9 Guidelines for a truly intentional Church Shopping Experience
Bringing everything together, here are 9 steps you can take to maintain a purposeful attitude while on your church shopping journey:
1. Before anything else, spend some time in prayer.
If you truly want to find a church home, that place will be where God calls you to be. Rather than focusing your energy on where you want to be, spend time in conversation about where God needs you to be.
2. Acknowledge your preferences, but don’t only look at churches that fit those parameters.
Finding a church home should not be all about what you like. Oftentimes, the places that we want to be are not where we need to be. Its okay to like a certain type of worship style or a certain size of church, but don’t walk into your experience married to the idea of a very specific type of church or worship experience. Its important to explore a variety of worship styles. Luckily we live in a diverse world where people worship God in so many different ways. Take the time to explore things that are outside of your expectations. I’ve often found joyful worship in the places I least expected.
3. Get outside of your comfort-zone and embrace the uncomfortable
Lets face it, church shopping is an uncomfortable process. Walking into a new church every weekend is sometimes a daunting task. You’re always meeting new people and are constantly on edge and unsure of the traditions and routines. But its in those uncomfortable moments that you’ll encounter remarkable experiences.
4. Talk to the greeters—let them welcome you!
The unfortunate expectation of church greeters is that they will often miss you as you walk in the door. In the video shown on the church marketing page, What if Starbucks Marketed Like a Church? A Parable, the greeters are seen talking to one another rather than actually doing their job. Ideally, they’d be there to welcome you. In fact, Kevin and Sherry Harney argue that “A healthy church will seek to enfold people into the life of their fellowship. Open arms and open hearts show that a church values community…The church is like a loving and supportive family. If a church is committed to enfolding people and embracing them in a loving fellowship, this is a strong indicator that their purposes are in line with the bible1.” Bottom line: if the greeters are willing to sit and talk with you, that’s a great sign! Ask them questions and don’t be afraid to introduce yourself!
DISCLAIMER: Its always important to remember that individual people do not make up the church. This is something to consider throughout your entire process. One person failing to treat you the way you’d like to be treated should not mean that you ignore the rest of the things you observe and take in at a church.
5.Observe Worship in a purposeful manner
The worship service is an incredibly important (though not everything) aspect in your process of finding a new church. Be intentional in the way you observe! Ask yourself, do you see joyful worship? Meaningful worship? How does the congregation respond to the worship service?
To read a full description on how to maintain purposeful worship observations, go to the Worship Service Observation page.
6. Ask questions ask questions ask questions!
Throughout your entire visit, asking questions is so important! Even if you would rather just take it in yourself, coming up with questions to ask is a good way to further engage yourself in your visit. Consider asking questions about:
- Specific worship practices
- Volunteer Opportunities
- Children’s/Student Ministries
- Small Group Ministries
- Church’s beliefs and mission statement
These types of questions can help give you a better understanding of the church as a whole, and may help you get further plugged in.
7. Remember to maintain personal connections: they’re important!
If anything else, introduce yourself to multiple people. If you can, say hello to the pastor. Fostering relationships is a good way to generate further conversation and get to know the community within the church.
8. Seek spiritual growth, not complacency
You shouldn’t be looking for a church that will make things easy. “A church that is in line with God’s purposes will seek to edify the members of the body by helping them grow into full maturity2.” Churches should challenge you to grow, not allow you to remain stagnant. Spiritual growth comes in many forms, but churches who challenge are those that value mentorship, small group/communal experiences, and service and missions. On your visit, ask about opportunities in these different areas, and even ask outright about their views on spiritual growth.
9. Don’t judge, evaluate and pray
Be cognizant of the opinions you’re forming about each church you visit. Ask yourself: is it a judgement of their execution? A judgment of a single person? Certainly discuss the pros and cons, but be mindful of your own approach. It is so easy to fall into the trap of judging a church because of little issues. Consider: if you join that particular church, are those issues going to push you further from God? Pray over these questions and take the time to discern whether God is calling you towards a particular church.
1. Harney, Kevin, and Sherry Harney. Finding a Church You Can Love and Loving the Church You’ve Found. Zondervan, 2003. pg. 21-22.
2. Harney, Kevin, and Sherry Harney. Finding a Church You Can Love and Loving the Church You’ve Found. Zondervan, 2003. pg. 22.