Have you ever had to look for a church to attend? Perhaps you moved to a new area or simply left a church for whatever reason. Finding a new church home is not easy, depending on what you are looking for. Sure. You could simply go to the closest church in your neighborhood, but it may not have what you want (e.g., resources for children).
I have been a member of seven churches. I discovered how difficult it was to find a “good” church a few times. At one point, I started my own at the request of some people I met with to discuss a Christian education endeavor. Some churches I’ve joined were wonderful experiences. However, there were some where I had horrible experiences. At one point, I had vowed that I would never attend another church.
However, attending church services and activities benefits your spiritual and even social growth, especially for children and youths. Therefore, it is great to find a “good” church to join.
This article will share my experiences in looking for a church home, identifying critical aspects of a church, and a process you can use to find a good church home.
Why Attend A Church?
Let’s discuss briefly the reasons you want to attend a church. The answer to that question is essential to developing your requirements for a church.
Some people attend church merely to satisfy a religious obligation. They think they must attend church and be part of a church “family.” Others attend church services for fellowship, i.e., it is a social activity. They enjoy gathering with others, sharing stories, etc.
Still, others attend church services because they want to get something out of it. They desire to learn more about God, his kingdom, the Christian lifestyle, etc. Some people want to belong to a church community to minister. They want the opportunity to teach the Bible, preach, pray for people, etc.
Therefore, you should first establish why you want to join a church. You can then better determine which one is best for you.
What do you want from a church? That is the question you should answer before looking for a church home. Weigh your requirements to what you discover about a church and use that to decide which one(s) to learn more about.
Here are some things to consider.
- Central teachings or platform: I believe this is important to consider. Let me illustrate this. You probably don’t want a church that teaches Jesus comes from Mars or something like that. Likewise, you may be skeptical of churches that seem to be marketers instead of ministers. Pay attention to the underlying messages when you visit the church or watch sermons online. Be mindful of the message that seems to appear regularly.
- Ministries: What ministries are available. Some ministries to consider are men’s, children’s, youth, marriage, and business ministries. You might also want to be part of a church that emphasizes and is extensively involved in missions. Another ministry that may be important to you is discipleship. Some others are prayer, prison, music, and much more.
Consider the things you may be interested in getting involved with or experiencing, and ensure that the church in question has them available.
- Distance: How far are you willing to travel to the church? Consider the regular worship services and other events and activities that you might become involved in. You will need to travel to the church for those things.
- Community activities: What social activities are available, e.g., daycare, food drives, special events, etc.?
- Size: How many members does the church have. You might be more comfortable in a smaller church than a megachurch where hundreds or thousands of people might be in attendance.
The bottom line is to determine what the church has available, its primary message or teaching, and the things they do. Match those with your requirements for a church home. Do not join a church merely because you feel good during the services.
The experience you have with the church from attending worship services and other events will probably be much different from your experience working deeper within the organization. That is especially true as the novelty wears off and you get to see things from a different perspective.
Learn More About the Church
Of course, learning more about the church is essential to determine if you desire to join it. Aligning yourself and your family with a particular church should be done objectively and not merely emotionally. Therefore, the more you know about the church, its leaders, doctrine, etc., the more equipped you will be to make an objective decision.
Let’s discuss ways you can learn more about a church.
- Visit the church’s website to gather as much information as possible. Send a question through the contact form or email. I like to do this. Sending a question to the church will allow you to interact with the church. I have found that churches don’t monitor their website’s email in many cases, so don’t be surprised if you don’t hear from them.
- Gather info about their beliefs. What is preached about Jesus Christ, God, the Holy Spirit, etc.? Of course, you should compare those things with the Bible or talk to others about them if you are not familiar.
- Types of ministry. I presented this earlier. Learn about the available ministries for members to become involved in and external ministries that the church may support.
- Biblically oriented. How consistent are the teachings of the church with the revelation from Scripture? Again, this assumes that you are familiar with the Bible. If not, ask someone you trust or do basic research on particular topics.
- Listen or watch sermons to get an idea of what is preached. Watching or listening to sermons and perhaps Bible studies are a great way to learn the church’s teachings and how consistent they are with the Bible. It is safe too because you don’t have to go to the church service to experience it.
- Visit the church. You might attend a worship service, Bible study, or an event to get an idea of what the church is like. It will provide great opportunities to talk to the church members to get a feel for the church’s vibe.
