Church Hunting: What Are We Looking to Find?

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For one reason or another many people have at one point in their lives experienced a season of “church hunting,” searching for a church to attend.  So many people I know right now are doing exactly that, church hunting, and they’re hunting hard.  Some have even been searching for a few years now. It makes me seriously wonder a few things like:

  • What in the world are we all searching to find?
  • Does what we are searching for even exist?
  • Why does there seem to be an influx of people on this same quest?

Hi ho, hi ho, from church to church we go.

Like most persons when church hunting, I prayed for the Lord to direct my family to the church fellowship that is right for us. As we acknowlege Him in all our ways, I believe He will direct our path accordingly (Proverbs 3: 5-6).

I also believe that if there is a specific church where God wants us to be (or not to be), He will tell us directly, and that for the most part God leaves that preference up to us, as long as we choose a church that has solid bible-based teaching and worship.  Apart from those general guidelines, it seems to boil down to a personal preference because God gives us this little thing He calls free will.

I specify that He will tell us *directly* because you’d be amazed at how some folk who have already belong to a particular church believe that everyone is called to attend THEIR church.  If God’s plan is for me to attend someone else’s church, I’m sure He’d clue me in on it too and not just show that one person!   Of course it’s very natural for people to have pride in his or her own church, and to even believe that their church is the best option available.  But it sure can be daunting when folk try to push their personal convictions or church preferences onto others, as though all roads to heaven lead through their personal church experience.

Every church is not for everybody.

Every good idea or “God idea” for one person may not be a God idea for the next person.

Different strokes for different folks.

But back to the topic at hand!  I think what makes the church hunting even harder for parents is that some churches don’t have a children’s ministry, which could be a problem unless you have the vision and the drive to assist with starting a children’s ministry at a church where one is absent. 

On the other hand, some churches who do have a children’s ministry insist that parents use those services so that there are no interruptions (e.g., babies crying) during the adult church service.  This makes a lot of sense; however, churches would be wise to consider their approach, technique or method when informing parents that their children are not allowed in the service.  I know a few friends who were royally rubbed the wrong way with how a church goes about this procedure.  It can also be stressful to seperate a family who is merely visiting, forcing parents to hand over their little ones to perfect strangers or suggest they sit in an isolated room with their family and watch the service on television. The family might as well have stayed home!

Another thing more persons on the hunt seem to desire in a church fellowship is that the church is non-traditional. For example, a church where congregation members dress more casually, music that includes more than traditional hymns, more current or relavent topics and issues that are preached about, etc.

By the way, beware of church fellowships that want “you” to be the answer for anything you see that is missing; that is, unless you feel called to be that answer!  One church we visited did not have any other person in our same age group.  We were told to help change that by joining the church which would then attract others in our age group.  While it does sound “nice” for people to “be the solution” to the problems they point out or see in other churches, it’s not practical for the season that everyone is in. 

For example, we don’t want to join somewhere that doesn’t have our age group in hopes to attract others our age because we are not in a season where we want to do ministry and outreach. We are in a season where we need “sanctuary,” to be restored, a season of sitting and inward growing and reflection after a long burntout season of giving so much.  We need to be somewhere where things are already established.  If your family is in this season too, please beware of church plants.  Church plants (particularly in black church circles) seem to prey on you, pressuring you to join their fellowship because you’ve been “marked” to fill a certain position or role and this is often kept as a “hidden agenda” until you join. Then like a mighty rushing wind (or so it feels) you are pressured severely to lead this and lead that and help a number of programs and you can forget about the season of rest the Lord had spoken to your heart about.

Know what season you’re in.  This can also help determine what church you choose to attend reguarly.

You may even determine not to join or become a member of one specific church.  Uh oh, I just made the head on some people’s hair curl.  But if your family is about to relocate to another area, it may not make sense to join a new church right before uprooting from the area.

On the other hand, you just may decide church isn’t for you.  Now I made some people’s toe nails peel back!  But in all seriousness, many faithful Christians all over the world are leaving the institution or concept of “church” as we know today and are opting to “be” the church instead in more contemporary ways if-you-will, but in ways that actually align with God’s Word.  Remember, a church is people, not a building or a place. I go more in depth about this (not so new) idea in my blog review of George Barna’s book, The Revolution.”  (I’ll link to tihs soon after I have a chance to republish it.)

Some people are on a seemingly forever (and hopeless) quest to find a church  just like their old church that they liked so much in another state or other location.  Or maybe the church had a disaster hit and disbanned.  I attended a church once where I deeply loved the community, the worship, the preaching and the entire vibe, but only 4 or 5 yeras after I joined, the pastor skipped town with another woman and the church literally fell apart and eventually was torn down.

In other cases people may just simply never find what they are seeking because churches have changed so much.  Sadly, many are full of “corruption” if you will or perhas worse they lack genuine relationships and authentic support.

So this and other reasons could be why some people are searching for years. 

In other cases people may just simply never find what they are seeking because churches have changed so much.  Sadly, many are full of “corruption” if you will or perhas worse they lack genuine relationships and authentic support.

