I've heard so many people talk about their one bad church experience and then go on to declare they are never going again. Yes, I realize those people have had their feelings hurt. Yes, I realize their experience wasn't a good one. But...their declaration is simply an excuse.
Yep. An excuse.
Churches are important - they help us build one another up. And not every church is a perfect fit. Sometimes it takes awhile to find that perfect-fit church, but to declare to never go again because of one church is just a way of justifying to yourself something you'd rather not do anyway. So let's get real and say what we really mean..."I don't like going and I'd rather sit at home." Whew, glad we got that out of the way! ;-)
As I previously stated, I've gone to many many churches. We moved a lot. I attended 4 different elementary schools, 1 jr high and my freshman year of high school we started over in a brand new state. So we weren't really church hoppers (someone who is having trouble finding a church home that fits them), but nomads. (My moving hasn't really stopped with age...so I joke to my husband that he married a gypsy! Poor fella! He grew up in the same house where his parents STILL live!)
My first personal bad experience occurred at the same mega-church where I had first learned about talking to God. I was in junior high, and on Sunday mornings I assisted in various children church classrooms. We had a lot of them. Each "season" (Sept-May) I was assigned a new teacher to help. My second season in, mid-season, the current teacher I had been helping decided to stop teaching. I'm not really privy to all the details, I just knew that I was being assigned to a new teacher. The lady in charge called me into her office and told me that it would be a couple and they had a teenage daughter already. Did I still want to help in that same classroom? I asked if I was needed elsewhere more, and was told no. I really wanted to help - I loved the little kids! (Ok - and I hated sitting in service! Remember - we were there for every. single. service!!!!) So I said I would still help if they wanted me.
I had thought things were going ok. It had been a few weeks. I often felt useless and was regularly asking what they needed help with. I was young and naive. One day the head lady called me into her office. She told me she had been complained too about me...that I wasn't very helpful. I don't honestly recall all of what I was told. I vividly remember the crushing feeling I felt and the effort it took to hold back the tears.
The head lady knew me. She knew I was an eager helper. It wasn't like I had just started! I had always been told (up to this point) what a wonderful help I was. So to suddenly go from "You are a wonderful helper!" to "You are a terrible helper!" in one fatal swoop was just devastating to me. I didn't understand at all what was going on. I felt betrayed by the head lady and I felt misunderstood by this couple. They never talked to me about it. I realize that it was probably very uncomfortable to complain about someone, but they never gave me any indication that I should be doing something different. So to a kid who just wants to help out, it was pretty darn confusing. I told the head lady I would do my best to do better and went on my merry way. A couple weeks later I was called into the office a second time, and so I quit. I couldn't take it.
The situation was handled so badly and I did cry over it. Balled actually. I had enjoyed helping so much and felt like I had it taken all away from me. I had no idea why. I couldn't help but blame the couple - they afterall, where the ones who chose to complain about me (multiple times) instead of communicating with me about what they needed me to do instead. I have no idea to this day why this couple chose this course of action.
Shortly after this, my parents started making me attend the Wed evening Jr./Sr. High service. We had a new youth pastor. My parents were excited about it.
I still hated the service, but went begrudgingly. My alternative had to of been worse for me to go. (I don't really remember what it was.) I had only been going maybe 2 weeks when the new youth pastor decided they needed small groups. They picked various activities and had everyone sign up selecting a first and second choice. The choices were things like drama, various sports, as well as some more theological ones. I chose drama (I always had loved it) and my second choice was a class regarding spiritual gifts.
Remember - I had only been attending maybe two weeks. It may have even been my first night attending this service. I don't really remember, other than I knew no one in the group. It was a mega-church and it was easy to not know anyone. The next week I showed up and got my assignment - I was in the spiritual gifts groups. I was OK with that, because I did have a desire to learn more about God. We dismissed for our various group assignments, and I skipped off to my class. I remember walking and thinking how exciting...all the things I'm going to learn. I had hope.
Then I entered the room. No one was there except the teachers.
I was the only student.
And the teachers? Remember that couple that had complained about me behind my back? They were the teachers.
I stayed for class. I sat and thought about the craziness of the entire situation and did not pay attention to a thing they said. And through that entire class they pretended like everything was normal. I never went back.
Who does that? Who puts a kid who is newish and doesn't know anyone into a class all by herself? Ok - let's pretend the youth pastor didn't know I didn't know anyone. Who puts a preteen in a class all by herself? It was all too much for me. And now that I'm older, the stupidity in the entire situation from top to bottom is just astounding. Talk about crushing a little girl's spirit. If that couple had any integrity, when they saw my name on the roster they should have said it would be better for me to be in a different group. They knew what they had done to me. They should have known they could not be effective spiritual leaders for me. Obviously they didn't have a drop of it.
We moved shortly after this. While I was sad to be moving again (to a new state), I was eager enough of a young believer in Christ that this incident did not squash my spirit. But it did give me a deep distrust of adults. The moving probably did help me get past it and leave it where it belonged - at that church!
Whew, that took some time to tell. I have more bad church experiences. As a teaser, they include being kicked out by the Sheriff and being compared to Satan. ;-) I will continue to share them as I have time!