I've never really started from square 1 in looking for a new church. When I first moved to So.Cal Chris and his mom had already begun attending a church, and we just continued on. When we moved to Tahoe, we went to the one we'd gone to while vacationing there, which had been recommended by some people we knew.
There are many more options in So.Cal than in Nor.Cal and now that we are back down here we really want to make sure that we like where we are before we continue on. Some friends down here have recommended the churches they go to, and we decided that was a good place to start. We went to the first one last Sunday; it was an experience completely different from any other I've had.
First, I was going in with some skepticism. The church is big. Very big. The pastor is televised and travels internationally. I was drumming up assumptions before we even landed on the church "campus". We joined the lines of cars entering the parking lot and were first greeted by volunteers in orange vests guiding us to an open spot, theme park style. It was actually nice not having to wander the parking lot searching for an open spot, or dealing with other people searching for your spot.
After getting the kids out of the car we followed the other people who were toting children toward the correct building. Upon entering we passed the electronic express check-in and made our way to the queue for the visitor check-in. Four or five volunteers were helping families register their kids at computer terminals. Check-in process went smoothly and we delivered our children to the correct classrooms, then left the building with Timothy in tow (he's too old for the classes, or too cool for school rather).
An adjacent building contained the main auditorium, and we entered, received our communion packet, walked up the stairs, and found a seat. The music was a little more 'praise' and a little less 'worship' and not really our style, but fairly enjoyable nonetheless. The message was very good. We were quite entertained by all the camera work throughout the service.
The result? The boys loved it, Melinda did not. She felt that it was too structured with not enough time for friends or games for her liking. Audrey was fairly ambivalent, as a 4-year old is apt to be. Chris and I enjoyed the message, and people really weren't as I thought they'd be. Everyone was very friendly, yet not in a fake way. It was very big, but not too monstrously big. We actually had somebody stop us who recognized us from when we'd lived in So.Cal previously!
Will we keep going there? It's a possibility. I imagine we'd get used to all the peculiarities eventually. For now, however, we still want to see what our other options are. Will keep you updated!