Being a part of a church family is important to my husband and I. We want to be connected, be filled with His Word and grow in community. And we’ve learned (the hard way) what being disconnected does to our lives and our family.
But it can be hard to church shop. Hopping from church to church can be exhausting, and while I look forward to visiting a handful of new congregations, I wouldn’t want our list to be too long.
So Mi Amor and I sat down this weekend to really nail down what we wanted: what is non-negotiable or deal breakers, what we hope for and what we can live with/without. It’s a tough list – we loved our last church and were plugged into the men and women’s ministries, not to mention how much our toddler loved going every Sunday too. But I know in my heart we will find that again…and I’m excited to do that!
I know there are many out there that move often and find themselves in a season of searching. Hopefully these tips can help you settle and grow in your new community. And I pray you can keep a positive outlook through the whole process.
How to find a new church after a move:
Make a list. Just like us, figure out what you need, want and cannot live without. Also decide what is negotiable. Make a list just like you did when you were home shopping – it may sound absurd but it will be so helpful! For us, a children’s ministry is a must, while we are very hopeful for men and women’s ministries too.
Spend some time Googling. Search “churches near me” – or be very specific, “non-denominational churches near me” or “baptist churches near me.” I personally like near me vs. the town because it can pick up additional churches you may not find otherwise. If you have time, search both – you’ll usually get different listings for near me vs. your town.
Ask around. You may not know anyone, so Facebook groups and Nextdoor are great options. I did a search in our neighborhood’s Facebook group and a mom’s Facebook group before asking and there was a wealth of knowledge there where we could make a comprehensive list based on the comments and suggestions.
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Once you have your list…
Do some church intel. Read through the church’s websites, read reviews and do some Facebook stalking. We always thoroughly review a church’s mission and look for certain keywords (discipleship is important to us) and also words to avoid.
Watch their sermons online. You will get an excellent idea of the service style, sermon messages and size of congregation. We all have our own preferences and this is an excellent way to determine if the church matches (or doesn’t) some of your core values.
Make a schedule and start visiting. We added the top five churches to our calendar and started down the list. It is so important to visit in-person before making a definitive decision. One thing I have learned in our past experience finding a church, all the research in the world isn’t enough until you set foot in the church and meet the people behind the doors. While I know that church is more than the people, the building or even the pastor, you have to be comfortable in the space and want to building community. That is why so many options and styles exist!
Once you start visiting…
Take note of your core values. You’ve already noted what is important to you, so take note as you visit the churches. If a lively worship is important, how was it? How were the other people worshiping? How were you greeted? If you are married, were there other married couples? If you have children, how was the children’s ministry, the volunteers and how did your kiddo(s) like it after service? Jot or make a mental note of all these things, I promise you will appreciate your notes later when narrowing down your list!
Visit a second time. Before you get connected or make a final decision, visit at least one more time. We’ve left churches after our first impression was totally off. And, as horrible as it is to admit, we dismissed our last church a year before actually attending (and LOVING) because of a silly reason: they met in a gym. I couldn’t get past that, but later learned that it was because they made the decision to meet in the building they already had instead of having a capital campaign and asking for tons of money when the space was already available. Isn’t that amazing??? I hated myself a little inside for that decision.
Talk to other church members. Ask questions, make conversation, get a feel for why they attend. It not only gives you an insight into the church itself, but opens up that community I talked about earlier. It is so easy to remain anonymous, and even though we have done that too, it is not the purpose of church! Getting connected, serving, being discipled and discipling others, will ultimately grow you, your family and those you interact with. It is the way that we (the church) will reach others.
And through the entire process: PRAY.
This decision shouldn’t be taken lightly. Praying will open the communication with God to plant you exactly where you are intended to be.