Finding a Church and 10 Tips for Avoiding “Church Shopping” Mistakes
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Finding a church you like can be exciting! But finding a place to worship that is a good fit for you and your family can also be frustrating and discouraging when your choices are limited and if you live in a state that doesn’t have a lot of churches in your denomination (or ANY denomination). We’ve all been there, and it’s not fun.
You should be able to find a good church without having to go through an arduous process of trial and error. It shouldn’t take you years to find one that fits your needs.
So to help make the process of going through your local churches a little easier, here are some tips on finding the perfect church without falling into the trap of “church shopping”!So to help make the process of going through your local churches a little easier, here are some tips on finding the perfect church without falling into the trap of “church shopping”! Click To Tweet
Why You Might Be Looking for a New Church Home
There are many reasons why someone might be looking at finding a church.
New believers might be looking for their very first church!!
Perhaps you’re finding that your current church hasn’t been a good fit for your family. It could be, as is sometimes the case, that you find the message just isn’t aligning with scripture and the teachings are more socially relevant than biblically relevant. Churches DO change at times. Perhaps there’s a new pastor and it’s just no longer a good match.
Maybe you relocated to a new city and need to find a church that you can call home!
Perhaps there are other reasons, but whatever they may be, we hope these tips for finding the right church can help!
Tip One: Learn About Churches in Your Area on Google or Church Finder And Visit Their Websites
The best way to quickly see if a church is one you want to visit or immediately check off your list is to visit their website. You can find local churches by doing a Google search or using Church Finder!
Church Finder is a great way to locate a church because it gives people the ability to share their church on social media (which means they love it) and also gives you tools you can use when finding a church!
A church’s website can offer you a ton of good information that will let you know if it is the right place for you and your family.
For instance, just reading their section on what they believe might cause you to scratch a specific church off the list.
There should be sermons online you can watch or listen to in order to get a feel for the pastor and the teaching. Does the message align with the Word of God?
It will also give you service times and SHOULD give you an idea of what to expect if you’re new. A good church will tell you what to expect at your first visit, where to park, who will greet you, where your kids should go, etc.
And, if you do have children, it should also offer you plenty of information about their children’s programs so that you can get an idea of whether or not it’s going to be a place your kids will feel at home in.
Tip Two: Find Out if They Focus on Praise and Worship
Consider whether they put much emphasis on praise and worship if that is important to you and whether or not the styles are right for you; if not, find another church with music more aligned with your style of worship.
Are they more about performing FOR you than ushering in the presence of the Holy Spirit? A healthy church will be more focused on the Lord than on the band during church services.
I attended a very large church in Florida where the “Praise and Worship” team was all about themselves. It didn’t resemble praise OR worship at all.
They performed on stage with music videos playing on a big screen behind them featuring…themselves. They did cover songs from popular culture during praise and worship time.
Sorry, but that is not a praise and worship team. The only worshipping going on quite honestly was of themselves. There was no God in it. That is more about attracting the world to fill seats and giving them a good personal experience than focusing on the Lord and on God’s truths.
You don’t need a Sunday morning cover band. You need spiritual leaders who will bring the people of God into the presence of the Spirit in worship. Different churches have different ways of doing this but the one thing they should have in common is God as the focus and leading the people into a spirit of worship! It is NOT for entertainment.
Praise and worship is important when you gather in church. It prepares your heart to receive the Word but it is also a time where you can pour out your heart to the Lord. This is key in Christian life and it is one of the reasons why we come away from the world and join together in church.
Think about a believer there for the first time seeing a worship team singing songs they can hear on any radio station. That is not about God, I am sorry!
The worship style is a personal choice. You might like contemporary worship or you may prefer good old hymns!
If you see that the worship style is contemporary but you prefer hymns, you likely won’t feel that connection in worship. So while we don’t want to be nit-picky about how good the singer is or if the drums are a little loud, speaking of vast differences in worship style IS important.
If you like contemporary Christian music then finding a church with that type of music will probably make you feel more comfortable and engaged throughout the worship service.
But no matter what worship style a church has, Christ Jesus should be at the heart of it all.You don't need a Sunday morning cover band. You need spiritual leaders who will bring the people of God into the presence of the Spirit in worship! Click To Tweet
Tip Three: Consider How Engaged the Members Seem to Be
When you visit a church, find out how engaged the people are!. That is their home church. Are they feeling like it is home by being a part of it other than just on Sunday morning!
Are they welcoming? Do they interact with you or are you left to just find a seat and feel like an outsider?
Do they have a small group you can join for different studies or social gatherings?
Look for groups within the church that interest you:
– Sunday School classes (depending on your age)
– Young Adult Ministry – Newcomers Fellowship (consider finding a church with groups specifically for newcomers or young adults)
– Adult Bible Study/Discipleship (depending on your level of faith and your spiritual gifts)
Tip Four – Look for Community Outreach Opportunities in the Church
Consider the community outreach of a church. This should be important for all believers because this is where your money should go!
If you give tithes and offerings, you want to be sure it is not only going toward helping the church itself but it is going to help the community where it’s needed. How that happens is dependent upon where you live.
We live in a rural community so the needs of those in the local community will look different than those in the city.
Look at how they serve their community both in terms of finances and time.
If you’re looking for a church that goes out and serves in the community, then finding one with wide-ranging volunteer opportunities is important. We as the body of Christ should be helping those in need.
Tip Five: Consider the Church Leadership
Are there several pastors or is it just one head pastor? If more than one, do they share the platform equally, or is the head pastor the one that’s leading most of the services?
