For the first three and a half years, North Point met on Sunday nights in rented facilities. Not fun. But it gave me an opportunity to visit other churches on Sunday mornings. Honestly, I was consistently underwhelmed.
Our most stressful and disappointing experience took place at a church touted for its children’s ministry. We arrived about twenty minutes before the service was scheduled to begin. Andrew was with us. He had just turned three. We had to ask twice where to find the children’s area. Signage was almost nonexistent. Someone finally pointed us to a door. We peeked in and the only person in the room was a man who looked to be in his late twenties. When he saw us, he came to the door with a big smile on his face. A little too big for me. We told him this was our first visit. He assured us that we were at the right place, and he invited Andrew into the room. That’s when I noticed a back door standing open that led to what looked like an outdoor playground. But it was hard to tell exactly where it led. Sandra asked if we needed to fill out any paperwork. He looked a bit confused and said we didn’t and that he hoped we enjoyed the service. Then he turned and went over and began talking to Andrew. We just stood there—both thinking the same thing, but neither of us wanting to say it aloud. Ignoring our raging parental instincts, we headed off to big church.
During the second song, Sandra turned to me and asked, “Do you feel okay about Andrew’s situation?” I assured her that I did not and that it was all I had been thinking about since we left his classroom. She immediately slid out of our row and headed back to the children’s wing. It took every ounce of self-control I had to not follow. A few minutes later she came back and informed me that there was, in fact, another adult in the room along with a dozen or more children.
If you have children, I bet you aren’t surprised to know that we never visited that church again. Worse, that’s the only thing I remember about our visit. Every time someone mentions the name of that church, I think about that incident. I will be the first to admit that our experience couldn’t possibly be the norm. But I still wouldn’t go back. That was seventeen years ago. Similar to my previous story, this church taught several lessons they didn’t intend to teach.
Lesson #1: We don’t expect new families. We have the same kids every week.
Lesson #2: If there is an emergency, we don’t plan to notify you.
Lesson #3: Your child’s security is not our primary concern.
Lesson #4: Our volunteers don’t understand the way parents think (i.e., our volunteers are untrained).
The one thing those two stories have in common is that neither of my assessments had anything to do with the preaching. If your response to my assessment is, “Andy, you’re not being fair. You shouldn’t judge a church based on one visit,” you would be correct. My assessment isn’t fair. And that’s my point.