We’re about to ring in the new year, which will prompt a host of new diets, exercise plans, and decisions to bring the family to church (or at least tune in online!). Trying to decide which church to attend can be confusing if you don’t know how to tell one from the other. So here’s a handy-dandy visitor’s guide to your typical neighborhood evangelical church (that would include Baptist, non-denominational, “community” churches, anything with “evangelical” in the title, and pretty much any other church that lacks stained glass windows).
|Photo by John Price on Unsplash|
So here’s what you need to know:
January 1 – Today’s the day to begin a new Bible read-through. Most evangelicals will burn out in mid-February when they get to Leviticus, but the truly devoted will finish the entire Bible a few days before the end of December.
Lent – This one is totally optional. The start date is rather mysterious, and you won’t hear about it at all in church, but if you follow the hipster Christians on Twitter, they'll let you know when they are signing off for lent and you can follow suit. The main idea is that you give up something you like until Easter (say, chocolate, or at least afternoon chocolate or whichever social media you can survive without).
Palm Sunday – We recently decided to retire this one because it’s too difficult to corral the preschoolers around the sanctuary while they whack each other in the head with palm branches. You're welcome.
Good Friday – You can expect dim lighting and sad songs about Jesus’ death. But since we wouldn’t want anyone to feel depressed, we’ll throw in some upbeat songs at the end about how Jesus rose from the dead. You are guaranteed to leave encouraged.
Easter – This is when we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection. Ladies, if you are joining us in person, fancy hats and white shoes are no longer necessary, but if you are ever going to wear a dress, this is the time. Gentlemen, now is your chance to wear a tie without getting snide comments about “dressing up.” Kids can look forward to an Easter Egg Hunt in Sunday School.
Mother’s Day and Father’s Day – These are not in the Bible, but we are all about family, so we’ll hand out flowers to the moms and snack mix to the dads. If you don’t fit easily in either category, feel free to skip these Sundays.
Summer – Summer is the youth group's time to party. Bible studies are replaced by bonfires and barbecues. Ambitious churches will throw in a two-week mission trip to Mexico. Sunday sermons will be stand-alone, rather than part of a series, so that you can easily go on vacation without missing anything. Please make sure you’re in town for Vacation Bible School, because we’ll need all the help we can get herding kids from one station to another where they can eat Bible-inspired snacks and make crafts to clutter your refrigerator. There’s also likely to be an outdoor baptism service at a nearby lake, river, or pool.
In early July you can expect to see our national flag on stage, and the worship team will feature patriotic songs. This will ensure that the lines between patriotism and piety are sufficiently blurred so that you will never forget that God loves our country the most.
September – Back-to-school Bible studies will start up again. Some of these will be on Zoom this year. If you are a working mom, you might be out of luck (no evening meetings for women), and if you’re a single dad or dual-career family, you’ll have to find your own childcare.
October - Don’t forget pastor appreciation month! You may give online or in person. On the 31st, since we’re committed to engaging with our community, we will sponsor a “harvest party” or “trunk or treat” for the neighborhood. We don’t want anyone to feel weird (like we’re “religious” or anything), so we’ll decorate with spider webs and skeletons and have friendly witches hand out candy.
November – A few weeks prior to the national election we’ll provide voters’ guides so that you don’t have to think too deeply about politics. Someone else has done the dirty work, so you can easily choose the candidates who side with your pastor on hot-button issues.
Thanksgiving – Thanksgiving is pretty low key. We won’t hold a church service so that you can spend your day preparing your big meal and watching football. You can easily redeem this holiday by reading Psalm 100 and saying what you are thankful for before you stuff yourself.
|Photo by Rodion Kutsaev on Unsplash|
Christmas Eve – We’ll offer several candlelight services to accommodate all the families that show up out of the woodwork. Just to make everyone feel right at home, Santa Claus will likely join the festivities. Please talk with your little ones about fire safety before you come because we’ll be handing them real candles to light during “Silent Night.” You won’t hear much about Mary (that’s a Catholic thing), but we will sing “Mary Did You Know?” (even though she did).
Christmas Day – Evangelical churches don’t actually hold services on Christmas Day any more because families will be busy opening presents. But don’t worry! Reading Luke 2 before you tear into the pile under the Christmas tree will remind everyone of the reason for the season.
And that’s all there is to it! Didn’t I tell you this would be easy? You have a few days before January 1 to binge read the rest of the Bible so you can finish on time. Next year, you can change things up a bit by using a different Bible read-through plan.
The best thing about being an evangelical is that we won’t require much from you during our services -- no kneeling or responsive reading or awkward confessions or drinking out of a common cup (hello, germs!). If you’re inspired during the music, feel free to raise a hand or two in the air (the chorus is usually a good time to do that). Think of the worship time like a concert and the sermon like a TED talk. We’ll provide the coffee. If you’d rather watch the service from home in your pj’s, you won’t miss much (except childcare). You can send your donation through the church website.
So glad to have you join us!