Twice, my wife and I have had to “look for a home church.” Both instances centered on big life changes: marriage and moving. Those were tough transitions, but finding a home church was by far the most difficult part of the process! Part of the reason is we were reared on the notion that church hopping (or church shopping) was a close second to the unpardonable sin.
Eventually we got over that and started to define the kind of church we felt most at home in. We’ve seen all kinds of churches because of my ministry travels and found these were our preferences:
- worship had to be “good”
- preaching had to be “good”
- aesthetics had to be “good”
- “growing” in attendance and vision
- active in reaching the community
- relational pastor or such a good speaker we’d forgo that
- practical expression of faith
- 25 minute drive, service at 11:00AM or later
- people we could truly be ourselves with
- understand and accept us as itinerant ministers
- organized infrastructure
- multi-cultural, younger feel
Yes, the list is self-centered but if we couldn’t define what would make us happy, we’d never know what we were looking for. The process surprisingly involved discovering more of what we didn’t want vs. what we wanted. We didn’t bash churches, we just articulated our frustrations so we could dig deeper. Then our preferences became clearer.
We also found some things were negotiable. For example, online church met many things on the list. Good preaching and aesthetics? Check! Service time? On demand, baby! We re-prioritized since we didn’t want to be online church attendees. It then came down to two things: worship and community. These were the non-negotiables.
If you’re looking for a church, a few thoughts:
1. Write down what you like and don’t like.
Evaluating is not a sin. Document the good and not-so-good. Some people are so scared of feeling even one critical thought that they’d rather do harm to themselves. This self-effacing mindset is the product of abusive leadership or a distorted interpretation of “not touching the Lord’s anointed.” It suppresses people from reaching their full potential and keeps them in a place not conducive to growth. Obviously, keep your frustrations to yourself instead of writing them on the offering card or gossiping. The goal is to clear the fog and dig deeper. Don’t be afraid to paint an ideal picture.
2. Keep going…somewhere!
Don’t just stay home. We went everywhere we could. When we were discouraged (which happened a lot) and stayed home, we’d watch online. But we never went more than a week without going somewhere. Fight to receive ministry from someone other than yourself. Staying home more than one week in a row leads to a month and then a few months. Before you know it you’re disengaged and isolated.
3. Feed yourself.
If worship was one of our non-negotiables, it would be really fake not to do that ourselves at home. We would worship, study, and pray at home regularly while looking for a church. We’re in a season of blessing now because of the seeds we sowed during the famine of church searching.
Finding a church can be hard, especially if you’re a college student or recently moved. You can only visit so many per week. You may never find the “perfect” place. Just don’t let the difficulties become an excuse to give up.
Question: What do you look for in a church?