It’s been a month since our family started our search for a new church home and it’s been an eye-opener. We’ve now been to four churches over the last month and while we’ve enjoyed our time at each to varying degrees, the search process and Sunday morning experience have taught us a lot about what we’re looking for in a church, and also what a church should and should not be doing Sunday by Sunday.
First in my list are the websites. While we often received comments from friends that said things like “You should try church ABC. I’ve heard it’s good!” when searching for churches my method of choice was The Internet. What I found when looking was that most churches have lousy websites!!! I can’t tell you how hard it was on some websites to find basic information like address, service times and what the service was like. Some of the websites were very good mind you, but others….
When we arrived at the churches the first thing we noticed of course was how we were greeted (or not, in several cases). Now, one we sailed in late, but even after the service nobody really talked to us. At one church there was a line of FOUR greeters as you came in the door, presumably to greet, BUT THEY DIDN’T!!! At one of the churches the pastoral team and their spouses greeted us very warmly, but nobody else did! Only at one so far have we received a warm greeting by the general membership (and even there, I think they were all in some kind of leadership position). Our old church used to pride themselves in being a warm and friendly church, but I wonder how many people had the same experience as we did at these other churches. I hope not many, but I have my fears.
Next, DON’T MAKE NEW PEOPLE RAISE THEIR HANDS!!! I want to find out about your church, not be marked out and embarassed!!! (Interestingly it was the church that greeted us the warmest that also made us raise our hands as visitors.)
It’s also been very interesting to watch the style of worship (aka the music) at each of these churches. The one had a small and unpolished worship team, but they were sincere in what they were singing. At another it was highly professional quality, but we felt like we were watching a performance rather than participating in a time of worship. At another they spent 45 minutes on THREE songs!!! Now as a worship leader, I like to be able to repeat something if I think the congregation is truly engaged in worship, but at this one EVERY song was repeated multiple times.
So far we haven’t found a church we like but we’re not in a rush. We’ve still got another ten on our list to try. None are perfect and we know there will be compromises, but these last four weeks have been very interesting to see things “from the other side” as a visitor and not someone who’s been involved in shaping the church for many years.
And just maybe, that’s the reason God has given this time of searching. 😉