The Journey of Finding a New Church

16
Mar
2015

Old wooden cross against wooden background. Sepia tone.

Fourteen years ago I stepped into a church, as a non-beleiver, searching for more.  My heart needed to know what my purpose was, about this God other’s talked about who loved them so much and what my future could be.  

I walked in one Sunday and stayed for nearly fourteen years.  

I gave my life to the Lord in that church, baptized myself and my daughter in that church, worked the welcome desk with my small children greeting other first-time visitors, participated in women’s ministry, watched my husband get baptized, found an incredible small group of woman that invited me in to share life with them and grew in my faith.

But our family entered a new season and we’ve known our time there has passed.  It has been time to move onto a different church and we’ve been struggling and fighting the transition.

It is hard.  It is painful.  You feel vulnerable and most of all, you have to begin again getting to know others – and as an introvert, it is very scary and so uncomfortable.  

This has been our season for the past nine months.  Visiting church after church each week to find one that is a fit for our family.  (And to be honest, there were many weeks we just skipped church because it was too exhausting….. and we would watch an online church service, which was better than nothing, but I know not what God has for us).

I know I am not the only one who passes through this season, so I thought I would share what I feel is important to look for when searching for a new church home.  Not that I am right or there are only certain things, but I think there are certain aspects of a church that are key in finding a home that feels just that – like home.

Worship

This is one of my highest ranking criteria for a church – to find one where I can feel completely at ease worshipping, singing, lifting my hands and feeling His presence.  I need this in my hurried pace I live in each day, a place to calmly lay it all down and be still.  Music fills a spot in my heart that nothing else can.

Children’s Ministry

As a mom of a five year old, finding a church were I feel my child can experience God in new ways that are not just my ways is important.  Being with children his age is important and finding a church that offers a somewhat structured approach to sharing and experiencing God’s word is critical. 

Serving

My husband knows we are being called to a church where we can be used to help others.  We have strengths and gifts that we can offer to help impact others – it is extremely important to my husband and I.  We learn so much through our life and when we share our giftings by serving we truly bless others.

Pastor Message

I need to hear from the Word of God each week.  I can do my own devotional time, which is my own discipline, but hearing from a Pastor who is gifted in sharing the Gospel in a way that I can identify and respond to is what feeds me.  Everyone has different needs, but for me I need to feel connected to a Pastor that I feel is genuine, authentic and realistic in the struggles we all face daily.

Small Group Community

No matter the size of the church I feel I grew more whenI was in a small group community.  You can be growing together as a group and it is exhilarating to be held accountable, be supported and know you have someone to call at 4 AM when things are going rough.  This is a top priority for us, finding a church where small group community is valued.

What other items would you add to the list, I am curious?  

This is a personal journey for us, and one that has affected me a great deal – more than I would have otherwise not realized.  Being without that “place” where I belong in my faith has dampened my spirit just a bit.  But I know we need to persist and He will lead us to the place He has next for us.

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Help Susan Help These Children!
  • Candice Van Bree

    Your list is right on. We recently moved and found a new parish that we love. Lots and lots of children and full of life! Our new parish also has a wonderful outreach in the community; the local little league uses the facilities as needed, they offer Faith and Fitness, and run a thrift store that operates on volunteers and donations, and they help operate the local food bank in the next County. While these were not criteria for our new church while we were looking, they have been wonderful surprises that make us happy to be a part of our faith community! Best of luck as God leads you to a new church home!

  • Lisa W

    I can so understand where you are coming from. About a year ago I left the church I was in because of a lot of reasons.
    I took my children somewhere else, somewhere that had all the right things.
    However, my oldest child hated going, even though they did a much more interactive and fun children’s church.
    I realised that, well heck I am already saved, and my biggest priority about church is my children.
    So, we now go back to the church I was at, and because I have realised church is not about me getting what I want, but going to see what I can give – well, it is a whole lot better.

    I have seen time and time again, people move church just because they want to, or dont like some thing. And what a detrimental affect that has when you have not sought what GOD actually wants.
    I once prayed about moving church when I was in my early 30’s as the preaching every week was milk.
    It was 3 years before God let me move on.