Overall, try not to become discouraged if you are currently searching for a church family or community to plug into or to call “home” so-to-speak.  Church hunting can even be a fun season and a season of family building as you go together as a family and experience different church fellowships.

Feel free to express your thoughts below!

  • This is a great post! It put some things in perspective for me as Kenny & I are in this season of being “unchurched”. We have been ridiculed as if we are in sin for not belonging to a particular building but I have to say, it has been a very refreshing season.
    Because we have not been committed to a church, I have actually branched out and attended various events with congregations I would have never considered. I have attended bible studies, retreats and classes that have truly enriched my life. I know if I had belonged to a church I probably would not have attended those events because of the sometimes gruesome commitments to a home church. Yes, I miss belonging to a local assembly but will continue to wait on the Lord and see where He leads!
    Thanks!

  • Thanks for your comments, Tynisha! I believe God is smiling down watching you cross-fellowship among many different church circles. While I understand the principles and benefits behind committing to one local church, I think it’s wrong for people to ridicule others who don’t. There can be many reasons why people are church hunting during certain seasons of life. I really appreciate you sharing your story and I hope to hear from others!

  • Danny Carwheel

    Great post, jd! We’re in the same boat. I’m really re-thinking some things like church “membership”. It’s an extra-biblical construct, but it does have some merit and value. At best I think it can be used to help foster relationships, accountability and commitment. At worst, it is becomes a hammer on which to bludgeon and manipulate people. Unfortunately, in my many years of being around many churches, I see the latter.

    A and I are seriously praying about “joining” two different churches that meet and address two different core needs of ours and we’re we see opportunity for future service. And I refused to be bullied, strong-armed and given the guilt trip by others as we try to figure this thing out. I don’t know how long it will take. But it doesn’t matter. I’m so serious. Honestly, as Tynisha said, it’s a refreshing period for us and we’re really enjoying it.

  • Jayne

    “Of course it’s very natural for people to have pride in his or her own church, and to even believe that their church is the best option available.”

    I HATE when friends do that, so much so that it really isolates me from people. I hate having to answer “so, where do you go to church?” which inevitiably leads to “why don’t you visit my church?” I just don’t have the heart, stomach, or reserve nerves to tell them why not.

    For me, I find one church seems to be like the next for me… like some infiltration or disease has swept across the Body called Coveteousness. It’s easy to spot in churches that tell you to name and claim everything that everyone else has. However, the more subtly, and dangerous form is church envy… This ministry is growing so we’re going to do what they’re doing. We’re going to be flashy and focus on what that other church focuses on, etc. I have SOOO many problems with that. That’s the number one way to make me leave a church. Why, dear Inner city Church, are you trying to be like Mega Suburban Church? I don’t understand? Be it Rick Warren or the Mega church on the other side of the Metro area.

    “Church plants (particularly in black church circles) seem to prey on you, pressuring you to join their fellowship because you’ve been “marked” to fill a certain position or role and this is often kept as a “hidden agenda” until you join. Then like a mighty rushing wind (or so it feels) you are pressured severely to lead this and lead that and help a number of programs …”

    This happens to me often. It’s tied for 1st place in being the quickest way to get me to leave. Both of these things happened at my last church. I had to go. If I were a younger Christian, I could be guilted into doing everything or bullied into filling a ministry need outside of my calling. (“Just because you keep blowing up my phone pastor doesn’t mean God is calling me.”) I had a pastor once insist I should quite my job at a Christian bookstore and work in the ministry for the summer… Wasn’t swayed. I believed as the store owner did, what I was doing as a “job” was a service to the Body. Plus at that point (age 20) I had been doing ministry for over 9 years… I had pretty much maxed out on cool points with God. His pushiness & disrespect of my other job schedule cost me my main job at the bookstore and left me short on cash when it was time to go back to school.

    God cares about my needs; your actions prove that you don’t. Therefore I don’t think your actions are on behalf of God no matter what kind of collar you wear on your shirt.

    Another red flag for me is if you try to put me in a position of leadership w/o proper “vetting.” Now I can’t trust any of your decisions because I KNOW that you don’t do your homework. Just because you think you know me doesn’t mean that you know where I am spiritually, responsibility wise, heart wise, time wise, or motive wise. I have NO choice but to assume that you haven’t “vetted” anyone in leadership or that you open your pulpit to. Sarah Palin wasn’t the only one who was chosen because she seemed to be a good choice, but then undercut and threw the person she was supposed to support under the bus. You know my agenda or anyone else’s. That’s being irresponsible with my life. I wouldn’t trust a surgeon who was ok with haphazerdly threw together his team no matter how skilled he is.

    Finally, the more interested a church is in growing their numbers rather than people & communities or sticking to the mission, vision, and purpose for why God plant them there in that specific spot, the faster you need to RUN! When a pastor or church says they want to grow and that’s all they talk about and they mean in numbers, the part of the sentence you did not hear them say was “by any means necessary.” They said that part in their heart.

    so many red flags… But I’ll leave off w/ this… Bible studies can be a far superior experience over the church experience.

  • very true very nice and i feel you on each thing! i have my eyes on a church that i know would be perfect for my family, now i just have to pray my hubby comes aboard! he visited it with me this past Sunday and really like it, so thats a start! :-)