When you find the right church, it becomes a second home — a place of warmth, encouragement, and love and where you're accepted.
The question is, how do you find a new church? Don't worry. A great church isn't a mythical place. It's not like searching for the lost city of Atlantis. With a little self-inventory and a few tips and tricks up your sleeve, you'll be able to find the right church for you and your family.
What to Look for in a New Church
So, you're new in town, and you're looking for a new church. It's time to dive in and start. Some cities have so many options — Methodist, Baptist, Orthodox, Dutch Reformed, and on from there. The choices can overwhelm even the most devout churchgoer. How do you even begin picking the right one for you?
Churches are like people. They've got their own personality. And just like people, you don't have to be besties with every single one. Some churches are just going to be a better fit for you and your style.
Before you start church hopping, make a list of what you'd like to see or experience. This list will help you know what you want ahead of time so you can narrow your search down. Here's where a little self-reflection comes into play. Consider the following criteria.
Before you call a church your own, it's important to know what they believe. Most churches have a mission statement or statement of faith that lets visitors in on what their core values are. As you start your search, you may encounter terms like doctrine or theology. But what you really need to find out is how they teach the Bible and how they practice their beliefs.
Type of Service
Church services comes in many different flavors, just like a scrumptious meal. Everyone's got their own taste preference, whether it's savory or sweet. As you prepare to for a church service, ask yourself what kind of church atmosphere you're looking for. Some denominations are heavy on the formal liturgy with a strict order of service. Chances are, you'll want to wear your Sunday best when dropping in. Other churches have a more informal setting, where coffee in-hand and blue jeans are the status quo.
No service is better or worse. It's all about what you want your church experience to look like.
Type of Worship
Worship is a key part of our church experience. It's an expression of love and appreciation to God. As you sing songs of worship, you allow yourself to dwell on the awe and wonder of His works in the world and in your life. Just like church services, there are many different worship styles churches use to express their adoration for God.
The two main types are traditional versus contemporary worship music. Some churches use organs and sing hymns that were written hundreds of years ago. Other churches only sing songs that were written in the last couple of years. Even contemporary church worship can be drastically different, from full bands and choirs to a lone worship leader with a guitar.
What style of worship will fuel your spirit and allow you to freely connect with God?
Ministries and Programs
One of the biggest blessings of being part of a church family is finding a real sense of community. Your church should be a place where you connect with other believers in a meaningful way. Some churches limit their congregational life to the Sunday service. Others have an elaborate network of programs, classes, productions, and more that keep you so busy that you seem to spend more time at church than at your home.
As you make your list, figure out what ministries and programs are important to you. If you've got kiddos, you'll probably want a church with a thriving children's ministry. Those with a passion for arts and drama may want a church that offers creative outlets. Get to know the ministries and programs available when you start visiting and see where you can plug yourself in.
Churches come in all shapes and sizes. You'll want to decide how big you want your church to be. Small churches tend to offer a more intimate, close-knit community. Yet you may not meet people your own age as tiny congregations often have limited demographics. Big churches usually have tons of ministry opportunities. However, you may feel a little lost among the crowd, finding it hard to make real connections.
As with all the other things you have to consider, it's all about your personal preference.
Choosing Your New Church Home
Now that you've got your handy-dandy checklist of what you want, it's time to check out some new churches. But where to start? Don't go block by block, checking out every church in your community. All you need is a little patience...and Google. Here are some tips on how to choose your new church home.
1. Ask Other Christians
If you know other believers in your community, ask for a few recommendations. It could be friends, co-workers, your local Starbucks barista — just strike up a conversation and ask them where they go to church.
2. Do Your Research
Wouldn't it be nice if you could ask a higher power if there are any "churches near me?" Well, hello Google! The internet is a great jumping-off point for finding your new church home. Plus, most church websites include all the essential questions you want to know, including location, service times, the church's core beliefs, and ministry opportunities. So, you can narrow your search before you even sit in a pew.
3. Get Your Fellowship On
For some church newcomers, there's no moment as terrible as when the pastor tells you to "Turn around and greet your neighbor!” Talk about awkward. However, even the most uncomfortable bit of small talk can lead to real friendships. So, get to know some of the church peeps, because you could soon be calling them your church fam.
4. Visit Three Times
Don’t be too quick to give up if you don't enjoy one or two things about the church. Give it the old college try, as they say. If you rush the process, you may miss out on a truly great connection.
5. Trust in God
While it may be hard, there is joy in the journey — and that's not just a phrase printed on coffee mugs and inspirational posters. Just be honest in your conversations with God and invite Him to be a part of this journey with you. You'll find that the process of finding a new church home allows you to interact with some pretty cool Christians and learn a lot about yourself.
Do You Call San Fransisco Your Neck of the Woods?
If you're looking for a new church home in the Bay Area, it's not like searching for the lost Ark of the Covenant. You don't have to go on an epic, archaeological adventure to track down a great church. All it takes is a short Google search and maybe a short drive.
At CornerstoneSF, we are a non-denominational, multi-ethnic, and multi-generational church family, and we welcome you as you are. We understand the temptation to take it easy on Sunday morning, stay in your bunny slippers, and listen to a podcast or watch church on TV. But if you're looking for some friends and face-to-face time with other Christians in San Francisco, plan to visit us at our Mission or Riordan locations.