Messy Faith,  Music Ministry,  Personal and Spiritual Ramblings

In my Father’s house there’s a place for me… (Blessings from an Unsuccessful Church Merger Part 2)

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This is one post in a blog series entitled Unexpected Blessings from an Unsuccessful Church Merger. To read the introductory post to this series, or to find links to every post in the series, please click here to read the first post:

Free Indeed (Unexpected Blessings from an Unsuccessful Church Merger Part 1)

I began my last post in this sharing by sharing about a song that has become special to me because of the merger conversation:

It took me about a week to work up the courage to check out the other church’s livestream to get a feel for their worship style and their music team. The first song that they sang that day (March 19, 2023) was Who You Say I Am by Hillsong. I had never heard the song before. Within a week or two, this song came on my Christian Workout playlist on Pandora. It quickly became one of my most frequently played songs. Every time I hear the song, I still hear it in their voices.

Two parts of the song stand out in my mind.

The second part of the song that stands out to me is this line:

In my Father’s house there’s a place for me…

This line was the anthem of my heart every time I was tempted to hold tightly to the things I wanted for myself: MY position…MY ministry…doing music the way I wanted.

In my Father’s house there’s a place for me…

When I was tempted to feel threatened by people who wanted to do things differently from the way I was used to, I would try to put myself in their shoes. We were coming into their church, their place, and changing things. It was scary for them. So I would remind myself…

In my Father’s house there’s a place for her… In my Father’s house there’s a place for him…

When I began to have hope that the church merger would offer new friends for my kids, or a place for my husband to use his gifts rather than sitting on the bench, I would remind myself…

In my Father’s house there’s a place for Ezra…

In my Father’s house there’s a place for Little Brother…

In my Father’s house there’s a place for Russ…

In my Father’s house there’s a place for me…

Because my role as pianist keeps me busy on Sunday mornings, visiting the other church on a Sunday morning was not an option for our family. Instead, we opted to visit on Wednesday nights. (We were the only family from our church to do so; it was a very unique opportunity that we embraced fully.) LB could attend a small children’s program and end the night with free play on their small playground. Their youth group was open to those age 12 and up (whereas our church youth group currently starts at age 14), so Ezra was able to go to their youth program. Russ and I would gather to pray with a group of about 6-12 other believers from their church. Often on those Wednesday nights, we would pray for the merger, and I would pray that every person in each church would rest in knowing…

In my Father’s house there’s a place for me…


As the weeks turned to months, I began to see more and more potential in all of us having a place. While I’ve been very blessed with a multitude of friends within our church family, it hasn’t always been the same for my husband and sons. They have lacked friends, and Russ hasn’t had a clear place in which to serve. I fully believe…

In my Father’s house there’s a place for him…

…but he hasn’t always believed it…or at least seen it.

One of the key differences in strengths between the two churches is that our church has a strength in the area of discipleship and equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry, whereas their church had a huge heart for outreach and evangelism. Both leadership teams felt that this was an accurate assessment of our churches and one of the ways in which a church merger would allow for combined strengths for a more fruitful ministry. A merger had the potential to strengthen the gaps and weak spots of both of our churches.

Russ has a calling and gifts toward evangelism – with a very bold, direct, and confrontational approach with people. We both had a lot of hope that joining with a church that had more of a focus on outreach and evangelism would open some doors for him in this area of ministry.

Another area of difference that I’ve already mentioned is the age of the teen ministry. The other church had more middle schoolers and had a teen group that focused more on community outreach. Our teen group has older teens who focus on deep discipleship and Bible study.

Ezra is a fledgling teen who is behaviorally and socially delayed by about 2 years. He has not been ready (or even able) to join our current teen group.

In fact, the Friday before the merger conversation was announced, we hosted our small teen group in our home for one of their regularly scheduled “Lifeline” events. This is an event where they eat, play a game, and gather for Bible study. We hosted with intention: that Ezra (who was 12 1/2 at the time) could get a glimpse into the future of what the teen group looks like, that he could practice his social skills with other teens, and that he could get to better know the youth and youth leaders.

As far as Ezra was concerned, the night started out very rough. First, he came to me after everyone had arrived and declared he was going to his room because he had no idea what anyone was talking about. After I finally coaxed him out of his room, it was time to eat. He fixed himself a taco, but when he went to eat it in the other room where the teens were (not at a table) it started falling apart. He started crying. I had to remake his taco and have him eat at the table. It was heartbreaking for me. It was one of those moments where I realized just how delayed he actually is in so many ways.

