Church shopping is not as much fun as it sounds. Trust me, I did it once for over a year. It is fatiguing and sometimes frustrating to search for a new church home. My wife, Heather, and I were so worn out by the experience that we were tempted to quit church altogether.
Thank goodness we realized the mistake we were making—looking for a church to meet our needs rather than seeking to meet others’—and settled permanently at Fall Creek Wesleyan Church, where I later became pastor.
When you relocate or experience a life change such as marriage, you may be thrown into the search for a new place of worship, ready or not. Here are some things I wish someone had told me before we starting looking for a new church.
List your non-negotiables. Keep the list short, perhaps one or two items. Like people, most churches have only a few things they do well.
Set a deadline. I recommend 60 to 90 days. That’s plenty of time to visit a number of congregations. Don’t allow your search to drag on indefinitely.
Research congregations before visiting. Honestly, we did very little of this. If we had, we might have had fewer questions walking in the door and been better able to relax and participate in the worship service. You can usually find out everything you want to know about a church from its website. And if you can’t that tells you something too.
Go somewhere every week. Being a visitor all the time is tiring, and there will be weeks when you want to simply stay home. Resist that. Becoming a dropout is easier than you think.
Engage. You experience a church more fully by taking part in what’s happening. Being a spectator is boring.
Give up on perfect. No church is. It isn’t “settling” to buy into a congregation that has a few flaws.
Make your decision on the second visit. If not the first. If you can’t say “This feels right” after the second attempt, you likely never will.
Invest yourself. It’s tempting to become a permanent visitor in your own church, attending the worship services but not engaging people, taking part in ministry, or contributing financially. At some point, you must put your doubts and fears aside and decide, stop shopping, and start living.