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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Something Small?

Two weeks ago I signed up the Tongginator for Vacation Bible School. This may seem like a Small Thing to y'all, but to me it felt Huge. You see, we've been attending this church for almost a year, but it still doesn't feel like home. I can count on two hands the number of congregation members who greeted us these past twelve months.

It's a Big Church, y'all.

And I am not a Big Church person.

We tried to make it work anyway, most especially because there aren't many Bible believing churches in our area, but also because it's the church home of Canuck K, Iowa and their girls Cinnamon and Spice (who are the Tongginator's "bestest friends"). Still, for some reason, the Husband's and my efforts to fit in fell flat, and I began to fear that the fault lay entirely with the Husband and me. We knew through prayer that we were absolutely supposed to leave our beloved former church, but what we didn't know was which church home God wanted us at now.

At the new Big Church, we tried volunteering in little ways. We tried to find a small group, but none even remotely close to us offered childcare solutions. We tried to hang out during coffee hour. We attended a few informational meetings and seminars.

Nothing seemed to work.

That's when I decided to step out in faith and sign up the Tongginator for this summer's VBS. I considered it a spiritual leap because child attendance equals parent volunteering in our little corner of the world. And I am not a VBS person.

Now, I realize that I used to teach. This fact may cause many of you to wonder, "how is VBS any different from school?" Well, I'll tell you --

At school, the parents aren't usually present en masse.

I am very comfortable with large groups when the average height of those in attendance lies somewhere below forty-eight inches. I am NOT at all comfortable with people who long ago passed the teenage acne stage.

But I signed up as a VBS volunteer anyway, relieved that they listed photography and videography as a need. (I feel much more comfortable amid large groups when I hold a camera in my hand.)

Y'all can't tell, since there are only so many ways to make the Tongginator's pigtails look interesting, but I used to dabble a bit in photography. It's been awhile, as evidenced by many of the blog's pictures, but I still capture interesting shots now and again. More importantly, I thought if I held a camera in my hand, I could make it through VBS week without a panic attack.

Seriously: a panic attack.

Only the Tongginator and I never made it to VBS this week. Less than 24 hours before kick-off, I received a phone call from one of the organizers at 9:25 at night.

9:25, y'all.

At night.

The evening before VBS began.

She called to tell me that they recently selected another congregation member to act as their photographer for the event, so they didn't need me to serve in that manner. Then she quickly asked if I could serve in a different area.

I paused for a bit.

Now, y'all, I'm an impatient person. And I have a bit of a temper. I'm a seriously flawed individual. But I'm not prideful about my photography. I won't lie - I did feel a tad disappointed, but I forced myself to move past it. I was willing to serve in another area, but I felt a whole lot apprehensive as well. It took some Real Courage for me to say these next words, especially since I'd yet to meet this woman.

"Ummm... I'm happy to serve where there is a need. But I should tell you that I don't do very well with large groups of people. It's different for me when I have a camera in my hand. I can hide behind it, I guess. So if you don't need me to take pictures, I'd really probably do better with a more behind-the-scenes role, around a slightly smaller group of people."

And then I waited anxiously.

It was a long pause.

Finally, she replied, "well, we really don't have anything that meets that kind of criteria. Almost everything is around a lot of people during VBS. There is the check-in table, but that's still quite a busy place, with lots of people constantly coming and going. So we probably don't have anything for you to do."


I didn't know how to respond.

She quickly, awkwardly thanked me for my interest anyway and then hung up the phone. I stood there, still holding the receiver, feeling embarrassed and hurt. It's probably juvenile of me, but I couldn't bring myself to take the Tongginator to VBS the next night or any night this week. I couldn't just drop her off at the church, but I also didn't want to stand around awkwardly, attempting to hide my embarrassment. I also didn't trust that others wouldn't learn who I was, pointing me out as the Mom Who Is Not Good In Groups.

The Husband deemed this the last straw. If this was the only issue, we'd stay and resolve this conflict, but it wasn't the only issue. We've spent a year trying to Make It Work and it just wasn't working. We've now begun a Quest for a new church home.

