered when someone else suffered. We were joyous in others joy. We were a unit. We were a team. This small group of believers even took a personal stake in the new building that they were conceptualizing. As we prepared for a move out of the school and into a building, everyone pitched in. We had builders, contractors, accountants, electricians, and more. Everyone used their occupations to produce this amazing place for us to worship. It was a project that was never tackled alone – it was a team effort.
Today, 35 years later, this church is celebrating the strength of that foundation. Even though I do not attend that church, I still find myself drawn to it. I guess out of gratitude for all it offered me. As parents, we may never see the impact that our faith has on our kids. I am here to tell you – it is huge.
If my parents would have stuck it out at the church they were unhappy within, my life would have been significantly different. If my parents would have chosen the easy route – to just stay back and let others do it for them – my life would have been significantly different. If my parents would have decided that a little church meeting out of a school was not the right fit for our family – my life would have been significantly different. If my parents would have decided they didn’t want to risk a financial stake in that small church community – my life would have been significantly different. If my parents would have run when new pastors arrived – my life would have been significantly different. My parents took a risk, a leap of faith that I am forever indebted to.
Church communities have an enormous impact on our children. Our choices and our actions can vastly change our child’s faith life. I am so grateful that I was “privileged.” I am so grateful that my parents gave me a strong foundation in faith. I am so grateful that my parents were not “wishy-washy” in their own faith life. I am so grateful that they put in the hard work to build on something for God.
Today, I look at that church with thousands of members and I think – what would all those people be doing today if my family and many other families hadn’t taken a great leap of faith?