Our family has been members of nine different churches. With each new change of address, we had to start all over again with a new church family. So how do you decide if you fit into an already established church family. First of all, you keep in mind that if you didn’t grow up in the community you are visiting churches in, it’s a good idea to think of your family as being adoption prospects. As Christians, we understand that we’ve been “grafted into the vine.” Having the same heart as we visit new churches, can be very helpful.
Having done this many times, I have to encourage those who are “church hopping” or as one of our pastors refers to it, “dating the church,” try to remember that every church you visit is filled with imperfect humans. I’ve heard some say that they don’t attend church at all because it’s filled with hypocrites. I had a pastor answer that criticism once with this, “there’s no better place for a hypocrite than in the front pew of a sanctuary.”
Out of all the churches in each new community that we moved into, somehow we were able to narrow it down to one to become our church family. As adoptees there is a list of questions that we orphans should ask our prospective parents:
- If you are a baby Christian, new in the faith, then you will need parents that will feed, nurture and be willing to get up in the middle of the night with you, if needed. Inquire with the church staff to see if they have special classes for new Christians.
- Regardless of your spiritual birthday, be sure that it is a solid, Bible teaching church. It will be in your family’s best interest over the long run, if the church is strong in Bible study and knows our spiritual heritage.
- Is there an established children’s department? If it is a large church, do they have a Children’s Minister? If so, make an appointment with them and meet to see what type of programs they offer for each age group. One particular program that my children loved and learned so much with is the AWANA program for 3 year olds through 6th grade.
- Women’s programs are important for your spiritual and emotional health.
- Outreach programs and service opportunities will show the mission-mindedness of the church.
- If the church offers small group gatherings, choose at least 2 that would meet you and/or your spouse’s age and learning style.
- At the same time, you may want to plan to visit more than one church at a time. Set up a schedule to visit churches for two weeks in a row at one and then another, until you know which to join.
- Be sure to fill out a visitor’s card.
- Just as I’ve mentioned in the New City post, be prepared for it to take you at least one year to feel at home in your new church home.
- Be prayerful about your choice.
Just as there are steps to follow as many go through the adoption process; there may be pleasant steps and not-so-pleasant steps as you search for your church family. We joined a church once and were members for nine months before we discovered that we had a major belief discrepancy with the church. Therefore, it became part of our process to visit a church for a year before becoming members. That didn’t give us the excuse not to become involved with the activities, or commit to areas of service, but it did give us plenty of time to become acquainted with our new family before agreeing to the “adoption.”
But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree…. (Romans 11:17)