Community Considerations For Finding The Right Church
Next to the practical considerations, the next thing you’ll most likely notice about a church is it’s community. It may take a little investigation on your part to better understand a church’s community, and it is likely one of the first things you’ll want to ask of a pastor, staff member, or leader in the church that you meet.
Pastor Or Leaders That Can Disciple You
This is perhaps the most important consideration when evaluating a new church. Do you feel compelled to grow in your faith from the worship, teaching and preaching that you encounter at a given church? Does a church inspire to deeper exploration of Jesus? Do you feel that the speakers and leaders are passionate about fostering the growth of their congregation? There are many ways that you can think about this topic, and every person has unique needs when it comes to the area of faith development. But if you absolutely love everything about a church except the worship, teaching and preaching, keep looking – because your primary objective needs to be finding a place where you can grow.
Would you like to be in a church where everyone knows you, or would you prefer to not be noticed so easily? A smaller church will, by it’s nature, bringing you more directly into relationship with a larger percentage of the church, including the pastor and leadership.
On the other hand, you might not have a lot of access to the pastor in a massive church, and instead find yourself more closely aligned with specific ministries and their leaders. Larger churches will also likely have many more activities and ministries to choose from. Medium size churches are usually somewhere in the middle. What size community would you like to be part of?
Worship Music Style
I’ve elected to put worship music style under community considerations, because it is usually the church community that dictates the style of music predominantly heard within a church.
Generally, you’ll find worship services that are described as either being “contemporary” or “traditional”. Contemporary services feature a “rock band” and music written recently. Traditional services feature music led on piano and organ and feature hymns, which are much older, classic songs within the faith tradition. One might also encounter “blended” services, which attempt to feature both contemporary and traditional music within a given service.
A full discussion of worship music in a church service is far beyond the scope of this article. However, it is almost certainly one of the first things that you’ll want to look into, depending on your personal tastes.
Emphasis On Outreach
Some churches focus extensively on reaching new people, serving in mission, and generally focus much of their energy outwardly. Other churches focus more intently on congregational care and tending to the personal and spiritual needs of the people they have presently in the church. Depending on your needs and desires, you may want to consider a church’s emphasis on outreach in your decision making process, since much of the vision and activities of the church will likely revolve around outreach activities.
Age Of Congregation
Are the people at a given church, by and large, of the age range that you’re looking for? Many churches have different services and other segments catering to specific ages, interests and worship styles – so make sure you at least ask someone if you find the service you attended is mostly populated by an age group you weren’t expecting.
Age And Stability Of The Church
Joining a church plant, or a church in the process of revitalization, will be a very different experience from becoming part of a well-established church. A newer church may be in the process of uncovering its identity, and your presence will play a role in that discovery. On the other hand, a more established church likely understands its mission and role in the community, and you are stepping into established patterns. Furthermore, church plants may be exploring new means of worship and community, while established churches have usually found what works for them. If you’re more adventurous in general, a new church may be up your alley. If stability is something you’re seeking in a church community, you may find a longer established church to be of more value to you personally.
Acceptance Of A Wide Range Of People vs. Similar Congregants
Some churches are populated by very similar people. Others are full of people from all walks of life. Some churches primarily target middle class families, while others churches seek a broad array of people from wide backgrounds. Still others focus on more at-risk populations, including families suffering from addiction, poverty, and abuse issues. You may seriously want to consider if you are looking for a church filled with people similar to you, or a church where you can encounter people from different backgrounds, lifestyles – and perhaps profound brokenness.
Churches, although non-profits, require money to function – it’s just a simple reality. Many churches today are struggling to make ends meet, while some may seem to have an endless abundance of resources. If you become part of a church, your decision to contribute financially will eventually become a topic for you, so it’s a good idea to evaluate your perspective on spending within a church. Again, this is a subjective topic – the circumstances of each church vary considerably. It may also be difficult to ascertain answers about financial responsibility early on in your new relationship with a church. Still, you may want to look for clues that will tell you about the financial state of a given church, and then ask yourself if you are comfortable.
Up Next – Understanding Church Leadership
If you are looking for a church to settle into, it is probably best to understand their leadership model before becoming too attached! Far too often, when a person decides to leave a church after a year or two, it is over the issue of church leadership.
So let’s take a look at the most important topics for evaluating if a church’s leadership model is something you can get on board with!
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