  • Marsha

    For me, it’s important to have a church whose priesthood leaders are fully converted to His gospel. A people of faith who can help me as I learn to be converted; as I build my faith in God and Jesus, repent, and try to always follow His commandments. I don’t know of anyone who has “finished” in the conversion process… It’s a lifelong path of consistently studying the word of God and living it. However, it’s important to me to have leaders who know how important it is to continually come unto Christ and live his teachings. Your point about authentic messages hit spot on for me. I need people who, despite challenges life throws at us, are trying to follow the same principles of righteousness.

  • Cheryl

    This struggle should not be a burden for you and your family. Pray and ask the Lord where he wants you…then release it to him and wait for his leading. Be before him everyday and he will show you the way. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is to be still and wait.

  • JRoba

    I feel SO blessed and thankful for you sharing this. We are in the EXACT same season of life. My husband and I attended different churches before we met, then I became a part of his, worked on staff after 2 years and just last year (after having our 2nd child) we stepped back to evaluate everything and felt that a lot of things were pointing us to a new church as a family unit with a fresh start. SO HARD. We’ve been on a search since December and like you, take some Sundays off just because it feels so challenging and we’re so displaced. I’m used to community, involvement and digging deep. Although it has been very excited to see how each church operates and what the pros and cons can be as you welcome new attendees (I find this incredibly intriguing having been on staff at 2 churches previously), it’s hard to feel “homeless” in this season. We’re getting closer but even when we decide on a new church home, it’s going to take time before we feel cozied in. We know that. Again, I’m so thankful I’m not alone in this feeling. I pray that you find the place God would have you.

  • Thank you for sharing, what you feel… I feel too. I love your term “cozied in” that is how I want to feel 🙂

  • Thank you for your wisdom, we have been praying….. believe me….. but I do believe we have to be active in our part as well….. so we will.

  • Katie

    We are in this same position right now. We left our church two months ago that we have been at for the past 8 years and before that were at it’s sister church that planted it for 6 years. Very difficult! Your list is wonderful! One thing I would add that has really been on my heart in our search is, love. Does the pastor, leadership, and in turn, the body, love well? Is their love for one another evident? Also, missional. Are they a church living out the great commission in their community and the world? Great things to look for! Love this post!

  • Gloria C Whitmire

    We were joined a church and realized too late it was not a good fit I caught the pastor giving a sermon I found online but overlooked it because I thought maybe he was having rough time. Then I watched as each new couple or family joined the church had a spot for them but not for us….we finally left and went in search ugh! Then we found such a welcoming place and stayed for a good long while though when we offered to help we were turned down and once we realized they were preaching things we just did not believe! Then another which just felt like home and opportunities for us to serve, but then limitations on teaching because they had a fear of people being driven away if we were too “by the book”…tried compromise which I can not stand because I know the Word and what I am commanded, but I diud not want to cause anyone not to come. Now they are introducing a new decipleship program which I thought would be good until the guy said on the video if someone was singing and sounded horrible they can’t sing any longer…if members don’t like the changes they can leave…you have to take a test to see if you are meant to teach if not you have to give it up, etc etc..this is all tossing out the Word of God! Basically he is talking about how to build a mega church and anything that doesn’t fit goes! We already have one of those and ifI wanted that I would have went. Now I don’t know where to go from here. There are not many options close by because the mega church took most people and caused doors to close. I am heartsick and my daughter too. She is in college to become a teacher and has had to take these structured tests and they never say she should be a teacher but that is her heart. This means she couldn’t teach at church any longer either unless she passes a test. We are on the brink of church at home!

  • Connie Lawless

    We moved five years ago and the only church we are comfortable with is almost two hours away. We sensed a lot of political stuff going on so we haven’t went back. I am waiting for God to show me the chuch for us.

  • Danielle Fields

    We are in the same position! On the search for the right church home; when we moved back home we had a baby at the same time, which kept us going to church for a while. However, now that she is almost 2, we know we need to get involved. It is difficult for us, because there aren’t too many to choose from when you live on an island. We like one that is on the other side of the island, but that is difficult for making friends, small groups, etc. Praying we are lead to the right church soon, and you are as well 🙂

  • Gloria C Whitmire

    Absolutely agree

  • Cheryl R

    Although my list would look differently from yours I think financial stability is something to consider. Unbeknownst to me at the time, we were attending a church which has just undergone a split and there was always a deficit in the church budget. It is discouraging to attend a church that struggles in that way.

