Finding a new home church can be scary and cause anxiety. You are basically looking for a new family. You have expectations and needs from a church so it can be a daunting process. Whether you are not happy at your current church or have moved to a new area, finding a new church can be challenging. My family has moved about 3 times in the last 5 years so we have been through this process quite a few times. I will share with you what we learned along the way.
I will be focusing on how to find a Christian (non-denominational for me) church since that’s the process I went through. It could be very similar for other religions but I cannot vouch for them.
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Let’s start with the basics. Why should we, as Christians, go to church? This is not to say you can’t go to church and still be a Christian, but there are definitely more benefits. Here are the top reasons.
- Fellowship– God calls us to fellowship with other believers because he knows that we need it. Developing those relationships, building a community, mentoring each other and more is important to have a healthy walk with God.
- Learning– Going to church is a way for us to continue to learn about God’s love and learn about all he has to teach us. Yes, you can read the bible on your own but if you only ever learned what you read, you could be missing out. A good pastor can help you think about scriptures in a way you may not realize on your own and how to apply them to your life.
- Worship– God calls us to worship him. It’s another way we can draw closer to him. See the verse below.
- Gifts– God gave us gifts and being involved in a church is a way to use them and help encourage others as well. I have been blessed to join our worship team at church and I love it!
Bloggersforthekingdom.com gives 102 reasons here for why you should go to church.
Make a List
Before you start showing up at random churches, make a list. If you are married, make the list together. What is important to you in a new church? If you are brand new to church then start with some research about different denominations. A lot of the basics will be the same like believing that Jesus died on the cross for our sins but specifics and style can be different. Some denominations you can start with are: Evangelical, Presbyterian, Baptist, Lutheran, and Methodist but there are plenty of options to see what closely matches your beliefs.
On your list put down what are your “must-haves” and what are your “nice-to-haves”. An example could be that a “must-have” would be a children’s program. A “nice-to-have” would be an Awana program which is an additional program for kids during the school year and usually on a week-night. Having an Awana program was a huge draw for me when we picked our current church because of how much I enjoyed it when I was a kid.
Other things to think about could be location, service times, size of the church, beliefs of the church, and more. Smaller churches will often have less extra resources like camps, Bible studies, MOPS, etc. but you can usually get to know people quicker. Maybe you work on Sundays so would need somewhere that offers a Saturday night service also. I grew up at a very large church and I loved all the different programs. For my own family now we are wanting something smaller where we can get to know everyone better but still have some programs, especially for our 3 boys.
Once you have an idea of what your requirements and your preferences are, then start the research. Getting referrals from people you know is a great place to start because then you can check out a church with a friend. Before you visit any church look them up on the internet. Look at their website, details, and statement of faith. I would definitely recommend trying to find a church within a 15-minute drive. The further away your church is, the less likely it will be that you will get as involved and participate in various activities. Also if you are running late on a Sunday morning there is a big difference between a 5-minute drive and a 40-minute drive.
When my husband and I first got married we tried a few different churches nearby. None of them felt like the right match. We eventually made a church home at a church I had gone to as a child for a while, which we both liked. It was about 20-30 minutes away and that made it challenging to participate in any weeknight activities.
Look at reviews on the internet (Yelp is great) and you can even ask for referrals on Facebook. When we first moved to our current city I joined the Moms Facebook group for our town. I asked for church referrals and within an hour had about 20-30 responses. I took those recommendations and looked them up. We eventually tried 2 and immediately picked one of those.
Church Shopping with kids
If you have ever looked for a new church when you have young kids you have realized there are additional challenges. It can be very hard on most kids (of all ages) to keep trying church after church. The children’s programs are all different and they are constantly being put into new environments where they don’t know anyone. It’s like going to a new school each time.
There are a couple of different ways you can do this. If your kids are pretty flexible and adapt well then just bring them with you. You will want to get their opinions on the church especially if it’s one you are likely to stick with. Another option is to get a babysitter and try out a few churches without them. Then when you are feeling good about one, you can bring them along too. For our current church, we did a lot of research and narrowed it down to 2 likely choices. Our 2 kids (at the time) came with us and we asked our oldest what he thought. Our now middle child was only 5 months old at the time so he just came into the service with us.
For tips on finding a babysitter, you can check out my post here.
Making a Decision
When you are evaluating churches try to go on a “normal” Sunday. You won’t be able to get a clear idea of the church if there is a guest pastor that weekend or a guest worship band. Holidays are not a good time to evaluate because the crowds can be bigger or smaller. Are you greeted when you first come in? Are people friendly? Does it look like people get involved? What do you think of the pastor? How is the worship music? Ideally, this is a place you will be at for quite a while so keep your eyes open as you evaluate. It can be hard for everyone to agree but it is important that at least you and your spouse agree on a church. If one person is not being fulfilled then it is likely they will not want to go as often.
My blogger friend, Ashton, gives her advice here on How to Choose a New Church.