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This article is from Issue 60: Nov/Dec 2012

A Good Church Is Hard to Find

The ins and outs of church shopping, hopping and hunting.

You've been let down before, but this weekend—you’re sure of it—you’re going to meet “the one.” You deliberate through a half-dozen outfit possibilities, dressing to dazzle on a first impression. Then you brush your teeth, hope for the best and head out the door to one of the trendiest new spots in town.

It’s not a first date, but sometimes finding a church can feel like one.

Especially when you’ve been out of the groove for a while. Maybe you grew up in the church but life has gotten so busy you kind of quit going. Maybe church has never been your thing in the first place. Or maybe you’ve been burned and are tentatively wading back into the scene years later. Whatever your reasons, you don’t have a church you’d call home right now—and when your relatives ask you about it over the holidays, you fake a smile and change the topic.

But maybe today’s the day it’s going to be different. Perhaps today you’ll find the church you only thought existed in your dreams and in late-night reruns of 7th Heaven.

As you slide into a back seat in the sanctuary, you find yourself keeping a running tally of pros and cons. Could you commit to this place? How are the small groups? Are you connecting with the worship? What are the service opportunities? Where are all the hot singles?

It’s easy to romanticize the perfect Christian community. But when you visit a church, a wish list can actually get in the way of the real essentials you need to consider when finding a church home.

The Problem With Lists

The problem with mental catalogs for the perfect church or spouse is that they often miss the heart of the matter.

That is, they’re missing the heart, period.

Lists tend to focus on quantifiable features, which are all too often just surface issues. The way people dress. The songs they sing. The types of cars that fill the parking lot. What coffee brand the café or bookstore uses. How many members are in the handbell choir.

While there’s nothing wrong with personal preference, preferences should not be equated with essentials. Such expectations can set people up for disappointment—perhaps contributing to the seven out of 10 young adults who went to church as teens and dropped out by age 23, according to a LifeWay Research survey.