If a family visited CitiChurch, this would be a report I would love to hear of their experience.
One Sunday, the Rogers family pulled onto the property of CitiChurch with nerves and anxiousness. Mark and Dawn had not had great success in finding a church home for their family. Mark was raised in church but had gradually faded from religion as he had grown older. Dawn had not been raised in church but wanted to find a spiritual experience for their 3 children. Over their 12 years of marriage, Dawn had asked Mark to consider going to church but he had been consistently opposed to giving up his Sundays and their family free time. As their children grew older, Mark finally admitted to Dawn that they needed a more positive influence in their family.
It was raining as they made the turn into the CitiChurch parking lot. Mark noticed the signage welcoming first time guests. This was different. The Rogers were somewhat surprised that a church would actually be expecting them. As they approached the parking lots, they saw parking attendants and a team of individuals helping people to find parking spots. Wow! Mark was intrigued by this type of welcome. As Dawn got out of the car, a parking attendant rushed over with a hearty welcome and an offer to cover her and their newborn baby girl with an umbrella as they walked to the door.
As they approached the entrance, a man with a name-tag and a smile held the door open for the Rogers. Within moments, several others welcomed them and offered the option of free Starbucks or donuts for the boys. Mark obliged and several donuts later the boys seemed settled that church may not be all that bad. There were offers to show them around with answers to questions and information of their children’s options during service. Dawn’s mind was set at ease when she realized the protocol and safety measures that CitiChurch had for her boys and baby Isabella. The team quickly assured her that the children were safe and that, if needed, they would contact her via a number on the screen.
Mark and Dawn began to breathe; the initial thoughts of visiting a church and feeling like a fish out of water began to dissipate. To be honest, Mark wasn’t sure that he even believed in God anymore. He had recently lost his mom to a sudden illness and had thrown himself into staying busy at work and avoiding the questions of if he believed in an after-life. At least this visit would appease his wife’s nagging.
Mark listened as music played throughout the facility; he realized it wasn’t all church songs. “They wouldn’t have done this when I was a child,” Mark mused. Dawn watched as the countdown on a screen showed 10 more minutes until start time. This was interesting. It seemed as though CitiChurch cared about their time and respected it enough to start in a timely manner. As the clock ticked down, more and more smiles and welcoming handshakes came their way; it was definitely different than what they had expected. “They must think we are their family,” Mark whispered to Dawn as the doors finally opened and the crowd began to walk into the meeting room.
As the Rogers approached the entrance, there were several upbeat individuals giving them needed items for the service. Dawn noticed the names-tags on the varying volunteers and felt as though she was aware of the church functions even though she had only been there less than 30 minutes.
As they looked for seats, a man with a flashlight approached them to explain the seating options. The dim lit auditorium and a time of singing was about to start. Wow. Lights flashing. Loud music. Mark looked at Dawn with a shocked looked! This definitely wasn’t a replica of his religious childhood.
The band was awesome, on cue and very energetic. “These aren’t songs or music that they had randomly picked,” Mark thought. This was definitely lively! A young man approached the stage and began to explain that we were all welcome to participate in communion. He told the crowd that it was one of the ways we could remember God in our lives. The Rogers almost excused themselves from the moment but after hearing him out they decided to join the crowd and participate; they drank the juice and asked God to help the Rogers family.
The man on the stage asked if anyone wanted prayer in the room to come forward. Mark began to panic – this was the moment he had feared. The young man began to say that if it was personal hurt or pain, financial struggles or doctors reports that you could come forward and God would help you. Mark’s mind began to replay his childhood; this was the moment where people were forced to feel real awkward to somehow “touch God”. Mark looked at Dawn thinking maybe this was the time to get the kids and leave but Dawn held tight to his hand as the young man continued to talk. “We won’t embarrass you, we have a trained team, we are here to pray with you not for you,” Mark heard the young man say. Mark watched as people lined up for this special prayer: there was tears, tissues and a seemingly organized moment for these hurting individuals to find hope. This was completely opposite of Mark’s expectations.
After the prayer time, Mark and Dawn listened as the speaker joked, shared his message and encouraged people to release their pain. Dawn was surprised the pastor wasn’t in a suit but after a few minutes of analyzing, she zoned in on the morning message. Mark’s mind kept trailing off to his mom’s death and why God could let this happen to him. As the speech began to come to a close, the Rogers waited for the moment that everyone would be made to feel that they were bad people and that God was disappointed in them. The pastor surprised them when he began to say that God was our biggest fan and that grace was available to everyone.
The pastor asked if he could pray for the crowd. Everyone in the room closed their eyes as they were given time for a self analysis. Mark heard the closing plea, the call to have a fresh start and felt tears welling up in his eyes. “I’m too messed up,” Mark thought. Just then the pastor urged the crowd that God was greater than their worst mistake. Mark sat overwhelmed, whispering to God, “If you’re real, please help Dawn and me to raise our family right.”
As the service concluded, a couple on the stage invited all guests to get a free gift for coming and the room erupted with applause. The couple then told everyone about several events happening that week then played a video of a single mom that had been helped by the church. They invited everyone to assist the church in their mission if we wanted to help. Dawn had expected more pressurized giving as she had heard churches only wanted your money but they simply asked the crowd and then prayed. As the lights came up and the band began to play, Dawn was shocked to realize so much had happened in just over an hour.
They exited the auditorium to more smiles and a very hospitable welcome at the VIP designated area. The volunteers seemed sincerely excited to meet them and welcomed the Rogers to come back any time. Mark and Dawn received their free gift then a team member helped them get the boys and baby Isabella. Mark Jr. begged for one last donut and they headed for the exit doors. As they walked to their SUV, the boys were shouting out how they played arcade games and learned about Jesus and Smack-downs. The Rogers family barely realized the drizzle of rain still falling. Dawn’s heart was so full. The visit was so much more than she expected. It was worth nagging Mark for months. As they pulled out of the lot, they waved goodbye to the parking team. Mark could hear his boys already making plans for bringing their friends next Sunday and thought to himself, “I actually enjoyed the morning.”