One of my favorite memories of my childhood was walking into the locally owned ice cream shop only a couple of miles from my house.
Now don’t get me wrong, I loved the ice cream. There was something special about the fresh-scooped ice cream that crushed anything we could buy from the store.
But that wasn’t my favorite part. See, for my brother and I, just walking into the store, that’s where the magic happened. All the sights, all the smells, and all of the options.
This place made Baskin Robbin’s 31 flavors seem tame. They had chocolate, dark chocolate, chocolate chip, mint chocolate chip, and that was just the beginning. Everything looked good. Well, except for the pistachio.
Who puts pistachio in ice cream?
It was literally overwhelming for us. We couldn’t decide. That is, until Mom threatened to leave the store if we didn’t decide soon.
I imagine that’s what looking for a church tends to look like for most of us. We go in with an idea of what we want, but then we begin to explore all of the options. Some are appealing to us, while others look a lot like pistachio ice cream.
The choice can be overwhelming and leave us fairly unsure of our next steps. Like, it was a big enough deal to get me to consider going to church again. Now I have all of these choices and I don’t really know where to begin.
Traditional or contemporary? Casual or more dressed up? The small church down the road or the mega-church across the city?
It would be awesome if there were a cut and dry formula that worked for all of us. It’s not that easy. But there are some pointers we can use along the way to help us discover the church that is the best fit for us. So what do I look for in a church?
1. A church where you can get behind the teaching and mission.
A church can have all the other stuff that I love: it can have a rocking kids area, the most incredible music in the area, and facilities that could have been designed by Chip and Joanna Gaines themselves, but if I can’t get behind the teaching and overall mission of the church, then I’ll never be satisfied.
Be willing to do the work. Ask the tough questions. When you’re committing to a church, it should be a long-term commitment. So discover what they teach. What keeps their leadership team up at night dreaming? What is their purpose?
2. A church where you and your family can fit in.
The buzzword today is community. We’ve learned that it takes a village. And people learn better in circles than in rows. Like, we get it. I know. And yet, sometimes we don’t. We all have a gravitational pull towards selfishness and trying to go at things alone. But it doesn’t work. You can’t do life alone. So stop trying.
Find a place where you can fit in, connect, and grow. Find a people that you are comfortable with and open up to that community. And it’s not just you, but what is best for our family? Our children? They need community as well.
3. A church where you can serve.
If I agree with the mission of the church, and if I find myself connecting with other people within the church, the final element needed is to find out how I can propel the mission forward. Don’t fall asleep on this final step.
As a long-time leader in church ministry, this single element is the litmus test on whether or not church sticks. I’ve seen incredible people have a passion for a particular church, but never get plugged into service. That normally leads to the passion waning and indifference.
You wouldn’t be at this point if you wanted to find something you’d be lukewarm about and bored with in two years. So once you find the church with the right vision, try to find a spot that allows you to serve in an area you’re strong in. And get to it. If you’re there for any length of time and there’s not an opportunity to serve, the vision might not be big enough.
One final word of warning. Just like there are many different types of ice cream that appeal to different taste buds, there are many different styles of churches. When you try one out and, well, it’s just not your taste, that’s okay. We don’t give up on ice cream just because we despise one flavor.
If you had a bad experience at a church, that church was probably a good fit for someone else. Just not for you.
So go on, and try another one. You’re going to find the right fit.
And it probably looks something like that chocolate raspberry.
Pastor JJ Gawlowicz
Pastor JJ is the current Lead Pastor at Ridgepoint Church in Winter Haven, FL. He is married with four children, and has over 15 years experience in full time ministry.
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