I would say we probably have a pretty unique situation in our lives as far as church and community goes. It's been almost two and a half years since we left the very small church fellowship that we had been a part of here in our own community for about eleven years. And wow, are things different for us now.
We go to a church about an hour away that is fairly good sized. Not like the mega churches I've only heard about, but around 1,000 people, I think. We hear great teaching and worship which are both led by some very gifted people. We ALL love going to church. When we told our kids we were going to help for a while with a church plant, Abel protested. "You mean I'm not going to get to hear Chad's teaching on Genesis????" I was pretty impressed that my twelve year old cared to hear what the pastor was teaching. And I do not just credit that to the maturity of my son. I give the majority of the credit to our pastor for doing such a great job of making the Scriptures easy to understand while not dumbing it down or stripping them of any depth either.
Besides trying to continue to invite people from our church to our home for dinner and fellowship, I am involved in a small women's Bible study group that meets on Wednesday night. And let me tell you, I LOVE these women. They have become very dear to me. As if that wasn't enough, as I've written before, I became involved in MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) as a mentor this year. And now I LOVE those women too! It's been such a precious honor to spend time with the MOPS ladies. So besides these groups we have many others that we love. I feel like I have grown so much by learning to love such a diverse group of believers!
Our church service ends at around 12:30, from which we rush on to a home fellowship group about 15 minutes back towards home. We've been doing this for almost a year now. I guess you could say this is our "small group" even though they are completely separate from our main church. This is a group of people with whom we share many of the same ideals and convictions. They meet at 12:30 eat and fellowship until another member family arrives at around 3:00 (the husband has to work until that time). During this fellowship time you can usually take your pick of activities. When the weather permits there is usually a game of volleyball going on and sometimes ultimate frisbee. If it's cold there may be games being played by the young people. My favorite part is the spirited discussions that are taking place spontaneously around the house.
When the last family arrives the home church the families are gathered up for a meeting in the living room of the host house, which changes between two different houses from week to week. The worship at is accompanied by a guitar and everyone calls out numbers of the songs they want to sing from the songbooks. Prayer requests are made known and prayed over by all. Several of the men take turns teaching. And the teaching is almost always full of discussion. It is so wonderful to see the kids and young people participate. Many of them sing with gusto, boldly pray and enter in the discussions. After the meeting there is more hang out time and the food is all pulled out again. My kids, well, actually all of us, feel this is a place they comfortably hang out and be themselves. We don't have to be on guard and the kids don't have to be ready to deal with a bunch of junk that is so rampant with other youth groups. It's a place to refuel.
Lastly I will mention our local community, which includes many close and dear family members. It's wonderful when the biggest complaint you have is that you don't see each other enough, even when you just live next door!
When you open your eyes to all of the people to love, you can't help but realize It's a Wonderful Life!