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Tiny church, big heart

Learning it's OK to praise God in a 2-bedroom house, rather than a two-story building.

I felt very shy entering the white-haired couple’s mobile home for the first time, despite the fact I was there for church.

As an 11-year-old girl accustomed to a 100-member church with a wooden steeple, the sudden transition to the five-person house church tested my introvert nature.

The tiny house church sat at the end of a street in Valdez, Alaska — a town resting in the bottom of geographical “bowl,” surrounded by mountains and Prince William Sound. Moose, black bears, foxes and children chasing either an overpriced ice cream truck or friends on snow machines traverse the streets of this 4,000-member community.

The church met primarily on Sunday mornings for worship, with an occasional Wednesday night service, and I spent most of the service babysitting my siblings in a spare bedroom packed with toys.

After one year of my family’s attendance, the congregation decided to rent a small space in a strip mall, as a way of reaching out to the community.
Katie Jones, on the right in blue, and her family in Valdez, Alaska.
A Soldotna youth group graciously drove eight hours to assist my church in moving locations. The 16 souls joined my family and other members in door knocking and preparing the new church space: painting walls, purchasing pews and constructing a new church sign.

I remember my father hanging the sign — a dark brown wood board with “Church of Christ” lettered in white paint — above the curtain-framed glass windows looking into our humble gathering space.

Now that the church met in a building and felt normal, in my youthful opinion, I relaxed. I didn’t step foot in a house church for 10 years, until I attended one in Oklahoma City for my story, House church: faith beyond brick and mortar.

I fell in love with it.

The 26 members — 14 adults and 12 kids — who attended that day showed me unending kindness and generosity, and we filled the night with nearly four hours of laughter and spiritual discussion.

The best part, aside from meeting to strengthen our relationships with Christ, was the breakfast-for-dinner meal we ate together (college students gravitate toward free food, it’s how we survive).

The group was large enough that I didn’t feel awkward, but it was also small enough to feel family-like. It was very different than the one I experienced a decade ago, or maybe I’m the one that’s different.
Inside story | Katie Jones
I didn’t have a bad experience with the Valdez church. It was in a smaller town, therefore producing a smaller church, geared toward adults more than children. Now, as a young adult, I interact more comfortably in that setting than I did at 11.

In fact, I couldn’t keep the smile off my face as I drove home from that experience.

So, house church or traditional church?

That depends on you — your phase in life, mentality, desire on how to pursue a relationship with God.

A mix of both may not be a bad thing. I personally attend a traditional church on Sunday mornings, and I have started worshipping with the house church I visited for the article on Sunday evenings.

Matthew 18:20 says, “for where two or three gather in my name, there I am with them.” The church is the Christians who gather, whether in a brick-and-mortar building or in a home. So when it comes to the question of where to meet, maybe there’s not a right or wrong answer.

Filed under: National Old Story, New Century

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