We are looking for a new church.
In our nearly fourteen years of marriage, we’ve never had to do this. We’ve left churches twice before, but we always knew where we were going next. This time, we don’t know. It’s a bit disorienting, to be honest. We have a ridiculous array of options. (We live in a area with anywhere from 2-5 churches every square mile.) One of our first hurdles is figuring out where to start.
I’ve found some resources with advice on how to get established in a new church, (something we have done before) and on how to leave a church without burning bridges (also something we’ve done, with varying degrees of success). But I haven’t found much on the process of actually finding a church — of identifying what you’re looking for, breaking that down into characteristics that you can spot in a prospective church, working out a process, and then actually executing that process.
I know many people have to find a new church, and I’ve done it as a child with my family a few times. But this is the first time my husband and I are at the helm, setting the course, and making the decisions. He goes into this reluctant and discouraged, while I am skipping along excited about the prospect of meeting people and going on a spiritual adventure. What we do have in common with this church search, besides a mutual conviction that we must find a new church home, is that we’re writers. We both decided (independently, I might add) to write about it and share the good, bad, and ugly on our blogs. (For Scott’s take, read here.)
Each of us has our own preferences and theological leanings, so we will have different criteria and will prioritize those criteria differently. To pull a random fictitious example out of the air, I may be willing to compromise on the size of the church but insist on a specific version of the Bible, while you’ll be willing to compromise on the version of the Bible used but insist that the church be large enough to support a coffee shop, bookstore, and verse-themed golf course. But if I know you prefer mega-churches with golf courses, I’ll understand why you would find a smaller church with a parking lot instead of a lawn unsatisfactory and I won’t take it as a personal insult.
In the next post in this series, I’ll talk more about how we’re approaching this (at least for now – we will change as needed). I will try to describe what we think the church should look like, so you’ll know how I’m assessing each prospective church. My hope is being descriptive like this will reduce or eliminate the possibility of hurt feelings along the way.
A word to local readers: I won’t name any names, for two reasons. One, I don’t reveal our location on the blog. I will delete all comments that reveal our location. If you have a suggestion or question, please email me instead of commenting on the blog. Also, I don’t want to hurt or offend anyone who attends and loves XYZ Church by saying “I didn’t like XYZ Church.” Please avoid naming churches or leaving mean-spirited attacks on churches. I know all too well how much hurt and pain has been perpetuated by churches on individuals. But my purpose with this series is not to engage in church bashing. I want to keep the atmosphere constructive and positive wherever possible. I will remove mean-spirited comments at my discretion. I also will not write about the church we left. Many dear friends remain there, and we are working hard to maintain those friendships. I do not want anything I say or write to hurt them or our relationship.
As we begin our journey, what advice do you have for us? Have you ever looked for a new church? How did you go about it? How long did it take to find a new home church?