I was talking to a youth worker not too long ago who was considering moving back to the church he grew up in as the youth pastor and asked what I thought about someone returning to his home church. My first reaction was excitement – what an incredible honor it would be to return home after getting an education and experience to minister where you grew up. I can imagine how thrilling that would be! But with that excitement comes a caution: I promise you it isn’t going to be easy.
When Jesus had finished telling these stories and illustrations, he left that part of the country. He returned to Nazareth, his hometown. When he taught there in the synagogue, everyone was amazed and said, “Where does he get this wisdom and the power to do miracles?” Then they scoffed, “He’s just the carpenter’s son, and we know Mary, his mother, and his brothers—James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas. All his sisters live right here among us. Where did he learn all these things?”And they were deeply offended and refused to believe in him. Then Jesus told them, “A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his own family.” And so he did only a few miracles there because of their unbelief. Matthew 13: 53-58 (NLT)
So please know that when He went back to his home Temple it was beyond challenging. When he walked the streets of his childhood, they still looked at Him as anything but special – in fact, the exact opposite. They thought they knew him today because they knew Him the past.
Many people at your home church may think the same thing.
Here’s the good news: it can be done! It isn’t easy, but often times a returning to a home church can be an incredible experience. A few thoughts here, would love yours in the comments as well:
Returning to your home church is easier in direct proportion to the size of the church. Simply put, the larger the church, the easier it will be to come back. Larger churches have the propensity to absorb memories faster and chances are the congregation didn’t know you as well in the first place. Inversely, smaller churches typically remember the young you, which could make them more resistant to recognizing your maturity.
You have changed! In fact, everyone and everything has changed! You think you know the church culture and history but a lot has changed since you were there in elementary school. Don’t walk in with a false sense of history and be a learner. Take your time and reevaluate what you think you know.
Usually you remember the good and not the bad. Our childhood church memories tend to be a little more rose-colored than you would have seen if you were an adult. Ask some trusted friends about the current climate of the church. Take your time in the interview process. Don’t make assumptions.
You do have an incredible head start. While I want you to reread the caution about thinking you know too much – you know the streets, some of the key families, the needs and the neighborhoods. While there is certainly some things to be unlearned and reevaluated, coming home can probably give you a head start of a full year or more over someone from the outside.
Just a quick update – the youth worker sent me a reply earlier this week with an update: Thanks for the encouraging words. I am now the full-time director of student ministries at my home church and everything has been great so far. They really have given a lot of support and encouragement to lead as I feel led. Just trying to ease my way in with the students and work on some small things that can be modified or changed to produce big impact with parents and students. Thanks again for you words! Be blessed!