Finding the right church can be a daunting task. For those who are new to the faith, there are so many different options including various denominations, size, types of music, age range, etc.
So how do you find the one that is right for you?
In my own family's experience, God has taken us on a journey through a number of churches. Though I was raised Southern Baptist, my husband was raised in the Church of God. And though those backgrounds were important, they weren't the be all, end all.
In our first few years after marriage, we attended a small, but growing, General Baptist church on the outskirts of town. This church became an anchor for us as we started our family and then began walking through some very difficult and dark days of marital challenges.
If it had not been for all the prayers of our relatives and our church family, not to mention the support of a more seasoned married couple who taught our Sunday School class, we probably would not have stayed together.
Several years later, we moved to a new community two hours north. That brought us to a very traditional Baptist church, where I worked on staff for over 13 years and my husband served as a deacon.
This church, though they had their share of struggles, became our family, and we made many great memories there. When God showed us that our season (there) had come to a close, we moved our membership to a larger church in another town, and for the next seven years we served there, again with me being on staff for a time as women's ministry director.
As our family dynamics altered a bit...kids grew up and moved out; jobs changed; etc., we found ourselves in a mega non-denominational church about 30 minutes from our home, and over the next six years, and due to Covid restrictions, a move, and other circumstances, made our way back to The Ridge Church where I had once served the women. It was like coming back home after a very long journey.
With all that said, then, how do you find the right fit? Here are five things I would recommend:
Pray - It sounds pretty simple, but it should be the first thing you do. Always seek God's wisdom as to where He is leading you and where best you can serve Him.
Do your research - not all churches are created equal. Unfortunately, not all are preaching God's Word, therefore, you need to diligently check out a church's mission statement; their vision; but more importantly, their core beliefs. Ask these questions: Who do they say God is? Who do they say Jesus is? Do they believe in the Trinity? What do they believe about Christ's return? What do they believe about sin? What is their stance on salvation? Do they talk about hell? What do they say about baptism? How do they disciple new believers? What are the hierarchy/roles in the church? All these things will give you a pretty accurate picture of what they believe.
Visit - You won't know if you don't go. Visit the church several times. Get a feel for their services. What type of music do they have? What type of preaching (topical or expository)? What activities do they offer? Are they welcoming?
Scope out the dynamics - Are there a lot of children/no children? If kids' presence are slim to non-existent, then that can give a picture of a dying church. Children, and lots of them, often point to the fact that the church is reaching out, is growing, and is offering "nourishment" for families. Those are signs of a healthy church.
Observe their prayer/worship - Are they a praying church? Do they have a prayer ministry? Does it seem as if the Holy Spirit is present in the worship time, or more of a show? A church who prays is a church who has their eyes on the Lord. A church who can worship freely without all the bells and whistles...who chooses to honor God verses honoring man, is a church who cannot be held back from the Lord's power to move.
This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but hopefully it gives you some ideas to get started.
The most important thing is that you go. The writer of Hebrews reminds us in Hebrews 10:25, to "not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching."
The Church is a necessity to the believer. It is a place where we can go and find encouragement from others; be challenged to dig into God's Word; and use our spiritual gifts to further the Kingdom. It was never meant to be a suggestion, but rather a command of God.
So...hope to see you in church on Sunday!