10. Finding a place to sit. Contemporary chairs, theater seats, or pews notwithstanding, we all have a set spot in our church. When you switch churches you’ve got to find a brand new spot to sit.
9. Finding the bathrooms. Is there anything worse than needing a bathroom and hunting through the halls of a church building to find one? Only to find that you’ve stumbled into the education wing and the toilets are only 12 inches off the floor? Yeah, finding the bathrooms is a pain.
8. Finding the SECRET bathroom. Every church has one. And that’s the bathroom you’re going to want. Why? Seriously, don’t ask. We all know the answer. You had a nice secret bathroom at your old church, but now you have to find the new one.
7. Learning the secret memorized responses. Again, this applies across all different church and worship types. Inevitably there is one thing that this church has memorized that won’t be printed in the bulletin or projected onto the screen. Maybe it’s the Doxology. Maybe it’s the codified answer and reply for the fellowship/passing the peace/passing the pew book time. Maybe it’s the melody of a particular collect.
6. Learning the parking lot. Much like your church seat, you used to have a favorite spot to park your car. You’ve got to find a new spot now. In addition, you need to learn what time to arrive before all the spots simultaneously disappear, and figure out how your new spot relates to the secret bathrooms, side entrances, and your new favorite pew row.
5. Walking into the middle of someone’s drama. Someone in the new church has drama. Maybe it’s an unwanted pregnancy, or a miscarriage on the first Sunday you visited, or they come into the fellowship hall during the pot luck lunch weeping and everybody you’re talking to rushes over to comfort them. Of course you politely stay out of it at first, but later, as you become part of the fabric of the community, people will start to assume you know this tragedy, and so you’ll always know there’s a land mine there, but you’ll never know exactly what it is.
4. Finding new friends to help you move. Every church has a group of guys who are game for any kind of heavy lifting. When you switch churches and suddenly need heavy lifting, who you gonna call? It feels weird to call these dudes now that you’re not in “community” with them. At the same time, you don’t know who the heavy lifting guys at your new church are, so you can’t call them either.
3. Staying in touch with the people you love at the old church. Maybe your church split, and so now you are finding a new church with all your closest friends. More likely, you are switching churches for a more personal reason: you moved to a different neighborhood, volunteer burnout, that time you showed up at the Fall Festival drunk wearing a hulu skirt and nothing else… There are still people at your old church that you love dearly. But now, instead of having built in time with them every week, you have to find time to spend with them, and they have to find time to spend with you. Your success in this venture will depend on how well you do generally (are you still in contact with your high school BFF?) and what stage of life you’re in (did you just have a baby?).
2. Lunch plans. You had a system for lunch at your previous church. Maybe you went to the early service, so you always beat the restaurant lunch rush. Maybe you had brunch and went to the late service. Perhaps the service was the perfect amount of time for you to throw a chicken in the oven and leave it without worrying that your house would burn down. Now you’ve got to find a whole new system.
1. Finding out who your real friends are. Inevitably, there will be people from your prior church who stop talking to you. You won’t know why. They may be people you laughed with every week, and now they don’t even reply to an email. Sure, investing time in maintaining friendships outside church is difficult, but it always hurts when you realize that someone you were going to make the effort for has decided that you aren’t worth her time.