When Em and I moved to Sydney we had to go through the process of finding a new church. This means that I have built up a vast amount of knowledge on how best to find and attend a new church. Some might even say I am now an expert on the matter. I thought I would share some of my key insights here. These tips will work for all kinds of Christians and even people who aren’t Christian but still like going to church.
1. Put aside at least a year to go looking for the right church
You can’t pick your family, but you can pick your church family, so take your time. Take plenty of time. There are probably lots of churches in your city. You’re looking for the one with the just the right balance of size, worship style, preaching, theology, lighting and technical effects, stage decoration, and eye-pleasing architecture. If you’re single keep an eye out for other good looking singles to date. If you’re in a couple keep your eye out for other good looking couples to double-date. If you have kids keep an eye out for good looking couples with good looking kids for your kids to playdate. There are plenty of moving parts to consider when selecting a church, so take your time. Chances are the perfect church is not close to home, so prepare to drive far. Your church community may not be in your community.
2. When you have chosen a church, stay uncommitted for as long as possible
If a church thinks you aren’t committed they’ll be friendly to you for longer in an effort to make you stay. This will mean you have more friends in that awkward time after the service. They may even invite you to meals and feed you for free in their attempts to woo you. If you have particular skills they are looking for on their volunteer roster you may also be able to swing some great perks like discounts to church camp and free tickets to evangelistic/fundraising trivia nights. As you do this make sure not to actually volunteer for anything. As they try to convince you to stay, you’ll feel valuable without actually having to add any extra value to the church.
3. Don’t join a small group for at least a year
Small groups can be a great way to get to know people, but with relationship comes accountability. If you actually realise after 8-months that the weirdo to normal-person ratio in the church is higher than you first thought, it’s very difficult to disappear if you’re committed to a small group. If you stop turning up to church they might call you and invite you out to coffee to see how you’re going, and nobody wants that. Things are easier if you just don’t have to explain yourself to anyone.
4. Don’t give (because while you’re uncommitted you are still technically a visitor)
When they say during the offering “If you’re a visitor here, feel free to let the bags pass you by” if you’re not in a small group or on a roster you’re still technically a visitor so you can feel free not to give. And according to the Bible (probably), you don’t need to give when you’re not committed to church so you can just keep that money for yourself. Perhaps put it aside for a nice dinner out or a holiday upgrade. God is most glorified when you are most satisfied in spending his money.
5. When you do commit, make a big deal about it
Let all the pastors know they you’re committing to the church. They’ll thank you and tell you what a great asset you’ll be and you’ll feel great about yourself. They’ll be so happy you’ve chosen their team over the heathens down the road. Always remember you don’t owe them anything – they need you, so you can probably get more out of your pastor than you think.
Once you have officially committed, don’t commit to too many things at once. If the pastor ever says something you don’t agree with you want to be able to push the eject button and find a new church (perhaps your number 2 pick) with minimal effort to yourself. Remember a church is not the building but the people, so as soon as the people start annoying you, the church has gone bad. Find a new church with better people. They’re out there if only you would go looking. I think Jesus said that.