I share this story with y'all not to vent, but to remind you to do something Very Important before you accomplish those little tasks for the Lord.

Please remember that there are no small tasks in the eyes of Jesus.

So, before you do them, you should pray.

Pray for guidance.

Because something Very Small in your eyes could be something Huge to someone else. Only God and that person know what it is, so you need the Holy Spirit with you while you navigate these Small Things.

Otherwise someone may end up feeling embarrassed and hurt.

Like I was.


Veronica Mitchell said...

I am so sorry. That stinks.

It can be so hard to make a new church feel like home. We are finally officially joining the church we have been attending for two and a half years. It took forever for us to find people who were friendly there. It just gets so much harder once you have kids.

Briana's Mom said...

I would be looking for a new church too after that. I am so sorry.

goodfountain said...

I can very much relate to this post. Many moons ago, pre-kids (pre-husband even), I left my church and became involved with a church plant. Although I wasn't a 'core' member, week after week I was there at the planning meetings, and volunteering on Sundays to bring coffee, place cushions on the hard auditorium chairs. When the church started I volunteered in the nursery. I did it all. And as the church grew, little by little I felt phased out. No longer was I needed. So I tried to get involved in other areas. Everything was a big fat failure.

I finally decided God was trying to tell me something, and that something was that this was not the church home for me. It was a relief to leave.

Perhaps God is telling you the same thing. This church isn't the church home He has in mind for you.

Since having Chee, we haven't found a church home for us. It's something I miss.

Fliss and Mike Adventures said...

Though I am not religious and can't really give you any advice on the church thing... though I hope you find one soon enough that would be good for you... I too am a little like you... I am not one for large groups and detest being stuck as the centre of attention... give me a ton of young kids... not the gangly teenage type (sorry teenagers, don't mean to pigeon hole you all)... as for the camera thing... I am not an expert either but would rather have that in my hand... if we ever meet up one day we can go take photos... drag hubbies and kids along to and they can carry everything... I will share my tripod with ya... hehehe... take care and hugs to ya...

Georgia Peach said...

uhhh...where's the harm in using TWO photographers?
So sorry that happened to you Tonggu Momma. I just said a prayer for y'all to find a new loving church home. Quickly!!

"The eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers." 1 Peter 3:12

Shawnstribe said...

i needed your post, cause you are sooooo right.
It's not about the job, but it's about making each person feel loved and special, and i so needed this lesson today.
i can get so busy and stressi and loose sight of the real issue and loose my compassion.

Churches have a way of kicking Jesus right out of the equation....but do you know what....

His love never fails and He will give you a wonderful church to be part of.
i love your blog : )

Half Gaelic, Half Garlic! said...

Thanks for visiting:) I am so happy to hear that your Mom is also a survivor!! I will hold a good thought for your neighbor.

Great post....you need to find a church that you feel comfortable with. We are part of a huge parish, but is like family to us, and we love it. You will be more inclined to participate in social activities and events when it feels like family. I wish you luck on your search, but when you find it, you will know!

I will be back to check in soon!


Janet said...

Ouch! I have heard people in our church say some pretty insensitive things too...remember it is the person who said it to you, not the church. I think that lady perhaps should take a few lessons on how to ENCOURAGE volunteering! In our church, we never have enough. We wouldn't DREAM of turning someone away! LOL! Still, it doesn't sound like it has been very friendly. It's so hard to go to a new church, isn't it? I'm sorry you've had to deal with it, I'm sorry you were hurt. And I hope you can find a loving, yet bible believing church. A big hug to you!

PS- There's NO shame in not being a "crowd person". NOT AT ALL! LOTS of people are much better one on one.

PPS- I think it's weird that they called you up, after saying you could be the photographer, and said that you couldn't. Um....that position was TAKEN. Strange.

Aunt LoLo said...

