Searching for the right church can be stressful and daunting.
Whether you have moved to a new place and need to find a church in your area or perhaps you do not have a home church and have started the search, the idea of trying to decipher which church is best for you can be difficult.
I truly believe that the decision on what church you attend is a big one, and there are some specific things that you should consider when making your decision. Most people pick a church based on the three b's - the building, the band, and the bathroom. No joke! While these aspects can play a role in deciding what church to attend, I would argue that these are a fraction of what should be considered.
In this post, I am going to highlight the 8 most overlooked aspects of finding a church. These aspects of your church search are critical to helping you find a place where you can be committed to for the long haul and experience spiritual growth in.
The leadership structure of a church is an incredibly important aspect to consider as you search for a church. Who is in charge? Is it led by one person who has full say over everything? Is it staff-led? Elder-led? Congregation-led? These are important things to consider. A big part of this has to do with accountability. What is the accountability structure at the church? If there is an issue in leadership who is it that addresses the situation?
There are numerous ways that churches structure their leadership. While the Bible is not specific as to what leadership model a church should choose it is certainly clear as to what type of people should be in the lead roles at churches. 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 are very clear about the qualifications for those who are in church ministry. While this might be difficult to decipher on a first or second visit to a church, you can get a sense for the character of those that lead by looking at the character of the people who follow them the closest.
Learning what the core beliefs of a church are is an incredibly important part of the church searching process. When I am looking at a church online one of the first things that I do is find the tab that says "What We Believe." This is incredibly important for discerning what the church is going to be teaching and what things they will not compromise on. In a world where relativism tends to reign, it is important to find a church that will not compromise on the core principles of faith and morality. Here are some important (but no exhaustive) core beliefs to consider:
The church's stance on the authority of Scripture
The church's belief on the nature of Jesus
The church's belief on the nature of God
The church's belief on sin
The church's belief on salvation
The church's stance on marriage
PHILOSOPHY OF MINISTRY
For the purposes of this post, the philosophy of ministry relates to how the church views their corporate gatherings. Are the corporate gathering geared towards connecting with the un-churched or unsaved? Are they geared towards equipping believers? Does the church try and do both? This is important to consider as it will have an impact on what the corporate gathering looks and feels like.
In general, church's that focus the corporate gathering towards the un-churched will gear their music towards songs ands styles that appeal across the board - even throwing in some pop-culture songs from time to time. The messages tend to deal with life situations and the atmosphere tends to be relaxed and casual. In general, church's that focus the corporate gathering towards believers will have songs, messages, and language that are more familiar to believers.
Which of these is a better fit for you? While the Bible is not specific on exactly what the structure of a corporate gatherings of believers should be, what is clear is that when believers come together there should certainly be some aspect of worship, some aspect of community, some aspect of teaching, and some aspect of serving on another. How a church accomplishes this is important to consider.
MISSIONS AND OUTREACH PHILOSOPHY
What does the church see their role in the city as being? What does the church see their role in the world as being? These questions will help you discover what the missions and outreach philosophy of the church is. This gets to the heart of the church's commitment to the Great Commission and will show you how you fit in making it happen.
CONNECTION AND GROWTH OPPORTUNITIES
In your church searching process, it is important to consider the mechanisms in place that allow people to connect together and what opportunities there are for spiritual growth. Some churches are small group focused and encourage people to get connected into smaller communities of people. These groups can range from activity-based groups to Bible study groups. Some churches see small groups as their primary tool for spiritual growth. Other churches view small groups as opportunities for social and spiritual connection, but also offer studies, classes, and even schools as opportunities for deeper growth. These are areas to consider as you are searching for a church. Which of these are going to help you thrive most?
CHILDREN'S AND YOUTH MINISTRY
While most parents are very tuned in to what a church offers for their kids, it is important to consider not only the presence of these ministries but also the quality of these ministries. Most church's offer some kind of children's and youth ministry. The questions you need to ask is, Are my kids being babysat, or are they being equipped? Believe me, there is a difference. Parent's should take a closer look at the kids and youth ministries to understand the philosophy behind them and ensure that their kids are not merely being entertained but equipped.
ROOTS OF THE CHURCH
This aspect of church searching is a little more in-depth, but it can be very helpful in understanding the culture of a church you are considering. The roots of a church have to do with the denominational history of the church. Even church's that label themselves "non-denominational" still have some roots in a denomination. For example, I was part of a church that labeled themselves "non-denominational" but had roots in the Charismatic Movement. This explained the emphasis this churched placed on the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer. I was part of another "non-denominational" church that had roots in the Baptist denomination. This explained some of the church's doctrinal emphasis.
Every church has some denominational influence. As you are searching for a church, learn about the history of the church and how it was founded. This will help you understand the roots of the church and give you a better sense as to the origins of the style and philosophy.
NETWORKS, AFFILIATIONS, & INFLUENCES
This is similar to the last thing, but as you are searching for a church it is important to consider what networks the church is a part of and what affiliations the church has. This can be helpful for giving you a sense of what other ministries the church is being influenced by. There are dozens and dozens of church networks and affiliations. Each of them have their own emphases, styles, and ministry philosophies. Becoming familiar with these can be of help in understanding where the church you are considering is heading and what their pattern of ministry is based on.
As you can see, there is much that should be considered when searching for a church home. This is certainly not an exhaustive list, but hopefully these 8 considerations will be of help to you in your church search journey.
The selection of a church is not something that should be taken lightly or done quickly. The role of the church in a person's life is too important to be done sloppily.
May you be led by God in your search for a church family.
May you find a church that glorifies God.
May you find a church and be committed for the long haul.
And may you find a church that will spur you on in your walk with Jesus.