I think most homeschooling groups--except those fortunate enough to have their own facilities--have experienced the "great church search" phenomenon. In 8 years I've been part of our support group here, we've had our enrichment classes in five different churches. The first two were willing to host us but just too small. The next one--my church--we were at for three years. The facilities were wonderful, and our members really considered this church as home base. But from my side of things, they were very difficult years. While the church leadership was always kind and willing to work with us, a handful of church members were adamantly--and often loudly-- opposed to homeschooling itself and homeschoolers just because. They made things very unpleasant for those of us on our support group's leadership team. I learned all kinds of ugly truths about how Christians can behave. I did some bad behaving myself. Fortunately, few of our group's members knew the behind-the-scenes grief. But it was exhausting and heart-breaking, and it was time to move on to our next facility.
Our support group currently has 220 families, and about half of those take part in our weekly enrichment classes (4 hours' worth of classes on one weekday). The process for finding a weekly meeting place for what amounts to around 150 kids per hour is arduous, to say the least. One of our enrichment team members called and visited dozens of churches that spring. Too small, too few classrooms, preschool programs, and just plain, "No, we are not interested." We always have several churches say that hosting a homeschooling group would be offensive to the public school teachers who attend their church. There is really no proper response for that one, other than, "Huh?"
But at last, a wonderful facility opened up for us. And we made it a policy to only stay at a church for two years, so as to avoid wearing out our welcome. Year 1 at this church was wonderful. Year 2 brought all kinds of conflict, again instigated by just a couple of the church staff--not the church leadership. And the search began again. We always go to our membership when it's time to look for a new church, and ask if they have a church that would be willing to host. This time another enrichment team member checked out all the members' hot tips and came up with a bunch of "no's." She then began calling through the Yellow Pages and visiting churches. Again, a series of closed doors.
And then, the unimaginable happened: A church offered itself to us. A church that not even a single one of our 220 families attends regularly. One of our members visits there sometimes, and she mentioned the need to the pastor. And the congregation voted us in, without us even asking.
They told us to use anything we want to. While other congregations say it, this one truly believes that "it's only a building." The church wanted to reach out to the community. What a novel concept! And when we gave them a check for facility use for the first 12 weeks of classes, they said, "Oh! We didn't expect you to pay us!" The pastor pops his head in frequently just to say hi. The secretary smiles at us. I am seeing a beautiful display of love in action.
And yesterday? Yesterday they baked us cookies. Trays full of perfect chocolate chip cookies. Yesterday, something nice happened. A church said to us, "We love you. We're glad you are here." And wow--that did my heart some good.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007 - Amen....
Posted by fyftn (188.8.131.52)
... to Christians behaving like we Christians say we should. I'm so glad to hear that they are so welcoming.
And imagine my surprise when you told me they had a link to Feed Your Faith and our logo on their web-site. I've been inside that church only once (for a BHEA event) and have no idea what prompted it.
Glad they did. =)
Thursday, November 1, 2007 - Untitled Comment
Posted by jennfromtenn (184.108.40.206)
I must be really hormonal today, but that brought tears to my eyes. How incredibly kind! What a blessing. I had no idea it had been so difficult to find churches willing to open their doors. Thanks, Sarah, for sticking it out and helping to get the group where it it today.
Have a great day!
Thursday, November 1, 2007 - That brought tears to my eyes, too!
Posted by QueenoftheHill (220.127.116.11)
I had the pleasure of meeting these people before we committed to going there and truly kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. It never has. They view us as a ministry (I think most of US do, too) and really do think their building is a blessing that must be shared and used.
The cookies were soooooo nice, too!
Thursday, November 15, 2007 - Beautiful story!
Posted by HomeschoolCPA (18.104.22.168)
Thanks for sharing your beautiful story. I know the search for a church for a large group can be tiresome. My co-op of 60 families (120 children) has had 4 host churches in 6 years.
We've run into "our public school teacher members wouldn't like you meeting here" also. When will people see that the choice to homeschool is not necessarily a criticism of public or private schools? Its simply another choice. That's like saying I have something against all other men because I chose my husband to marry! Silly.
Maybe someday more churches will be like your new host church!
Carol Topp, CPA
Helping Homeschool Organizations