Finding a new church home is tough. Even if you leave your current church in good spirits (yes, that’s possible. Not all church exits are negative), it’s still difficult to find a church that is a good fit for you. It takes lots of time, patience, love, and godly wisdom. It is tough but not impossible. If you have not read part 1, you can do so by clicking on the highlighted text here: Things to look for in a new church
To Prepare For Your Search
Steps To Take Before Trying A New Church
You need to be prayerfully humble during the entire process of finding a new church. I would also suggest you add fasting to your prayers. Yes, it’s that important. Seek God about which churches to try. Ask him to open your eyes and ears and to bless you with discernment to know if a church is right for you or not.
2. Make a list.
List what is most important to you in a church. These are your non-negotiable issues. They could be children’s church, small groups, men or ladies groups, strong volunteer opportunities, children with disabilities class, praise and worship, the pastor preaching from a particular Bible version…your list will be unique because each family will have unique needs. Don’t worry that your list might be “superficial” to others. It’s your list, not theirs.
For example, I do not have children at home any longer and I do not have grandbabies so children’s church and a nursery are not important to me at this point in my life. They might be high on your list but they don’t even make my list.
Below I provide a lot of areas to look into and questions to consider in each of those areas. I suggest reading through the list of questions below with pen and paper handy. Write down what areas are important to you and the questions you need to think about in each of those areas.
Be sure to take your list with you to each church you visit. Why make a written list you can take with you? If you write down your observations, you can freely participate, listen to the teaching, and hopefully fellowship without trying to remember everything.
3. Make another list.
Pick 3-4 churches to start with. I would suggest visiting each church for a set period of time and not bouncing around. Pick church A that you feel most led to and set your mind to visit it every week for two months (you pick the timeframe). Keep track of your observations.
Then visit church B for the same period of time and work your way down your list until you find the church God has for you. As you reach the end of your list, if you have not found a church your spirit feels good about, keep seeking. Don’t rush the process. Do homework on each church before visiting.
4. Spend time gathering information.
Head for the internet to see if your potential church has a website or media presence (YouTube, Facebook, etc). What information is listed? You might find their statement of faith as well as all sorts of additional information on ministries, group, etc. The churches are revealing exactly what they want you to know about them so look deeper than skimming for basic information.
Listen closely to their videos if available. Not only might you hear their preaching style and message, you might see the size of their congregation (a big issue for many) or hear their praise and worship.
Subscribe to their newsletter. Check it out just as you did their media presence. You can always cancel the subscription later if you decide they are not the church for you.
You might find that the information on the internet and in their newsletter to be so sparse that you still don’t understand what they believe and offer. Don’t automatically rule them out. They might be in transition or untrained in using the internet. Maybe they have been praying God would send someone to them with a heart to help the church in this area. Make note of their lack of media presence and unless you found something you could not agree with, continue your plan to visit them in person.
Keep In Mind
Any of these initial investigative steps may reveal a church that you will not be comfortable in or that your spirit is telling you to stay away from. It might be just the opposite and you feel led to visit that church in person. Be open to God’s leading. Typically he blesses us in ways we are not expecting.
Don’t get caught up in your own head when you visit. I tend to do this. Until I know you I tend to be a bit shy and get so caught up in my thoughts it doesn’t cross my mind to stop and speak to someone. The other person might be caught up in their own thoughts too. Don’t hold against them what you don’t want them to hold against you.
Be kind and friendly but not pushy. Ask questions to learn, not to find fault.
While Visiting Each Church
What Information Should You Be Looking For?
1. What do they believe?
- What do they believe about God? Do they believe he is the one true God, three in one? Do they believe the Holy Spirit is with believers even today? What do they believe about Jesus?
- Do they put other people (and books) ahead of or equal to the Bible? A big clue would be if they quote them just as much as the Bible. Do they use other teachers (alive or dead) to explain Gods Holy Word or do they use God’s Word to explain God’s Word?
- Are their church traditions held higher than what the Bible says? “Because we’ve always done it that way” is not a good reason. For example, we were in a church that encouraged comments and questions after the teaching. That was not a typical practice for most churches but everyone learned so much as comments were clarified, debates were heard, all questions were answered. It took the teaching deeper but would be frowned upon in most churches.
- Do they believe in a real heaven and a real hell? Don’t scoff. Some Christian churches teach that God loves everyone and would never send anyone to hell.
- What do they believe about works versus faith and salvation? They might say one thing but expect something different from their congregation so you have to watch this one closely. This could include getting publicly baptized (or you’re not really saved) or serving in the church in some capacity (or your not a true church member and obviously lack faith).
- You might find some of these answers in their statement of faith. Do you share their beliefs?
2. How is the teaching?
- Do they use scripture? Sadly, not every church does. Take notes of the teaching to look things up later. You must test what you are taught to make sure it lines up with God’s Word. Don’t just accept what you are fed no matter who is teaching.
- Do they teach from both the New and Old Testaments? Some churches believe the Old Testament no longer applies to our lives.
- Can you understand the Bible version that is being taught out of? You can’t learn and grow if you can’t understand what is going on.
- Do they explain scripture in such a way that you can understand the Bible better when you leave than when you got there? If you are more confused, make note of what you are confused about and be ready to ask about it. Are you allowed to ask about it or are you brushed off or ignored?
- Does the teaching help you to understand how to apply what you learned to your everyday life? You need to be able to relate to what you are being taught.
