September 15, 2008 at 5:20 pm

The philosophy of youth ministry meeting, as I mentioned in part three of this series, did not solve the differences within the congregation regarding the proposed youth group but it did bring to the forefront all of the differences between the way the typical homeschooling family and other families approached the many aspects of raising children. As a result, the handful of families who were committed to public education for their children and who loved the idea of church programs felt more and more alienated. Homeschooling families were suspect any time they suggested doing anything at the church and everything began to reflect this tension.

One example of this was when the church building experienced water damage after a storm, requiring major reconstruction and we had to rent an empty school building for several months. This turn of events moved the church building program to the front burner and a new set of tensions that reflected the differences in family philosophy, as you can imagine, began to surface.

For years the church had owned 50 acres of land, most of it on the side of a hill and surrounded by beautiful woods. There were several hundred thousand dollars in the building fund and the big dream of a large sanctuary and educational wing was still in the hearts of long-time church members. An architect had been hired at one time and had drawn up plans that depicted everything from a soccer field to a retirement village on the property, which, because of the lay of the land, would require more than what was in the building fund just to prepare the current landscape to support the buildings.

Those in the congregation who had been around for a long time had caught the vision for this building and saw all the new families who were coming in as a reason to have better facilities, an educational wing, and there was even talk of a Christian school. They also saw us as the means to pay for their building.

Those of us who were new, which was nearly all homeschooling families, looked at the architectural drawings and saw a facility that certainly didn’t resemble the small country church that had drawn us in the first place. When several church members tried to sell us all on the idea of a Christian school, it showed us that they still didn’t understand our convictions about homeschooling.
One Sunday afternoon there was a meeting after church where one of the elders presented his perspective on how we could pay for the new building. Central to his plan was for all church members to consider selling their homes and downsizing, using the equity to fund the church building project. I was incredulous at this idea and could hardly believe what I was hearing. This man, an elder who was called to minister to and to serve his congregation, had absolutely no concept of the way of life for most of the families in his church.

When I looked at this same group, I saw half a dozen or so families with 3 or 4 pre-school age children and a stay-at-home mom, all already struggling to live on one income and all willing to open their homes to other babies. Some were even talking of adopting and knew the financial sacrifice that would involve. I saw other families, like ours, who had children in college and had a line-up of others behind them, all of us knowing that any extra income we had, had already been earmarked for their education. I saw two families, ours included, who had opened their homes to elderly parents and, as such, their living quarters were already feeling cramped. I knew, first hand, that when you homeschool, you use every available space in the house for books, school supplies, and even nooks and crannies where individuals can pursue their own hobbies and projects. I knew that, for most of us, inviting another family to your home for dinner and a time of fellowship required creativity and a willigness to be “cozy.”  At that point it really hit home to me how out of touch this church’s leadership was with the real lives of homeschoolers.

It was at this point, that several of us began to see what we thought might be a great solution for the congregation that could meet all the needs and even future ones as they presented themselves.

Every Sunday as we met together in the rental property, we began to see the potential that the building presented to us. We began to see how perfect this building would be for a church that was committed to equipping families in discipleship and for fellowship. We envisioned building a balcony above the gymnasium, for example, so parents had a place to take noisy toddlers to teach them how to worship. The school cafeteria, which opened on to the gym, was large and roomy, perfect for hosting fellowship dinners. There were several large classrooms that could be used to build a church library and a beautiful back lot that could be fenced in for a playground. The gym itself was perfect for not only worship but for any family fun nights or possibly homeschooling co-op activities, and even wedding receptions. The central location itself was ideal, just a few minutes away from the main interstate which nearly everyone used to come to church. And the best part was that the building could be purchased for cash and there would be enough money left over to do major remodeling without selling the 50 acres, which we suggested could be used as a family camp, opening it up to the entire denomination at some point in the future.

So several of us began to make the suggestion that we consider purchasing the rental property and you would have thought we were terrorists! Even the pastor, though he was fairly polite, had any number of reasons why this was a bad idea, none of them really making any sense at all. It was obvious that he would not be swayed from his vision for a church on the original property. The elders were divided on the idea, the homeschooling elders believing it was worth considering, the others seeing that they needed to push their building program ahead as quickly as possible, which is exactly what happened.