Leaving Church, Finding Faith: Guest Post on Rachel Held Evans’ blog

You guys.

I am so stoked to be guest posting today over at Rachel Held Evans’ awesome blog. In fact, I’m a little intimidated because she’s so awesome, and her blog readers are so smart, and I feel a little bit like the new kid at a huge school for brilliant people and I’m not sure I belong.

Have you ever felt like that?

But Rachel has been so kind, and gracious, and I know her readers to have the same qualities, too.

Now, by way of (a long) introduction to the post:

If you don’t know me personally, you might not know that our family hasn’t been attending traditional church services for nearly two years. It’s a decision we wrestled with for a long time and there were many reasons, and I really miss some aspects of it and really don’t miss others. But in the end, we felt like it was Jesus himself calling us to step out of the church for a while.

I know that not everyone believes that Jesus would say something like that. But I fought it for so long, and it was just one of those things — we couldn’t shake the feeling that it wasn’t right. And so we left. I’ll probably blog more about it soon.

As part of Rachel’s Faith and Parenting series, my guest post is about what leaving the church has meant for parenting and our kids. I personally know several people who think about doing something outside traditional church but stay because of the kids. I suspect it’s a widespread phenomenon.

My post is about the different things we considered before leaving, and a little of what it’s been like after.

Here’s a teaser:

We left the church a year later than we wanted to. Like a bad marriage, we stayed for the kids.

I grew up in a small, involved church community that really cared about kids. I was part of the youth group, I followed the charismatic youth pastor, I went to camps and conferences, I got caught up in the emotionalism of altar calls and rededications. I was safe there; it was another home.

But years later, my husband and I couldn’t find our place in traditional church anymore. It didn’t feel like home. We couldn’t shake the feeling that maybe we weren’t supposed to Go To Church anymore, like we were meant to forge ahead on a broader quest, redefining church and community and finding our faith again outside the confines of church tradition. We weren’t angry or bored or fed up. We just had this feeling, this uncomfortable nudge from the Holy Spirit that we’d ignored for too long, like wearing a pair of pants we’d long outgrown.

There was just one problem: We had kids.

Read the rest at Leaving Church, Finding Faith: Why We Didn’t Stay For the Kids at Rachel’s blog.

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12 comments on “Leaving Church, Finding Faith: Guest Post on Rachel Held Evans’ blog

  1. Sarah says:

    CONGRATULATIONS on your guest post! Fantastic! Really enjoyed reading your piece and your perspective. Thought-provoking, as usual!

    • Thanks so much, Sarah! It was a bit of a trial by fire, but I didn’t get too upset by the loooooong comment section. At least people are engaged, right? No really, it was a good discussion and I learned a lot from many of the commenters, too. It was fun to be part of a HUGE audience like that and watch what happens when you tackle a controversial topic. 🙂

  2. Amanda says:

    What a great post, I really enjoyed it. A great take from a different perspective that made me think-why didn’t I think of that?

  3. Duncan says:

    Thanks for your post Kim; you make really important points which are worth taking the time to think though.

  4. Malia says:

    Hi Kim, I read your post over on Rachel’s site. I could have written so many parts of it myself and found myself nodding in agreement throughout the entire post. We too, left regular, institutional church almost exactly two years ago now. We spent the first 15 months of it in a house church with only one other family (and they do not have kids). We’ve spent the last several months in a more formalized house church. Once again we find ourselves at a crossroads and my biggest concern is, what about the kids? Thank you for your words, they are giving me fresh eyes to our current struggles.

    • Thanks Malia. One of the biggest blessings of putting that post out there was seeing how many people have gone through something so similar. I suppose we’ll be wrestling with that question for our entire lives — figuring out the best path for our family and our kids. It’s worth the struggle.

  5. Caris says:

    I loved your post. I know we’re called to be in our church, despite my struggles, but your post has really reinforced how much responsibility we have to teach our kids about what life with Jesus is like, and not to just give up in frustration, because it’s really not hopeless. (wow that was a long sentence!) Thanks for sharing – and thanks for continuing the conversation in the comments, even this late into it, when I’m sure it has to be frustrating. I’m gleaning a lot 🙂

    • Yes, Caris, I think the question of how to engage in faith questions with our kids is relevant to EVERYone, not just people who have left institutional church. I’m getting lots of ideas for how to do that.. might be a blog series soon. Thanks for engaging in the conversation, too — connecting with commenters like you make it all worthwhile!

  6. Cris Nole says:

    Kim,
    Read your post on Rachel’s blog and just wanted to say greeting. My family has been outside the structure for two years, we have never been stronger in our faith and we see the fruit in our choice in the lives of our teens. Praying for you, please feel free to contact me if you want to connect.

    Cris

    • That’s so refreshing to read, Cris. Thanks for taking the time to comment and share your experience. Our kids are quite little yet, but I do hope that this whole experience will result in a deepening of ALL of our faith.

  7. Tereasa says:

    Hi Kim, I’m hopping over here from Rachel’s to continue the conversation with you because I don’t feel like carrying on a theological discussion with all the intellectuals. That was just a little too much for me.

    Talking about this not being an easy path…

    I was having a conversation with a woman at the park today. We were talking about home school. I must have dropped a few hints about being a Christian (I don’t remember) because she eventually asked where we go to church. One minute she was asking me for home school advice, the next I had lost complete credibility in her eyes.

    In the past, I hated that question because I always felt if I answered truthfully, I’d be pegged into a specific hole according to my church affiliation. (We hear the answer and silently decide what they believe, right?) It always seemed to end the conversation. Now, my answer really makes people uncomfortable. They don’t know what to think when I say, “Oh, we don’t go to church. We’re just Christians.”

    “Is that even possible?” is the question painted across their faces. All of a sudden I feel the need to explain that we’re not just nominal Christians. I feel the need to prove that everything they’ve seen and heard up to the dreaded question was sincere.

    My son was with me once when it happened. You know what he did? He simply answered, “We worship all the time, we don’t need walls.” How come he gets it and I don’t???

    Just out of curiosity, how do you answer the question? Do you ever feel like you loose credibility?

    • Thanks for coming over here, Tereasa.

      Your son’s response was so beautiful it choked me up. He really does get it. That must have been such a proud moment for you!

      I haven’t come up with a response I use all the time; I suppose it depends on the situation and the person I’m talking to. I usually fumble through, saying something about being “between churches” (though that’s not quite honest) or how we’re just meeting with friends in our home instead (and then they say, ‘oh, housechurch!’ but that’s not exactly right either). I’m annoyed with myself that I feel like I have to qualify it, actually. Your question has got me thinking that I’m just going to say it plain next time.

      But yes, I’ve been met with a range of reactions, from people trying to sell me on coming to their church , in which I feel like the target of a witnessing moment, to people just taken aback and obviously more than a little worried about me. Especially with acquaintances or new friends, it can change the dynamic pretty quickly. But I have noticed that those who aren’t afraid turn out to be kindred spirits. It can be kind of a litmus test.

      But even in the comments section at RHE’s blog, I felt the need to explain or prove something, which is how the ‘we meet with friends’ stuff came up. People asked why I didn’t just say ‘house church’ in the original post, but that’s the point. We weren’t doing ANYthing (re: gathering) for 18 months, and I think that’s an OK place to be, too. Many, many people are there. I feel like we’re still there in some respects. I respect anyone who can stay there for an extended period and continue wrestling with their faith and what it means to live authentically as Christians outside a church.