In fact, I enjoyed it. A lot.
(If you’ll remember, our search for a new church has been a bit rocky. We can’t seem to find something that fits all of our criteria.)
This past weekend I decided to switch gears and take my family somewhere completely out of our comfort zone, a megachurch. Technically it’s a name for a Protestant church with over 2,000 members. My naïve opinion of the megachurch has always been that they are incredibly conservative and sometimes evangelical (in a way that makes me uncomfortable). I tend to think of them as impersonal churches with huge congregations, large projection screens, broadcast-ed sermons, flashy praise bands, and wasted extra money that could be used elsewhere to help the those in the community.
Can you tell I grew up in a small church? My home church is a lot like the TV show Cheers, everyone knows your name. Your happy news is everyone’s happy news, and your struggles are the group’s struggles. It’s easy to get involved because in many cases, an “all hands on deck” is imperative for a successful volunteer mission, event, or work day. There’s no place to hide in a small church, but that leads to deeper friendships and basically an extra extended family.
That said, I know megachurches donate money and time and all those good things but on a bigger scale. What makes me nervous is that you can easily slip in and out unnoticed, and never make a commitment to anything outside of Sunday service. On the plus side, a bigger church will have enough curriculum and small groups to meet our needs as our family grows and changes throughout the years.
Enough about the altruistic side of church, let’s get materialistic for a second. Because, WOW. This megachurch blew my megamind.
To start off we accidentally missed the turn for the parking lot but it turned out there was a side parking lot that placed us even closer to the building without having to wait in the long queue of cars. Easy parking situation? Score!
Once inside I was blown away by the amount of people milling about in the lobby area. For a minute there I thought we were at a concert venue. The church has their own guest services booth. I mean, COME ON. My favorite luxury had to be the coffee shop though. YES, THEY HAD A COFFEE SHOP. People were entering the worship area with their coffee cups. #dreamcometrue I waited until after the service to get my iced vanilla latte but it was brilliant just the same.
Their seats were comfortable! I always assumed having uncomfortable seating was a silent rule for all congregations. Guess not! These seats were cushioned and soft and oh yea, they had cup holders. CUP HOLDERS! We sat in the upper level so one of us could leave if The Wee One got fussy, but there was a good-sized parent room on the main floor with about 8 gliders and lots of toys so you could easily watch the service from behind its glass wall. The Scottish also spotted a nursing room, A NURSING ROOM, and as a breastfeeding mother who is very aware of the best places to feed in public, I was really excited about that.
There were TVs in the lobby and many sets of tables and chairs. Honestly, it rivaled a restaurant’s beer garden, only the patio sets were indoors. I guess if you arrived late, you could just sit at these tables and watch the service on the big screens. They had security and people with headsets. I could go on, but you get the idea.
What about the actual service? Good question.
Honestly, I went in with a negative and pessimistic outlook but I was pleasantly surprised. The service was broken up into two parts, music and sermon. The band was talented, almost too talented. I didn’t feel the desire to sing a long (I usually love singing in church) because I felt like I was at a concert and I wanted to listen to them. Plus I didn’t know the words/music at all, but it sounded very contemporary.
After about four songs, they passed baskets for the offering and then introduced the next sermon series and finally introduced the Pastor who would be finishing up the current series (a megachurch will have quite a few Pastors on staff).
Actually the Pastor and his wife did a tag team sermon on parenting and God in the home. It felt extremely relevant to me for obvious reasons but I also liked it because they weren’t pushy or trying to be perfect. What they said made sense and I appreciated the casual but still spiritual approach. And then it was over. The crowd emptied efficiently with a steady hum of chatter still ruminating on the message.
Thing I missed:
The call to worship, it’s a great way to start the service and focus everyone’s mind in my opinion.
The Lord’s Prayer, there’s something about speaking all together in prayer that I really love.
A hymn I could sing-a-long to.
Communion. I don’t need communion every Sunday but I wonder how often, if at all, megachurch’s do it.
Things I didn’t miss:
Passing the peace, it’s fun to greet people but it always takes so long.
Long scripture readings by members of the congregation who aren’t so great at public speaking.
Voiced prayers because while it’s doable in a small church, sometimes there are 20 people who have something to share and it can get really long.
Let’s see if meets my criteria.
1. Values/Beliefs Uncertain at this point, but seems pretty open. Hoping to explore more once we get back from Scotland.
2. Community Yes, we saw lots of young people and even some families with babies. And overall diversity of age.
3. Location Yes, it’s just under a ten minute drive.
4. Programming Yes, but we haven’t looked in detail yet.
5. Pastor So far so good!
Will we go back? I think so. I hope to find more reasons to love it besides lattes and convenient parking, but it’s a start! Just goes to show you, everything is worth trying, at least once.
Have you been to a megachurch? What did you think?