Some issues have surfaced in the church I have been attending for the past 6 years, and I am increasingly uncomfortable staying there. But the thought of finding a new church makes me tired. There are dozens of churches in my area, and I am not sure how to find the right fit for me.
Perhaps you are in the same position, or maybe you just moved to an area and you have no idea what church to join. While no church is perfect for everyone, there are some ways to narrow your search for a church that best fits you. Here are 5 important requirements that you should look for in a new church.
1) Is it a Bible-believing church?
There is nothing more important to a Christian than making sure he or she attends a church that believes the Bible. Before you decide to stay in any church, you should know their doctrinal beliefs. Any decent church has a statement of faith. Ask to see it as soon as you start investigating a new congregation, and review it carefully. Do they clearly teach the Bible and biblical doctrine? There is room for differences in some areas, but faith must be based on God, and He clearly reveals Himself in the Bible.
2) Where is the church headed?
Do they have a vision statement? This document indicates the direction in which the church is headed. Do you share the same vision, and can you see yourself helping it move in that direction?
3) What is the church’s worship style
Why is this important to me? It involves my comfort level. For example, worship style will usually affect the clothing that people wear. A contemporary worship service encourages informal clothing while a liturgical service is generally more formal. The style of worship often reflects who the church is hoping to reach.
4) Is the church located near your home?
God has given each believer gifts to be used in His church, and you should want to use yours. It is hard to do that if the church is located on the other end of town. Also, it will be easier to make excuses about attending church events if it takes a long time to get there.
5) Does the church offer small groups and/or Bible studies?
The Bible tells us that we are a body of believers, connected by our faith. The church should be a place where you can connect with other believers and share their lives as you grow in your faith. Bible studies, especially those involving small groups of people, achieve both goals. Find a place where you want to get involved.
6) Does it meet your life stage needs?
If you are a parent with children, it is important to find a church that offers programs for kids (or teens if they are older). When your kids are happy you will be happy. If you are single, make sure the church isn’t a “families only” place where you will have trouble relating to others. The average age of the congregation is also a factor in life stage considerations. Will you be comfortable with these folks?
What about factors like denomination and size?
Some folks have always been a member of a certain denomination, and for them that will be a major factor in choosing a church. However, you may want to try another type of church just to see if you have been missing something in your past worship style. Try to keep an open mind about this issue, as long as the denomination is teaching the Bible.
Does size matter? While it’s true larger churches usually have more ministries and do more outreach, the intimacy of a small church is very appealing. If you are uncomfortable in larger groups, size can be a big factor.
Now that you have some idea of what to look for, where do you look?
Create a list of possibilities
First, make a list of churches. Are there some you pass on a regular basis? Check the yellow pages and the local Chamber of Commerce for more names. Go online and search for churches in your area. Compile a nice comprehensive list of choices.
Narrow the search by visiting the websites for congregations on your list. You should be able to get a general idea of what the church is about from their website, and you should be able to find their statement of faith and vision statement there. Ask your family, friends and co-workers where they go to church. Chances are someone with similar lifestyles to yours will be involved in a church you would also enjoy.
Check with the churches before visiting
Call and ask for a visitor’s packet before you actually go to the church. If they don’t have one, you can still ask specific questions about their style of worship and the classes they offer. Ask yourself if you can live with the things you don’t like about a given church before you even visit.
Visit a church several times before making a final decision.
First impressions can be misleading. If you visit on a Sunday when there is a guest speaker or a special event, you may not get an accurate impression of the church. Unless they did something you really can’t live with in the future, give the church a couple of chances before you decide to stay or leave.
Before you make a final choice, even before you start to actually visit churches, pray for God’s guidance. Finding the right church is vital to your spiritual growth and obedience to God’s Word.
As the old joke states, If you find the perfect church, don’t join it — you’ll ruin it! The key is to examine your choices, find the best fit for you, then make a commitment to give, serve and worship in the church you choose.
Hebrews 10:25 Let us not give up meeting together. Some are in the habit of doing this. Instead, let us cheer each other up with words of hope. Let us do it all the more as you see the day coming when Christ will return. (NIRV)
The Bible, New International Reader’s Version