“And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” Hebrews 10:24-25
I’ve been in a lot of churches because I’ve moved around a lot. With each move, it has been our family’s practice to find a new church home with each new location. It sometimes seems like a daunting task with so many choices, but there have been times where the choices were few. Regardless, we’ve sought a God honoring church family. For the inexperienced there are some tell-tail signs we look for to determine if a church is a candidate for our new church home. I’ve also included some good ideas to make your church a place where people want to be.
The first thing we notice is the appearance of a church. A clean church demonstrates good stewardship of resources and pride in offering God their best efforts. Churches needing repair and showing signs of a lack of care often mean that funds are limited because the people aren’t tithing or the number of people in the church cannot meet the financial needs of the church. Neglect is usually not a good sign.
Friendliness is another critical feature. It is difficult to walk into a new congregation, particularly a small one where newcomers have a high visibility. Having someone meet you with a smile and handshake is critical. Hopefully that person knows how to make a little small talk without being overwhelming with too many questions. We don’t mind if you don’t remember our names, but please remember our faces.
We often attend Sunday School right away, but in a new church, we don’t know where to go. It is helpful when a congregation has stationed someone near the door to help direct visitors to the correct classes. To save time, a handout listing the classes and their offerings can be scanned so choices can be made quickly. Too many offerings lead to confusion and too much discussion usually makes us late. No one wants to walk in after the class starts. I’m always relieved when classes have a five-ten minute fellowship time at the beginning of their class time, so we visitors can get in before the lesson starts and not cause a disruption. Please have empty chairs near the back so we don’t have to crawl over people in case we are late.
Children often are a little shy when walking into an unknown environment. Sometimes people have no idea how difficult it can be to leave resistant children. Please calm our fears by not turning our kids loose to fend for themselves at the end of the Sunday School hour or church hour. We need to know they are being supervised. If you have paperwork you need us to fill out, we’d be happy to do that, but we’ll be missing our class. Can you keep it simple so we can give you the immediate “need to knows” and complete the rest when church is over?
Kids don’t like being the only one in the class. Two teachers (preferably over 18 yrs.) in the classroom are necessary to maintain accountability and blamelessness for the church. Please have glass doors or windows in the classroom doors so we can check on our kids if we must. Dumbed down Sunday School lessons will bore our kids. They need to have solid teaching about the Bible and they need to be taught its relevance for their day to day life. We as parents will bear the responsibility for teaching them at home, but we want them to develop a love for worshipping and learning the Bible at church. Have some fun, but don’t make having fun the crux of the hour.
The worship service is usually the key element in our decision. We want a God focused worship experience that points us to Christ, but sometimes it may be difficult to know what we mean. Here’s a comparison:
Signs of a God-oriented Worship Service:
*Pleasing to God
*Feeds the heart
*Fosters brokenness and repentance
*Founded on the truths of God’s Word
*Encourages personal and corporate evangelism
Signs of a Self-oriented Worship
*Feeds the flesh
*Builds up the ego
*Founded on political correctness, tolerance, ecumenical
*Promotes a social gospel
The Bible tells us to be separate from the practices of the unbelievers. Therefore we would not want worldly look-a-likes with a Christian flavor. We want a definite distinction between church and world. We want holiness and godliness.
I remember being in a church where the message was based on the Daily Bread. In fact, I thought the message was familiar when the Pastor began to speak, then realized it was almost verbatim what I had read earlier that day. We want to hear God’s Word, not man’s interpretation or commentary. It is the hearing of the Word that brings faith and repentance and salvation.
When church is over, we hope we will be contacted at home by a person, not just a letter. A home contact makes us feel wanted. It helps break the ice for our next visit, and gives us a point of contact when we arrive. Making new friends is one of our goals.
Finding a perfect church is not our goal. Humans aren’t perfect, but we do look for a fellowship of believers who clearly love the Lord with all of their heart, soul, and mind and love their neighbor as themselves. Our church family will hold a special place in our lives, often substituting for the family members who are far-away or out of touch.
If you already have a church family, keep in mind how a visitor feels. Maybe you need to make some adjustments to help visitors feel welcome and want to join you in worship and service to the Lord.
Copyright © 2011 by Linda Hull, Words of Encouragement