Have you ever been “church shopping?”
Chances are if you have moved and tried looking for a new church, you have gone shopping for a church. For many, finding a new church home becomes a daunting and intimidating journey.
You would think that as an Army brat, growing up moving every two years and always meeting new people, I would be the best greeter at my church. If you have checked out the Tribe’s bio page, Abby even titled me as “connector,” yet one area I feel I fail at time and time again is greeting and introducing myself to new people at our church.
After moving to Virginia, I started attending church with my husband where his family have been members for over 70 years. I enjoyed the pastor’s sermons and made myself at home. It felt like a good fit and one that didn’t take much effort. I am forever grateful for this since I sort of “married into it,” which was definitely divine intervention!
For a girl who didn’t grow up around family, it was exciting to feel I like I knew everyone at our church. Of course, I really didn’t know everyone, but it felt like I did and that allowed me to coast through the next 6 years without having to introduce myself to too many people.
As the years went on, I eased into my new role of being a “long time member” and started assuming I either knew everyone or they knew me, or at least we recognized each other enough to give a warm smile!
Then, a funny thing happened. I looked up from my baby and toddler and realized our church had grown!
Logically, I knew it was happening.
We were in the process of building a bigger sanctuary. Yet, I realized I wasn’t introducing myself to any more people than I had been years prior.
I will admit, there were times I would try to reach out to someone and would end up sticking my foot in my mouth. “Are you new here?” “No, we have been coming here for 3 years.” Truth be told, it was just easier to focus on the craziness underfoot and save my comfortable hellos for the people I knew rather than risk embarrassing myself.
About now is when you might be asking yourself why someone who never went “shopping for a church” is offering some advice on the subject.
My best answer is that even though I am not great at the introductions, I love welcoming people in once the ice has been broken!
My passion is for people to feel connected and truly part of the body of Christ, whether it is at church or sitting alone at home reading a random blog post! I want to give you a big hug and let you know that it’s okay to feel nervous or scared when you are visiting a new church.
There are already a lot of great blog posts out there (try this one) about finding a new church, but I wanted to offer some insight into the people you are meeting.
If you don’t get the warm fuzzies from someone right away, remember that they may have the best intentions. They might just have their own fears and reservations about meeting new people or are simply just trying to get in and out of church before any major meltdowns (you know if you are in that season of life, survival mode!).
We are all on this journey together, and the reservations you are feeling are probably felt by the members as well. Let’s show each other some grace and meet each other halfway!
Now down to the nitty gritty! Some tips for shopping.
5 Ways To Find A New Church Home
1. Make sure it is Christ-centered and Biblically sound.
If the church has a website, you can scope out some information and see if it has a mission statement or check the weekly bulletin.
2. Make a commitment.
When Sunday morning rolls around, you may not feel like going whether out of fear or complacency. It’s normal to be nervous when checking out a new place. You can always call ahead of time to let someone know you are planning to visit, which may help you feel more comfortable knowing someone will be expecting you. You can also go as an undercover observer until you feel comfortable introducing yourself.
3. INTRODUCE yourself to the pastor or others in church leadership.
In my opinion, the best way for people to know you are new is to tell them. By reaching out and letting someone know that you are a new visitor looking for a church, he or she can then take the lead and start making introductions for you.
This is especially helpful if you are feeling nervous about introducing yourself to people but truly want to get connected to others in your church. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for a time to sit down with your new pastor, so you can get to know more about each other.
4. Check for ways to get involved.
Women’s groups, Bible studies, small groups, MOPS, softball, choir, hand bells, nursery, special events, and more. Sometimes it takes going to a bunch of different events/groups to find a good fit.
You don’t have to feel like the first group you visit needs to stick. Be open with people that you are checking out ALL that your new church has to offer. Sometimes, from the outside looking in, it can appear a church, whether big or small, has everything running smoothly. If you have a hard time finding a place to get involved, talk with your pastor.
I can almost guarantee that all churches and pastors want more people to get involved!
5. Give it a chance.
If it feels Biblically sound and you have a good feeling but are just uncomfortable, allow time to build those relationships and connections. Often times, churches will have multiple service times, and each one may have its own distinct feel.
Don’t be afraid to change it up. You may even need to sit in different parts of the sanctuary! Once you start recognizing faces but possibly forgetting names, simply say, “I know we have met before, but I can’t seem to recall your name!” Believe me, they may be thinking the same thing!
As I mentioned before, even though I look like an outgoing person and I genuinely WANT people to feel connected, I get stuck in my own head and have trouble introducing myself. I remember when a new mom came to ask questions about the preschool when I was dropping off my son. I launched into a whole list of things she could join! After she walked away, I realized that one, I may have come off a little aggressive and two, who knows if she even wanted to get involved.
Since then, I have found that I tend to swing to the other end of the pendulum and don’t say anything to people assuming they don’t want to get more involved. However, I have come to find that most people, including myself, need to be personally invited.
Chances are, if you have found your way to this post, you are feeling nervous about checking out some new churches. I know it may feel outside your comfort zone, but I encourage you to take a step forward, visit a new church, introduce yourself, and give it some time to see if you may have found your new church home.