At some point just about every Christian will be looking for a new church. However very few go through this process with a plan. Rather than just winging it, we should ask ourselves some questions to help us find the right church. These questions will help you identify what you are searching for and how to find the right church.
If you are considering leaving your current church then you need to ask the question, How Do You Know When It’s Time to Leave Your Church?
Two Questions To Ask Before You Visit
Before you step foot in a church you need to ask yourself these questions.
1. What do I need to grow?
Where are you in your relationship with God? Whether you are barely a Christian (maybe even not a Christian) or been a Christian for many decades we all have things we can learn and ways we can grow. It comes down to the community. Life is better together. We need each other. That’s what the church should be providing. A place where you can come in with your baggage and leave looking a little more like Jesus.
So what do you need to grow? What do you need to learn? What do you need so that you can better live and love like Jesus did?
2. What do I have to give?
Don’t look for a church to join. Look for a place where you can be the church. Christians aren’t called to go to church, it’s not about attendance. It’s about being the church. So find a place where you can use your gifts, your skills, to benefit those in the church and those outside the church.
Ask yourself, what is it that I have to give? Find a church that needs, or can benefit, from what you have.
Evaluating The Churches You Visit
There’s no such thing as a perfect church. Every. Single. Church. Will fall short at some point. They will let you down. They will make mistakes. Don’t look for a perfect church, because you won’t find one. I’ve seen so many people jump from church to church just looking for that perfect one. You’re wasting your time.
While you shouldn’t wait for the perfect church, you should find a healthy church. One that falls short of following Jesus but is actively getting better. One that shows signs of health and not toxicity.
Let’s look at a few questions you can ask to determine the health of a church.
1. What’s their vision and how are they reaching for it?
Most churches will have some semblance of a vision. Essentially it says Here’s where we are going and here’s what we are about. Let me let you in on a secret… Almost every church has a vision. Many don’t actually live out their vision. Look through their website, read about their programs, even ask a pastor or member how they live out their vision. The vision is important; how they are accomplishing it is more important.
2. How do they equip the people to do the work of the church?
Somewhere in the past several decades, we have bought into the assumption that the pastor(s) do the work for the church and the members come and partake. And occasionally bring their neighbor. We’ve got that backward. The pastor(s) should equip the members to do the work of the church. A healthy church will focus on that. When visiting a church see how they use their people and train their people to do the work of the church.
3. Is there unity in the body and the leadership?
This one can be tough to figure out, and it can take some time. But few things are worse than a divisive church, so it’s worth doing some digging.
How people treat each other, how the leadership treats the people, and how the people talk about the leadership are all important. Ask the same questions to a few different people and see if the answers align. Ask how conflict is handled (with examples). Observe how people treat each other. The point isn’t to find a perfect church with no problems but rather a church that handles problems well.
4. Where do they spend their money?
One of the best indicators of the health and priorities of a church is looking at the budget. Where does their money go? How much do they give away? Is it balanced? Look at percentages, not totals. A church of 5,000 people is going to have to spend a lot more on a building than a church of 500; the percentage gives you a better picture.
Most churches won’t publish every detail, such as individual staff salaries, and that’s normal. But others won’t share their budget at all, or just show one lump amount. That’s a huge red flag. If a church isn’t willing to share where your money is going they aren’t trustworthy enough to give to.
Don’t Get Stuck on Nonessentials
Working for a church one of my favorite things is meeting people new to the church. I love hearing people’s stories and what brought them in. One of the questions I always ask is Why are you here? How’d you find us? A common response is well my church, they stopped this ministry. Or they don’t teach this obscure theological position anymore. Or they started doing x… Whatever x is. Many of those things are nonessential. Don’t get caught up on things that don’t matter.
Now I know there are some issues and traditions that might be very important to you. Write down the few things that are essential and let go of the rest. Otherwise, you will just end up jumping from church to church and never finding a place to settle in.
You will never find a perfect church. You will never find a church that does everything the way you like it. At the end of the day, that’s not what it’s about. It’s not about you anyway. Church is about being a part of a community that is following Jesus together. It is about encouraging and challenging one another. It is about being the body of Christ.
So don’t look for the perfect church. But do look for a healthy church. One that you can find community in. I agree with the vision. Be equipped. Be used. Grow. Find community. And trust the leadership.
Let’s hear from you! What do you look for when searching for a church? Or what caused you to go to the church you currently attend?