Oh, TM, I'm so sorry! There's a saying in my church - The Gospel is true...the people aren't. Good luck with your search! I wish I was your neighbor...I'd take you to church with me. ;-) We're still "fitting into" our new congregation...but they didn't give us too long to settle in! Lo Gung and I both gave talks last Sunday, and we're both working in the Primary as teachers. (Come to think of it...Miss T. would most likely be in my class! I have the 4's-going-on-5's!) I guess that's one thing I like about my church...there are three known things that every person needs - A Friend, A Job, and The Word. Like you said - you would have been there, helping (and maybe meeting people) if they had given you the job! A job is the only thing you can't go out and get for yourself in a church. That said, one of the nice things about this new congregation is...it's just like every other congregation I've ever been in. They all teach the same things, out of the same manuals, even on the same schedule! In Hong Kong, Seattle, New York City...it's all the same. Just different people.

Sorry - that was wordy. I love my church, and I'm so sorry you had such a rough time!! That's rotten. Oh, and not being a "crowd person" is no big deal. My mother has been the pianist, in some capacity or other, for the past 25 years...because she isn't a "crowd person" and doesn't like talk to anyone. hahahahaha

Shelley said...

Hey TMomma,
So sorry for your bad experience. Not fun at all!!! That just really sucks any way you look at it!
I do so hope that you can find another congregation to jump into!!
Maybe you will find a nice small group to get involved with...wouldn't that be nice!!
We will pray for that!!

Shawnstribe said...

Hey TM
ive popped by to give you my email, not sure how else to do it.
Its tomlinson1tribe@btinternet.com

ive just started listening to a whole Joyce Meyer series on attitide and she says in there that we can be Christians and still have a bad attitude....and that she'd wished that there had been good sound teaching on it...well i think shes inspired...the church ethos( not Jesus) has turned so many people away from Christ....
we need to all work on our attitude and be more accountable for it.
....have a beautiful day...and dont forget...the desires of your heart....He's got them all under control ; )

Cajunchic said...

I am not a big church person either. Your story really upsets me because there has to be something they could have found for you to do. What about taking pictures for a slide show at the end of the week. There is always something someone can help with.

Rochelle said...

Wow. I'm sorry. I'm really sorry. It took me quite a long while to "fit in" with our new church. We moved to the Dallas area with my husband's job and it took me a while to get used to a large church. My husband is a minister and if he isn't on the platform he is in the video room, or the audio room, or some place else other than sitting by my side. It felt like making the transition on my own. I spent the first year crying almost every service. People just thought I was really spiritual - I was justr homesick! Keep praying about it and I truly believe God will lead you to where He wants you. Hang in there.

Dale said...

If that is "Christian" maybe you should look at the area mosques or synogogues! Pardon me but that is soo not kind. Good luck on your quest. Sounds like you have made the right decision. It's nice to catch up with you all a bit here. I miss our little group. I need to get writing! Take care.

prechrswife said...

I read this yesterday and meant to come back and comment later. I guess today is later... This whole thing just bothers me on many levels, probably even more so since I am a pastor's wife and a VBS director. As someone else said, there is no harm in having 2 photographers, first of all. Also, there is no reason for waiting until the night before to call someone to ask them to change their plans. The only reason I would do that as a VBS director would be if there was an emergency, and then I would call someone I knew could be flexible, not someone who I didn't know well. Goodness knows, I wouldn't want to discourage a volunteer.

I do understand your wanting to find a different church home. God has a place out there for you--it's just a matter of finding it. My hubby, the pastor, suggested that you make sure the pastor of your current church knows what happened with the VBS situation. Sometimes pastors never hear about these things, and they do need to know.

We will be praying for you as you seek a new place to worship.

happygeek said...

Just recently found your blog and had to comment. We were in a similiar situation in a small church and finally decided to leave as we were getting bitter. We decided that the people in the church were not going to change and we needed to not spread our bitter but go and grow elsewhere.
So sorry you were hurt.

Carla said...

Wow, that would hurt me too. I'm not a good "crowd" person, I can force myself to do it, but it's hard. I too would be looking at another church. {hug}

I would still be angry and upset over the photographer thing as well...yeah, I might be a bit prideful of that. Guess I'll start working on it.