At the other church, Ezra seemed to fit in a little bit better. The other middle schoolers (and even many of their older kids) were very accepting of Ezra. After the first night, he declared that one of their older teens was his new best friend – another sign that he doesn’t quite get how friendship works – but still, he felt wanted. Their pastors and youth leaders really enjoyed having Ezra in the group. In spite of his problems with emotional regulation and lack of social skills, he was very engaged in the content and they liked his participation. Several Wednesday nights, Ezra stayed later playing ping pong with some of the other teens while LB played on the playground with some of the younger children. Even Little Brother made a friend a few years his junior who adored him! It seemed like a good fit, and those summer nights were some of the sweetest memories we had while visiting there.

A few weeks after the merger conversation stopped and the churches parted ways, someone asked me how I was feeling about it all. One of the first things I mentioned was that I felt a loss of potential. Potential friends. Potential service opportunities. The potential of us all having a place – not just me.

As much as I still feel the loss of that potential, I did see our family grow. Even though it was short-lived, Ezra had a wonderful opportunity to see what it means to be a teenager, to practice his social skills in a safe environment, and to have positive interactions with other teens. Little Brother has maintained contact with one of his friends.

One of the highlights for me was watching my husband serve as part of the team that helped with their VBS, a VBS well-attended by children from both churches. We had signed up Little Brother as a participant, while I planned to have 1-on-1 time with Ezra. When the call came out with a need for VBS volunteers, I passed. I was already giving a lot and was quite exhausted with the extra music practices and learning new music for the combined services that were taking place. But, when a second call came, I did the responsible, servant-hearted thing and voluntold my husband to be a “gopher,” with the caveat that “he shouldn’t be in a classroom.”

Russ has a bad startle response and a very low tolerance for loud noises and chaos. If you’ve ever been to a VBS, you will know that “loud noises and chaos” is basically the subtitle for VBS. Well, “gopher” quickly turned into “child bouncer” which turned into “child bouncer for a specific class.” Russ came home each night frazzled, anxious, on edge, and frustrated. But while he was there, he held it together. More than that, he was a much-needed set of hands and played the role he was given kindly, patiently, and responsibly. I got so many comments about what a help he was and how well he managed. I was so proud.

In my Father's house there's a place for me... (Blessings from an Unsuccessful Church Merger Part 2) | serving in VBS

In my Father's house there's a place for me... (Blessings from an Unsuccessful Church Merger Part 2) | serving in VBS

It meant so much to me to watch him rise to such a hard challenge. While not at all what he would envision when he thinks about his gifts and callings, it showed me how much he has grown over the past few years.


So what now? Yes, there’s been a loss of that potential. I have been surprised at how resilient my children are. I knew we were taking a risk in allowing our hearts to engage with another congregation this way, but I think it’s been harder on me than it has been on Russ or the kids.

The experiences we had there over the summer were invaluable. They were stepping stones. They showed us our capabilities and what the future could look like.

Since then, there has been some restructuring in leadership at our own church, which has led to a change in the youth department. Someone who has known, loved, and advocated for Ezra since he was five has taken over our current youth department. He is excited about Ezra’s upcoming participation in our youth program, and wants him joining in activities this summer, with full participation as scheduled when he turns 14. He has already had conversations with the existing youth about welcoming Ezra into their midst. The leadership seems to be intentionally looking for ways to help Ezra and a few other up-and-coming preteens transition through the next few awkward years in a positive way.

We also have a new family at our church who has stayed with us through the ups and downs of the merger conversation. This family has provided much-needed friendships for our boys AND Russ and I, a first for us.

I continue in my role as church pianist. Our music team is stronger and more tightly knit than we were before.

In my Father's house there's a place for me... (Blessings from an Unsuccessful Church Merger Part 2) | church music ministry
Sunday morning rehearsal, January 2024

In my Father's house there's a place for me... (Blessings from an Unsuccessful Church Merger Part 2) | church music ministry

In my Father's house there's a place for me... (Blessings from an Unsuccessful Church Merger Part 2) | family worship
At our church, July 2023

I feel like we have all matured a lot – even just in the last nine months – and I have a heart full of hope at the new opportunities and relationships that seem to be on the horizon.

In my Father’s house there’s a place for me…


Click here to read the next post:
Part 3: A Father’s Heart

Blessings from an Unsuccessful Church Merger | I will be speaking about how events during the church merger conversation intersected with things God was teaching me and my family at the time. I hope to encourage every believer in the areas of unity within the body of Christ, personal and corporate worship, Christian hospitality, and - above all - the glory of God and the spread of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
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