Church hopping observations

Borrowed from Wesley UMC Church webpage

Since retiring and becoming fulltime traveling RVers we’ve become church hoppers.   It’s quite a change from being the parsonage couple and attending our local church every time the doors are open.

As traveling RVers we’re on the move about seven months each year, changing churches almost every week.  We could visit the campground services and sometimes we do, but we like going to a local church.  Honestly, we miss our church family.  Going to church as perpetual visitors isn’t the same as being regular attenders.

Here’s our approach: after searching the web for an area church of our denominational flavor we look over the church’s web site for service times and directions.  We look for photos of people at a regular worship service so we have a better idea of the unwritten dress code.  Like most anyone, we just want to fit in and not be too casual or too formal.  When I was a kid people wore their “Sunday best” to church.  These days, not so much.  That makes it challenging to know just what to wear.  Also, we check the church calendar to see if there is a special event that Sunday.  If so, depending on the event, it might make us more or less likely to attend that particular week (VBS program, less likely – southern gospel concert, oh yeah!).  Often, the church with a website that provides us the above information is the one we visit.   By the way, the church that is still promoting last winter’s Christmas program in July automatically loses potential as a likely place for our visit.

If our own denomination has no nearby church, we look for a “sister” group, but really, we’re pretty comfortable in a wide variety of churches.

We try to arrive at the church just a few minutes early.  If we are too early we find ourselves sitting uncomfortably in a less than full sanctuary.  If we arrive late, we fear we’ll interrupt a service already in progress.  You’d be surprised at how often we’ve arrived at churches not knowing for sure which parking lot to use or even which door to enter.  That’s especially true with large churches with multiple buildings on their campus or with older churches that have an old sanctuary and newer buildings around it.

We’ve concluded that most churches are completely unprepared for walk in visitors.  They are comfortable with people who attend as a guest of a regular who is “showing them the ropes” but walk-ins are unexpected and unanticipated.  After being the ultimate church “insiders” we’ve realized just how uncomfortable walk-in visitors are during a meet and greet time.  Everyone is told to stand and greet those around them.  We stand and say a brief hello to those around us and then remain standing with fixed smiles while everyone around us has short private conversations as friends do at such a time.  Even churches that think they are friendly are mostly just friendly with one another, not with outsiders.

One eye opener for me, as a career pastor, has been the demeanor of pastors.  When we first arrive they come up to shake hands and smile, telling us how glad they are we have visited.  Then, they always ask, “Are you from around here?”  When we say we aren’t the light goes out and they quickly move on, sometimes with hardly another word.  I know how busy a pastor is on a Sunday morning, but this response to our not being “prospects” was surprisingly consistent wherever we visited and were greeted by the pastor.

Having said all that I want to add that, in general, we enjoy visiting churches.  As a retired pastor I often remind myself that I’m attending church as a worshiper.  I’m not there to look for interesting ideas or to “fix” the church.  In addition, we’ve been impressed by how many good preachers and singers there are.  We’ve enjoyed the variety and seeing the good that is being done in churches around the country.  It hasn’t been unusual for us to drive away from a worship service and remark to one another, “If we lived here we could be a part of that church.”

We miss our church family and friends.  We’re very aware that there’s a depth of spiritual life that is best fostered by being a faithful part of a good church family.  Also, we’re glad for social media and the ability it provides for keeping up with what is happening “back home.”  At the same time we’re enjoying our travels and the many opportunities to worship with the larger Church with a capitol “C.”

Water faucet upgrades

We really like our NuWa Hitchhiker II LS.  Even though the company is no longer manufacturing campers the brand has a good reputation, especially among fulltime RVers.  The company did a lot of things right on our camper but it’s selection of water faucets wasn’t one of them.  The camper was built with very cheap plastic water faucets in both the kitchen and bathroom.

Last night we stopped off at the store and picked up a couple of replacements.  These aren’t high end, expensive units, but they are a great improvement over the originals.  We greatly appreciate our friend Ron who came by and spearheaded the project.  In the photo below you’ll see the old kitchen faucet on the left and the new one on the right.  Looks good doesn’t it.

Lessons learned: Carbon Monoxide and Smoke Alarms

Our 2007 camper has a carbon monoxide and smoke alarm.  The other night (and it always happens at night) one of the alarms started beeping.  I know about the beeping – time to change batteries.  I pulled the battery out of the carbon monoxide detector and went back to sleep.

Today, I put new batteries in it but it continued to beep about every 30 seconds.  I read the information on the back of it and discovered that this is the “end of life beep” – time for a new detector.

I decided that while I was at it I would check out the smoke alarm.  Should have done that on January 1 anyway.  To my surprise it was completely dead in the water.  I’m not sure if the battery died without the smoke detector going off or if the detector itself died.

A quick trip to the store and I returned home with new detectors.  I replaced the two we already had and added an extra smoke alarm to the bedroom.

The new carbon monoxide detector is supposed to last about five years.  I’m going to put new batteries on the calendar to remind me to check them even if they don’t remind me.  There’s also a LP detector in the kitchen.  It’s permanently installed and showing all systems go.  I wouldn’t be surprised, though, if it too won’t need replacing one of these days.

2013 Fulltime RVing Expense Wrap Up

doing-the-budgetWe began our fulltime RV adventure in May, 2013 and to keep an eye on expenses I’ve kept detailed records of expenditures.  I’m sharing our camping related costs as a resource for others who are planning a future in this lifestyle.

I’m listing the camping related expenses as line item monthly averages.  Then, I total everything else up and give just a general dollar figure.  If you are researching fulltime RVing you already know what you pay for food, health insurance, etc. (or even if you don’t, my figures for such things won’t have any real world connection to what you spend on them).  Also, by combining the non-RVing expenses I feel I’m better able to maintain our privacy.

Due to the fact that we were only fulltime from May to December of this year, my monthly averages aren’t for 12 months.  In most cases it shouldn’t matter much.  For instance, our monthly cell/internet/TV cost is very consistent month by month and it doesn’t matter much whether I average 7 or 12 months.  In a few instances that isn’t the case.  We spend less on campground fees when we’re traveling and staying in membership campgrounds than when we’re parked by the month and we spend more on diesel when we’re traveling than when we’re sitting.  For such items I’ve tried to adjust the numbers to give you a 12 month average rather than a 7 month one.  I think the numbers I’m giving you are reasonably accurate.

2013 Monthly Averages
Camping (monthly averages for 7 months + annual camping memberships divided by 12) $339.92
Cell/Internet/TV $161.48
Diesel (lots of fuel during travel months, very little otherwise) $319.00
Gas (note: we only have the car with us about 5 mo. but this is a 12 month ave.) $60.00
Tolls, etc. $14.08
Misc $174.78
RV Maintenance $69.41
Vehicle Maintenance (yes, it was a very expensive year)* $249.21
Registrations/Vehicle Insurance $155.81
Propane $7.89
Mail Service $18.33
 TOTAL $1565.91
Non RV expense – food, medical, “just living”**                                               TOTAL $1,796.85

*Note 1: We had an expensive year doing Vehicle Maintenance including replacing tires on camper/pickup/car AND batteries for all three vehicles (5 new batteries in all).  There was an unexpected brake job, a new camper charger/inverter and other unexpected costs.  The result?  Almost $400 a month average in maintenance and repairs!  Ouch!

**Note 2: These expenses include items like: Groceries & Dining Out, Clothing, Hair, Medical & Dental Expenses, Charity, Health Insurance, and Entertainment – but not Income Tax and a few other expenses

PS: If you find this information helpful, please leave a short comment so I’ll know it is worth the effort needed to provide it. Thanks.