Five Decisions to Make before You Start Church Shopping

May 30, 2012

Nobody likes the term church shopping, but nearly everyone finds themselves looking for a new church home at some point. Undoubtedly, there are some who swap churches too casually, applying the same consumer mindset to worship that they do to buying groceries or appliances. But many are driven by some legitimate need such as relocation, a major life changes like marriage, or unresolvable conflict.

For years I swore I’d never become a church shopper, but when Heather and I got married and began blending a family, we found ourselves doing exactly that.

 I was editorial director at Wesleyan Publishing House at the time, not serving as a pastor. At first we were excited, thinking it would be an adventure for our new family. Not so much.

The kids hated being visitors all the time,  and we found ourselves weary of looking for that “perfect fit.” We almost gave up. After more than a year of hopping around, we visited  Fall Creek Wesleyan Church and knew we were home.

During those months of trying out congregations, we learned plenty about the state of the church in our community, but even more about ourselves.

Finding a new congregation isn’t easy; no wonder so many Christians simply don’t attend church. Here are five important decisions to make before you begin the search for a new church home.

Decide whether you want quality or intimacy. While the two shouldn’t be mutually exclusive, they often are. Small, friendly churches hardly ever have a killer worship band. And the big church with the awesome choir and pipe organ probably won’t like your kids throwing paper airplanes in the lobby. Decide ahead of time which matters more to you.

Determine your hidden agenda. Trust me on this, you’re got one. You may believe you’re “just looking for a good church,” but you are likely hoping to recreate the best church experience from your past. The sooner you are aware of that, the better.

Agree to accept imperfection. No church is perfect. They’re all filled with people, right? There simply is no one stop church shopping experience, so it easier if you take perfect off your list of non-negotiables. What faults or foibles can you live with?

Resolve to look for the gift, not the flaw. Fellowship, a passion for souls, love of Scripture, authentic worship—nearly every church has one incredibly good thing about it. Determine to look for that going in rather than make a list of things you don’t like.

Name what you will give in return. If  I had entered my year of church shopping thinking “What kind of church is in need of my presence and ministry”  rather than “What kind of church will best meet my needs,” the search would have lasted about five minutes. Determine now what you will offer to your next congregation. You’ll find lots of “perfect fits.”

What lessons have you learned from looking for a church home? 

Lawrence W. Wilson


I blog about Christian faith and ministry. I've also written a few books including The Long Road Home and Why Me? Straight Talk about Suffering.