    It is really a shame that we have to go through so much trouble to find a “good” church anymore…When we were children you could just go anywhere and the word of God was preached and everything was above board, Nowadays we really have to work at it! It is a shame. We may be looking soon too. This post is really timely for a lot of us.

  • Cheekyrafiki

    We have just moved to a new town, a new country, a new continent. Love your list and can definitely relate to all of your points … one other thing we looked for was how welcoming the churches we visited were, knowing that also reflected the heart of the people.

  • Cindy

    Does anyone have input on keeping your children with you as a family instead of being separated by the kids going to children’s church?? There is a book called Weed in the Church that speaks about this. There is also a short movie titled Divided that is about how segregating the children from the parents in church may not be biblical. Just wondering what other mothers are thinking about this.

  • Karen

    I grew up in a plain fellowship that the children are always w/ the parents! We do not have a separate location for our children at all, either by nursery or childrens church or whatever. Yes sometimes we have to take our children out but the blessings of having our children w/ us far outweighs the thoughts of someone else “teaching” my children & I don’t have any idea what is being taught. we are “taught” by the minister called to preach that sunday. (we do not pay our preachers so have more than one & they take turns.) Of course our children are now older, but if we had to search for a new church when they were younger we would have looked for one that kept children w/ them. or if we would have found one we liked just kept them w/ us. and to answer your question I have found nowhere in scripture where we are suppose to separate our children from us in church. Jesus called all the little children too him 🙂 God’s blessings to everyone in their search for truth!

  • Ninja Granny

    I have left a church several years ago, I wanted my daughter to have children her age and a have a good program where I knew she was being taught from the Bible and not just entertained. I stay at my church because I can line up what the pastor says with what the Bible says. As long as we are worshipping I am happy. We are taught how to treat others from the Bible and how to settle differences; whether I get to do things or not is opportunity to exercise and grow in Christ likeness. As Pastor teaches the Bible, I realize I have been wrong sometimes about things and I also feel challenged to do things that may be hard, but they are right according to God. A church family is a place where people are held together not because we always agree, but we always work it out and want to work it out; because – well- we are family. We are held together by our love of the Bible and all it teaches.

  • Cindy

    Thank you so much for your input, Karen. This is what I feel the Holy Spirit is showing me. We tryed a new church recently and right when we walked in it was assumed that the children were to be ushered away down stairs to participate at “their level”. I know they try to make it fun, but they watch Veggie Tales at home. My husband and I talk to our children so they can understand and they do understand a great deal and don’t need special instructions or teaching. It just does not feel natural to be separated. I have not found anything in the Bible either about segregating the family. God Bless! 🙂

  • Karen Sue

    I’m a Karen, too. I have always felt that kids in church was good. It’s good for kids to watch their parents doing things to copy them. If kids see you reading, they are more apt to read. If they see you helping in the kitchen, they will be more helpful themselves. If they disappear during church, they have nothing to follow. Our church has nursery, but it’s supposed to be only for church under school age. Mine only went into nursery when it was my sunday to be there. I have a special respect for the dad in my church who sits in the fellowship hall with his wiggly kids and they don’t get to go to the play room. They soon learn to sit quietly. singing happens…bible are opened and read…praying….preaching…Bible people are talked about… did you guess I’m not a fan of children’s church during regular church. I love sunday school and have taught kids in the past and now have adult women. after church, not in place of church.
    If approached, just smile and say “We prefer to worship together, but thanks for asking.” Then involve your kids. Even if it is drawing a picture about the sermon…or coloring a Jesus picture during the message. Guess what – they are your kids. If they are sitting quietly, keep them with you. If they are disturbing others, take a walk and come back to the back of the church. It won’t take too many Sundays and they will ‘get it’. Hang tough, momma!!

  • Cindy

    Thank you for the encouragement, Karen! This is a big deal to me and I do not have many like minded people I know to share this with. It is very refreshing!

  • Jenn Schilling Hooper

    Thank you for sharing. Our church of 13 years closed last year. We have two kids under 3. Exhausting doesn’t even begin to describe it. It’s so discouraging. I hope since this was posted you have found something that fits?

  • Cristy Jenkins

    I just love your heart! <3

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