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Intersection of Life and Faith

How to Choose a Church

  • 1998 29 Dec
How to Choose a Church
Looking for and choosing a church home can be an exasperating experience, especially if you don't know where and how to begin that selection process. Today, there are numerous kinds of churches with varying theologies, ministry philosophies, programs and styles to choose from. The following is a list of 20 questions to help you sort out the issues and choose the right church home for you and your family.

1. What does this church believe doctrinally?
Every church has a statement of faith that identifies it's basic theological positions. You should review it carefully and be in basic agreement with that statement before settling on your choice.

2. Am I comfortable with the "style of worship"?
The style of worship reflects, to some degree, a church's values, and who they are trying to reach out and minister to. The fact is, there is no right style or wrong style of worship. There are fine churches of liturgical style, traditional style, and various contemporary styles. A key question on this issue is "Do I feel comfortable with the worship style this church employs?"

3. Are my kind of people here?
Often, choosing a church is as much a cultural question as it is a theological one. We tend to settle in places, and with people, we can relate to.

4. What is the stated purpose or mission of this church? (And do its ministries and programs reflect that mission?)
A church, like any organization, tends to flounder without a knowledge and communicated awareness of its purpose.

5. What is the vision of this church?
Vision has to do with the future and the direction of the church. The questions of vision are "Does this church know where it's going?" and "Can I get excited about helping it move in that direction?"

6. What programs does this church have to offer to my children? Teen-agers? Family?
It is often stated that parents/families stay in churches where their kids are happy and their needs for creative spiritual nurture and growth are taking place.

7. What is the style of leadership at this church?
Churches have various styles and structures of leadership. Some are congregational rule, some are governed by elected or appointed boards, while others are led by one person. Knowing the kind of style and structure of leadership, how decisions are made, and personally respecting and valuing that style are important issues to work through before finalizing your choice of a church home.

8. What opportunities for service does this church afford me (now or in the future) to grow and maximize my gifts, talents, resources, and contribute to the growth and ministry of the body?
A key question to ask is, "Are the unique gifts God has given me valued by this particular congregation and how can those gifts find their expression most effectively in the life of this church?"

9. What is the reputation of the church in the community?
What is it known for? Does it have a positive or negative reputation? Why? Does the community even know the church exists?

10. Can I identify with the leadership of this church?
Like all organizations, churches also reflect the values and personalities of their leaders. In choosing a church, one should ask if these leaders are people they can respect, trust, follow, and relate to.

11. What was your "first" impression of this church?
First impressions, while they can sometimes be misleading, can and do reveal certain feelings and reactions to general impressions, particularly for new people looking for a church home. Don't discount your first impressions!

12. What are the priorities of this church?
Churches will generally have at least four priorities...its mission, its people, its programs, and its facilities. How a church ranks those in terms of priority will tell you about what's important to a church and how it works.

13. Is there a place in this congregation where I can know and be known by a group of people?
Sometimes individuals can get lost in a local church, especially if it's a larger congregation (over 300). Anyone can find a "home church" to attend and be anonymous in. A "church home" is different. It involves relationships and support and care with and for others as a community of believers.

14. What has been the history of this church?
Sometimes where a church has been can tell you a lot about where it's headed, especially in the last five years, and if the leadership has remained the same. Has it grown or declined? Why or why not? Are there existing problems or different "camps" within the congregation? Look before you leap!

15. Does this church have a strong youth ministry for teen-agers?
As a general rule, churches with strong youth ministries are churches that are meeting the spiritual needs of the whole family. The teen years are often the most difficult years of a family's adjustment and parents are most likely to go where their teen-agers are active, involved and growing.

16. What is the style and personality of ministry at the church?
Every church has a personality that marks "the way we do things around here." Ask yourself, "Can we live, act, and serve joyfully within that general environment?"

17. What is going on in and through the church outside of Sunday morning?
Look through the church bulletin. It will tell you a lot about what a church believes in, but more about how it acts. Also, take a look at the church budget. Where it allocates its funds will also tell you a lot about what it does and values.

18. What is the "feel" of this church?
Is it reverential and still or alive with activity? Is it joyful and exciting or peaceful and quiet? Is it empty or crowded? Depending on the kind of church you are looking for, these are some things people "feel" quite early in their "looking period".

19. What are the expectations for membership?
Once you know what's involved in choosing a church home, is this the kind of place where you can and will get involved?

20. Can I live with the things I don't like about this church?
No church is perfect. In fact, if you find the perfect church, don't join it -- you'll ruin it! The key is that you have investigated and been honest with yourself about what's important and that you can commit yourself to a body of believers moving in a particular direction.