- Does the pastor shy away from controversial issues and side with the world so as not to offend? I’m not talking politics, I’m talking controversial Biblical principles. The Bible is to be used to teach, rebuke, correct, and train.
- Are they focused on one sin over another like infidelity verses backbiting? All sin is the same to God. We are the ones who become hyper-focused on one sin over another. Keep in mind the teacher could be in the middle of a series so use wisdom here.
3. How about the Praise and Worship?
- Traditional hymns or contemporary? Loud or quiet? Some believe musical instruments are unbiblical, some feel the more equipment the better.
- Do you like the style of music? Music is bigger to some than others but you need to feel comfortable enough to get out of your own head to worship your Savior.
- Is there a spirit of worship present or does it feel dead as if only going through the motions?
4. The Pastor and church leadership
- Is the pastor teaching pop psychology and worldly advice wrapped in biblical coverings?
- Is it clear who the leadership is? We were part of a leadership team once where even we didn’t know who the other leaders were. Meetings were individual if at all and we realized if we were a part of it and didn’t know, how would the other members of the congregation know who to approach with questions or concerns? Our concern was not welcomed and we soon moved on.
- Are you able to approach leadership with questions or concerns? Some churches do not allow this while others welcome time to answer your questions.
- Can you receive from this teacher? Their style, their speaking ability, their enthusiasm (or lack of it)…this is simply a matter of preference. They just might not be your flavor or cup of tea and that’s okay. I love to laugh and I firmly believe God does too. But if the pastor jokes about someone mean-spirited, I have trouble with that. A loud pastor that screams is another negative for me. I get so focused on watching the veins bulge and spit fly that I don’t hear what is being said. I tune out and might as well not be there. That doesn’t mean they aren’t biblical with great messages.
- Does the Pastor and leadership attempt to control the lives of the congregation? Dictating what you do with your gifts, your time, your finances, your children, your job, where you live, etc? That is not their job.
5. Children’s Ministry
- Are the kids separated from the parents or can they stay in the service with their parents? In some churches, this is not allowed but in others, it is welcomed.
- Are the parents encouraged to help out? Is it a requirement?
- How do you know that what the kids are being taught is biblical? Are they simply babysitting or are they trying to teach the kids about Jesus and how to apply what they learn to their little lives? Talk to the children’s teachers and ask questions.
- What is the church like? All churches have a unique feel and rhythm. Do you feel a wall of unwelcome or sincere acceptance? Your spirit will tell you what is going on if you will listen.
- Do you observe the church members you speak with saying one thing and doing another?
- Is the congregation too large or too small for you?
- Some feel claustrophobic with all the doors and curtains closed and the lights off or turned down. Does this church do that and if so does it bother you?
- Is the church held in a building you are okay with? I know of someone who liked everything about a church except that they met in a community gym. She couldn’t get past that fact and had to move on to find another church.
- Are the service times when you can be there and attend?
- Churches exist to serve the people. How is this church serving the people or is it only the leadership being served? Leaders are called to serve not be served.
7. Groups and ministry opportunities
- We all need to do more than show up on Sundays and leave immediately afterward. The Holy Spirit has blessed each of us with gifts to use to bless the body. Can you use those gifts at this church?
- Do they have whatever ministry your gifts align with? If not, can you start one there? What is required? Some churches will not allow anyone but the Pastor and his family to start or lead ministries. Their material might show you the answer here. Look at their newsletter and website to see who heads which ministries.
- What do you have to do to be allowed to lead a group or ministry in this church? In some churches, only those who go to that church’s Bible College are allowed in positions of leadership. Other churches will take anyone who volunteers.
8. The congregation
- What are the people like? We all want a church where we feel we fit in and can find friends to walk with us along the way. Can this church provide that? Is it mostly an older, reserved crowd and you are not? Is it a church full of families with children and it makes you uncomfortable to be around them? Don’t judge. Sometimes when dealing with infertility, illness or the death of a child it takes people time to be around other children. If this is you, God can help you deal with it but in the meantime, that might not be the church for you right now.
- Is the church too far away from your home? Do the other believers live close enough for you to fellowship with or is the distance too prohibitive? Some churches don’t encourage the congregation to get together, some highly encourage it.
After Visiting Each Church
1. If you have questions, call the church and ask. How they respond will tell you a lot. Do they smooze over the answer like a used car salesman or do they listen and try to help?
2. Don’t commit until you have tried the church for a period of time. This gives you time to see the church when they aren’t trying to impress you anymore.
3. Pull your list out, pray over it, compare and possibly eliminate churches based on the information you gathered and what you are hearing from God.
Final Thoughts To Meditate On
If someone you know is going through this process, try to be supportive. Keep in mind it is not easy. Don’t assume you know why they desire to seek a new church. They may not be comfortable talking about the real reasons they are looking for a new church home. Don’t try to manipulate them into staying at your current church with you. Cut them a bit of slack and pray for them instead.
No church is perfect. Every good church has imperfect people and every bad church has imperfect people. We don’t want to be judgy or critical but we must remain vigilant and in the Word and prayer. Satan is sneaky and bold. He uses the church and Christians just as he uses everything else to kill, steal, and destroy God’s children.
We need to find a Bible-believing church, commit to that fellowship of believers, get involved, soak up the teaching and keep our focus on Jesus.
If you are praying about starting a church search, I pray you will allow God to lead and that you will find what you need.
Church Search Series: Part 1, Things to look for in a new church home. Part 3, 5 things to know to get involved when you’re new to a church.