Looking for a church is a lot like going on a blind date. You start polling your friends, seeing if they know anyone that might be compatible. Inevitably, someone thinks they know the perfect setup. So you get dressed up, arrive on time, and desperately hope you’re not going to spend the next hour with a crazy person.
My wife and I have spent the past several weeks dating around with several churches. We’d love to say we had found “the one”, but it just hasn’t happened for us yet. In the mean time, I figured I’d share with you a few pointers I’ve picked up. Should you ever find yourself looking for the next Mister, Miss, and Community Right, hopefully these tips will help you decide to set another date or just end with a handshake.
Stalk Them Like a Horror Movie
Alright, maybe leave The Hobbler at home, but a well executed Google Search can save you a lot of time and hassle. Search for the name of the church, search for the name of the minister. What are you looking for? Anything notable that might give you an idea of what you’re headed into. Look at their Facebook page and see what’s being said on their wall. Look for blog posts that mention the church. If you search for the name of the pastor and find he’s known in the community for hosting a hell-house out of his parsonage year round, maybe you should move on.
Common Meal? Let’s Start With Common Interests
Most of the churches I’ve gone to recently have found a particular idea or belief that is important to their congregation. Some of them push it a little harder during the service than others. Your best bet to discover what the church cares about is to examine their website and their morning bulletin if they have one. Whether the church you’re examining has a devotion to Social Justice, remaining Spirit-Led, or, as was the case with the Universalist Church we visited, “Just Getting Along”, those things should be important to you, too.
The Future isn’t just for raptures
When you imagine your life in the next few years, is this church still a part of it? Do you have kids? Could you have kids? Does your church have an adequate kid’s curriculum? How does the church handle hard questions? Eventually, you’ll probably have a few. How much support does the church give its parishioners? As your interests and hobbies change, will the church give you the freedom to become who you want to be, or will it stifle your growth?
Putting the “offer” back in “offering”
It’s difficult to judge on your first Sunday, but look around at the others in the congregation. What can you offer them? What can they offer you? Getting involved in a community revolves around sharing yourself. If you look around and feel uncertain that there is anything to be learned or taught from the person sitting next to you; it’s worth noting. I’m not saying if you’re not sure what you can bring to the table that you should just leave, but make yourself a note to look for opportunities or ways you can serve that allow you to feel fulfilled.
Churches: Advocating “Group-Dating” since 200 A.D.
The pastor might be the face of the church, but it’s not just about him (or her). Neither is it about how amazing or terrible the worship was. Finding a church is about finding a community. Once again, look around. The people that are sitting all around you, they are the ones you’re going to be building relationships with. Are you interested in who they are? In hearing their stories? If not, you might want to rethink exactly what you’re doing there, and if that is more about you or them. If, however, you’re excited at the prospect of getting to know these people, then dive in!