Finding a church is a lot like online dating.
I’ve had some fun and some awkward dating moments thanks to online dating. With online dating, you have your beliefs and some general information, which filter your matches. Then you have deal breakers and “must haves” which further filter your options. You do a little research online to find out a little more and then you can start chatting with Mr. or Miss Potential.
When you get together, you can often tell right away if it’ll be a good fit or not. But sometimes you need a few coffee dates to know for sure. There’s no right or wrong method as long as you’re openhearted and discerning.
This is true for finding a church too. Sometimes you walk in to a new church and it feels like home, but other times you need a little more time to decide. Here’s what I learned from online dating about finding the right church:
1. Perfect on Paper
Sometimes you find the perfect match. So you have coffee with this match and you find out very quickly they are just not the right fit.
You may find the perfect church online with just the right theology and a big children’s program, but when you get there, it just doesn’t feel right. People aren’t friendly and there are no small groups and it smells like stale donuts.
Ultimately, community is a choice, but compatibility is important. Make sure the church feels right and has at least a few of the elements you’re looking for.
2. Secret Past
There’s always going to be some baggage and past wounds when you’re dealing with people. Same goes for the church. Is there a history of moral failure, church politics or passive aggressive leaders?
If it’s been dealt with in a healthy way and the people have healed, then that’s great! Just make sure this person/church has done the work of healing (and reducing that baggage to a carry-on item).
3. Irritating Characteristics
Can’t stand the way she eats? Or how he talks? That’s good to know, but you won’t know this unless you get to know the person a bit.
Don’t like the way they lead worship? You don’t like two hour sermons? That’s good to know too, but you won’t know it until you go and visit the church and talk to a few people.
Give it a try and get a feel for what their norm is. You’ll know if it’s right for you.
4. It’s a lot of Work!
Finding the right match (relationship and church) is an investment of time, emotion and energy. Be willing to put in the effort of research, visiting, meeting people, asking questions and attending events.
It’s work, but it’s worth it. What you put into the effort is what you’ll get out of it.
5. Be flexible
Of course, you must know your must-haves and non-negotiables. But be willing to be flexible for the right reasons. Sometimes God plans something better than what we had in mind.
Maybe you never pictured yourself at a mega church or maybe you had a bad experience, but it’s worth giving it a try anyway. Didn’t think a small church was your style? You might be surprised.
It may not be your “type,” but how do you know your type until you meet your type?
6. Be surprised
Sometimes what you thought wouldn’t be a fit, was just right. So try something new!
We are often surprised by love. Forever love doesn’t always come exactly when or how we think it will, but that’s usually so much better.
You might not have guessed you would have loved the church’s college group, zumba class or apologetics course, but it’s where you met great friends. Go ahead and let yourself be surprised. I dare you!
7. Listen well
Throughout the process maintain an open and ongoing conversation with God. He’ll lead you as you seek Him and move forward and learn.
He has your best interest in mind, so lean into Him.
When we meet someone new, we must show grace. We need that same grace for visiting and choosing a new church. Everyone has their quirks and traditions, so be open, gracious, adventurous and discerning along the journey.
In the same way that no man or woman is perfect, there is no such thing as a perfect church. But there just might be the right person and the right church.
The church is filled with sinners saved by grace just as relationships are two imperfect people in love. There might be bumps along the way, but cling to grace and choose to be all in.