For better or worse, at some point most Christians will need to look for a new church. For some people this is an easy task because they have friends or family going to a particular church. But if you’re new to an area or have specific requirements for what you would like for a church the task becomes more difficult. With this in mind I present here are a few tips on how to find the church that is best for you.
1. Remember that no church is perfect
We all have specific desires for what we would like in a church and most of those desires have been developed out of our past experiences. At some point we go to a special church for a while and come to the opinion that great churches are like this special church. While I have no doubt that this special church was indeed special, it is important to remember that there is no church on the planet just like it. So, it is worthless to go out and try to find a church that is a duplicate of that church, because such a church doesn’t exist.
2. Make an ordered list of what you want and don’t want
Finding the church that is best for you is, more often than not, not a matter of luck, but rather the result of an ordered search. In order to make an ordered search for the proper church you need to know what it is that you’re looking for in a church. Make two lists, one of what you want in a church and one of what you don’t want and be specific. Make sure to order both of these in order of what is most important. It doesn’t matter how you do this, simply that you do it. On the list of what you want, order it by what is most important to you to whatever is least important. Do the same with the other list – what you most don’t want followed by things that are less and less important. You’ll probably need to make some sacrifices, which is why ordering the list is important.
After you visit a church take some time to compare your lists to the church and see how it matches up. Remember that you want things to match up on the list of things you want and you don’t want things to match up on the things you don’t want.
3. Visit a lot of churches
It is possible that the first church you visit feels great and you don’t see the need to try other churches. Even if this happens you should still try several more churches. This is a terrific opportunity for you to experience lots of different traditions and churches. Even if you don’t end up going to any of the other churches you visit, you will gain valuable experience and knowledge of the churches in your area. It’s also distinctly possible that you find another church that you like more. The more churches you visit the better your chances of finding the church that fits you best.
4. Don’t take too much stock in gossip about a church
People talk. Church people talk a lot. There are lots of things that are said about churches and pastors that are the result of only partial information. Even though you may have heard some bad things about a particular church or pastor you should still try that church. It is possible that the things you have heard are correct, but it by far more likely that they are incorrect or only partially true. Because of the high likelihood that there is no truth to the rumors, this is your opportunity to find out the truth about what you have heard as well as try on a church and see how it fits you. In the worst case, the rumors are true and you don’t go back again. In the best case the rumors are completely false and it’s a great church.
5. Visit the churches you like more than once
Once you have done all of these things, pick out the two or three church that you like the best – that match up to your lists best – and visit them again. It’s possible that some of the stuff you disliked the first time were only flukes of that first Sunday you visited. The first couple of times my wife and I visited the church we currently attend the worship leader was not to our liking. It actually gave us some concern about attending the church, but we liked everything else about the church, so we gave it another try. It turns out that the worship leader we didn’t like only leads worship once every couple of months. The regular worship leaders are actually quite to our liking. If we had not gone back a third time we would have never found that out. A very similar thing could happen with you. Perhaps the regular preaching pastor or worship leader is on vacation. Perhaps you go on a week when something special is happening. Attending two, three or even four times will help you to get a good feel for how that church works. This will help you to make the best, most educated choice about your new church.
6. Pray a lot
Lastly, pray about every church you attend. Pray before you go, pray afterwards, pray when you’re going over your lists, pray while you’re at the church. God’s plan for the church you are going to attend may not match up with anything you think you want. Trust God’s guidance as you go through this process.
7. Be patient
Don’t rush the process. Lots of times people try to rush the process and simply decide to stick with the first church they try. While this isn’t always a bad thing, it can keep you from finding the right church for you. By being patient, working the process and listening to God you will find the church that is right for you. Don’t be afraid of it taking several months to find the right church, because if you take the time you will find a church that you can stick with for years and years.