You may choose a church because you love the pastor but then find that he is only preaching once a month and travels a lot visiting other churches. You should be able to discern this from their website.
You will want to find a pastor who not only aligns with your theology but is also a good personality fit.
If the pastor is WAY dynamic and you like a lower-key, more instructional-type pastor then you may want to look at another church.
One way you can determine this before visiting is, as we mentioned earlier, visiting their website and looking to see if the church has its sermons online, either by video or audio. Then you can see if the pastor has the teaching style AND, more importantly, the CONTENT you are looking for. (see Ephesians 2:19-20)
The most important thing is that the pastor and others who teach in the church are a match for you personally and biblically. Read their statement of faith or doctrinal statement and their “What we believe” section and then, when listening to the sermon, make sure the pastor’s message actually aligns with that.
Again, don’t be overly picky! You can’t go in with an image of a Furtick and then get disappointed when you see a pastor in a suit and tie. The message is what matters, not whether the pastor is wearing the latest styles.
Tip Six: Consider Whether you Would Feel Comfortable Getting Involved in the Church
If you can’t talk to the people in the church, then finding a church home will be hard!
You want people who will make you feel comfortable.
If you’re young and don’t know anyone else at the church or if you are going through a difficult time in your life (personal issues, divorce, new job) then finding a church where people will be kind and helpful to you is an important factor.
Do they have a “welcoming” committee that welcomes new members? Are the people friendly? It’s okay if they aren’t all coming up to you and hugging you (in a post-COVID world you probably don’t want that anyway), but finding a church with several people who are warm and welcoming can help when finding a church home.
Tip Seven: Consider The Size of the Church
Just like people, churches come in many shapes and sizes. Consider your personality and the size of the church.
A large church will have lots of members and ministries to get involved in but may lack intimate connections. Likewise, small churches may not be able to offer many ministries but the connections you can make are close and meaningful. You have to ask yourself if you want to be a big fish in a small pond or a small fish in a big pond. Either way can work for you.
If a church has multiple locations, the pastor can only be at one at a time. Would you be comfortable in a campus location that shows the message on a big screen and an associate or campus pastor leading the people on that campus? Keep this in mind again when looking at their site.
Satellite locations work for some people but others just don’t like them and this is totally a matter of personal preference. But it IS something to consider when looking.
Tip Eight: Learn About the Children’s Programs
If you are parents, you will definitely want to become familiar with their children’s programs and may even want to ask to observe one for a while.
Are the age groups separated out appropriately? Do they have the required number of people in the room for certain ages? What is the ratio of children to leaders?
What are they teaching? Do they use a structured teaching curriculum or are they merely “babysitting” your child during service?
What about programs for kids outside of church? Do they have a teen night weekly? Do they have student groups?
Think about what you need and want for your child(ren) and make sure they can meet those needs.
Tip Nine: The Membership of the Church
Membership in the church can vary from congregation to congregation. Research what it means to be a member. Do you have to go through classes? Do you have to live in the area? What is the expectation about giving?
These are all important questions to ask when going through the church process. You and your family should be aware of what is expected of you.
Tip Ten: Church Shopping Vs Finding a Church Home
Church shopping is going from church to church with a list like you are grocery shopping. You know what you want the pastor to look like, dress like, sound like.
I can see some wish lists like you are on house hunters. One person is a part-time butterfly catcher and the other is a finger painting teacher and your budget is $2 million.
You want the worship leader to sound a certain way, wear the trendy clothing, sing the songs you want to hear, and have a certain hairstyle (yes this is actually one I have heard).
You want a coffee bar that serves lattes (do they have the new cold brew system?) and it has to have the right pre-service snacks available.
You want a plethora of service times so that you don’t have to get up TOO early in the morning and so you can also attend in the afternoon or evening if your weekend plans don’t allow you to get there for another service time. In other words, you want multiple service times to accommodate YOUR social schedule rather than making the church the first thing and working everything else around it.
As Dr. Tony Evans has taught, in the end, you want a church that is a hospital and not a hospice.
A hospital is for sick people (sinners, like all of us, to get better). A hospice is a place to make you feel better until you die. Don’t go to a church just because all they do is say what you want to hear to comfort you. Some churches want to tell you all you want to hear…buyer beware!
Don’t go to church to have your ears “tickled”!
Remember the important things about finding a church home and that is the preaching of the Word, gathering with God’s people and worshipping our heavenly Father and growing in our spiritual life and walk with Him.
The right church will leave you feeling both uplifted and convicted.
Uplifted by the word and God’s unending love. Convicted because we all fall short of perfection and repent for the desire to lead a more Godly life. It is okay, as the scripture says we all fall short of the glory of god (see Romans 3:23).
Ted Talks should be like Chick-fil-A; delicious during the week but closed on Sunday.
Your church should not be a glorified Ted Talk – it should teach, inspire, convict, and ultimately be biblically sound.
Jesus didn’t go out trying to fill seats!Ted Talks should be like Chick-fil-A; delicious during the week but closed on Sunday. Your church should not be a glorified Ted Talk – it should teach, inspire, convict, and ultimately be biblically sound. Click To Tweet
Keep first things first and you will find your perfect church home!
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Dr. Dave Ferreira is Diane’s wonderful husband! He is an Administrator in Higher Education and is the founder of a not-for-profit charity. Dave has also owned a traditional business and is well versed in business start-ups, grant writing, and non-profit formations. He is the author of the book Insider’s Guide to College Etiquette. Dave is also very active in his congregation.
NASB – “Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Copyright by The Lockman Foundation“
Worship images courtesy of Austin Neill – https://www.freelyphotos.com/