A church to visit near me. That’s one of the most common things typed into Google and brings up a litany of results. It can be overwhelming. If you are new to an area, or thinking about heading back to church for the first time in a long time, you may just be tempted to shut it down and give up.
But if you got to this page, hear me when I say: Don’t give up! There are a ton of churches in the United States — and it really can be A LOT. I want you to find the right church for you, one that is doctrinally sound, welcoming, healthy and right for your family.
One of the reasons I wrote my book, “Reason to Return: Why Women Need the Church & the Church Needs Women,” is because I heard from so many women who struggled with this very thing. Freedom of choice is great, but lots of options can also be paralyzing. Fear not, friend!
There are several things you can do to weed out the churches that are definite “nos” and multiple steps of research you can take prior to even visiting a church, so you don’t waste your time. I’ve put together a simple course to help you walk through finding a church to visit near you!
5 Things to Consider When Picking a New Church
- Foundational, Biblical beliefs. Christian churches run the gamut on core beliefs, but you can rule out the ones that don’t align with the first tier issues of Christianity, including belief in the Trinity, inerrancy of Scripture and the doctrine of Salvation. Most churches list out their views on important faith issues on their website, which is a great place to start ruling out churches that don’t align with the Bible.
- Primarily Biblically-based sermons. Sermons should be rooted in Scripture and exegetically preached in the full context of the full Bible story. Watch out for churches that strictly feature topical sermons or decontextualize Bible stories in effort to make a point. The Bible has more than enough to base a lifetime of sermons on and that is what a pastor should do.
- Strong Children’s Ministry. Even if you don’t have kids, its important that a healthy church have a strong, discipling-focused kids ministry. These days, even some reputable curriculum is sometimes in question. Consider how organized and focused a church is on kids ministry and what they are teaching, as these are the next generation of Christians.
- Community Involvement. While church is meant for the glorification of God and the edification of Believers, it should also be a visible presence in the larger community. We are called to love and serve others, and that includes our neighborhoods. Christians are a vital part of providing for the needs of others in a variety of ways. A healthy church will be invested in the local community.
- A Focus on Discipleship. Discipleship is a key part of any healthy church. Are you seeing ways in which the church fosters mentorship relationships or offers opportunities for members to commune and connect outside of Sundays? As John Mark Comer says, we are “apprentices of Jesus.” One way we live that out is by learning from older, wiser Believers.
This is just the tip of the iceberg on what you might want to consider, but certainly some of the most important matters to my mind. I go into far more detail about in my course, which you can access here.
While I normally recommend people choose a smaller church, just for the fact that it is more intimate and comes with an easier, built-in community, I don’t necessarily thing that’s always the best choice. Here’s a thought I had on this recently?
List of Good Churches
There is really not “AirBnb” of churches, but there have been some organizations that work to compile lists and I want to share some of those with you. I cannot give my endorsement to all the churches listed here, but it may help you as you begin your search:
- The Gospel Coalition’s Church Directory
- Association of Related Churches (ARC): Find a Church Map
- Fresh Expressions
- Find a Church Near You
These are just a few of the places that you can go to help begin your search. My favorite way to find new churches near you is to inquire in local Facebook groups. When I started looking for a new church after moving, I reached out in a local moms group to see what ideas people had. Now, a lot of ideas came pouring so I still had to sift through the, but it gave me a good starting point.
Ultimately, I narrowed down the churches I wanted to try to a list of about 10. Then, I began investigating each of them one by one and deciding which ones I wanted to visit in person.
How Long Should You Try Out a New Church?
My number one rule for when you visit a new church is not to judge it by the first visit! Every church has off days, or off weeks. Unfortunately, sometimes “church shopping” (for lack of a better term) can sometimes feel a tad like online dating. Thus, I would always give a church about 3 weeks if you are making a big decision like this. You want to be fair and ensure you aren’t skipping over something that might be right for you.
After three weeks, if it doesn’t feel right, then move on. Of course, always approach these decisions in prayer first, asking the Holy Spirit to guide the way, but also be rationale and realistic about your choices.
Making a Final Decision on Church
Deciding what church to attend is a big decision, because you are committing to a people when you do so. That’s why you want to put a lot of thought into this. So how do you actually make that final decision?
It may take several months to settle on a church. You will need to pray, visit multiple times, explore their foundational beliefs, maybe even set up a meeting with the pastor or church leadership. I firmly believe that God will not lead you astray if you are open to His leading in this matter.
Once you do choose, it’s important to know that you are now a part of this local body. Assuming they have formal membership opportunities, you should commit as a member and find ways to begin cultivating service within the community. Church is not a spectator sport. It’s one in which we give and receive, learn and love, break bread and make friends.
I wish you the best in finding a new church. If you’ve made it this far and still want to some help, go try out my How to Find a New Church 101 course!