- Talk to members and frequent visitors. Talking to members is similar to getting reviews for a product or service. Ask them what they like about the church and their overall opinion. Ask them why they joined. The objective here is to get a feel for the church’s vibe, teachings, and effectiveness.
Learn More About the Leadership
Everything is affected by its leaders. A business can prosper or sink depending on the effectiveness of its leadership. The same is true for churches. A church with poor leadership will be ineffective and frustrating to those who want to minister to people.
You must get to know the leaders of the church you may want to join. Get to know them in the sense that you know what they are about, their leadership style, vision, and objectives. Also, remember your requirements. Do you think the pastor, for example, is leading the church in a direction that agrees with your desires and requirements for a church?
Unfortunately, getting to know church leaders means having to be around for a while. You’re not going to get to know the church leaders or the church by visiting a couple of times. Unfortunately, you may not discover problems (or more benefits) until you have invested a lot of time into the church or even joined the church.
There are two aspects of a church that you should be aware of.
- Spiritual component
- Administrative component
The spiritual component is the ministry of the church. For example, that could be implemented as children’s, men’s, women’s, couple’s, marriage, and youth ministries. However, just knowing that the church has these ministries isn’t enough. See for yourself what those ministries really are by observing them and talking to the people involved.
Get to know the leaders of those ministries. Ask questions about their vision, objective, and methods. Go beyond the ministry descriptions in literature or the website. Try to learn as much as you can yourself.
The administrative component of a church is where the rubber meets the road. There may be genuine people involved in ministry, but that does not necessarily translate into effective leadership of the church organization.
The administrative component consists of the church leaders, staff, and volunteers. However, your focus should be on the leaders and how they manage the organization. Are things organized? Does it appear that the church is well run? Do not neglect to investigate and try to learn more about the administrative component.
However, visitors and even regular members may not be aware of the administrative side of the church. I’ve been in churches where the administration was poor, but regular members were happy with the worship service and thought the church was great. Once you go deeper into the administrative part of the church organization, you will see how things really are.
Things to Consider
Since my youth, I’ve been a member of several churches, and I’ve had to look for a new church home several times. Below are some insights that I hope will help you search for a new church home.
- The pastor or church leader and how they manage the church
- Take note of the general behavior of the people when you visit a church. Jesus said that a tree (and prophet) is known by its fruit. Therefore, observe the people’s behavior, conversations, and actions to get a feel for what the church is truly about.
- How do people perceive the pastor? Do people consider the pastor to be the authority in their lives such that they must obey him? Is the pastor respected as if he is God? Notice how the people treat and perceive the pastor.
- Note how money is discussed. Some churches push their members to give and may have several ways of enticing or obligating them to give. For example, a church may teach that Christians should tithe to their local church. Sometimes, the compulsion can become quite severe, producing guilt and a sense of obligation due to fear.
- The Bible. How much is the Bible referenced and taught? Some churches have little Bible education and instead push their own dogma. Be mindful of the authority of the church in question. Is it the Bible or the pastor’s teaching?
The Perfect Church
Understand upfront that there are no perfect churches. You probably won’t find a church that meets every one of your requirements. You may need to compromise certain things. For example, I know several good churches, but they believe in speaking in tongues. I do not believe in speaking in tongues, at least the way the charismatic-based churches present it. Therefore, I may be willing to attend a church that speaks in tongues but does not push the issue or make it a major one.
There are always going to be interesting personalities in a church organization. Not everyone will be stereotypically nice. Some people, even some leaders, might be stubborn, shortsighted, spontaneous, etc. That doesn’t mean the church is bad as a whole.
I remember a saying about the perfect church that goes something like, “There are no perfect churches. If there were and you found one, then that church is no longer perfect.”
You are not perfect, so don’t expect an organization full of humans just like you to be perfect.
Searching for a church home can be challenging, depending on what you are looking for in a church. Finding a church home can be quite simple for those who want a social climate or a place to satisfy a religious obligation. However, the pickings can be slim for those who want spiritual development (from my experiences).
I encourage you to establish what you want in a church or from a church. Do all you can to gather as much information about the church as possible before committing to one. Also, realize that there may be some things you discover after you’ve committed. If you later find the church is not a match, don’t feel obligated to stay. Your spiritual welfare is at stake and can be negatively influenced by a church that doesn’t meet your needs.