I grew up Catholic. The elementary school I attended was part of our parish. I taught catechism for ten years and directed the elementary catechesis program for five of those years. But at some point I realized I didn’t believe in the doctrine as much as I used to. When attending church, I didn’t feel filled up the way I had when I was younger.
My decision to leave the only church I had ever known was a difficult one. And because the situation also meant I was leaving the Catholic faith, finding a new church was intimidating. I felt, however, that God was leading me in a different direction, and through prayer, I was able to move on.
Here are some things to consider when you’re looking for a church that is right for you.
The journey to finding a new church begins with prayer.
You wouldn’t attempt to use a new software program without reading the manual or viewing a tutorial. The guidance these tools provide makes the use of the program more successful. Seeking God’s guidance will make your search more successful. Search your heart to define what type of church you’re interested in joining. Continued prayer throughout the process will help you seek God’s plan for your life in regards to what church you will choose.
Talk to family and friends.
While growing away from my Catholic faith played a large role in my decision, one event cinched it. I became engaged to a man who wasn’t Catholic. Granted, he didn’t attend his church regularly, but he had no intentions of converting. When I brought this dilemma before my pastor his suggestion was for me to abandon the relationship and find a nice Catholic boy to marry. Since I felt God had led me to this relationship and that this man (my current husband) was part of His plan for my life, leaving the relationship wasn’t an option.
In the end, I was left without a church, as I truly couldn’t continue where I was. But I also wasn’t about to join the Greek Orthodox church. Since my future husband and I knew we wanted a church we could both feel comfortable in and raise our future family in, we began our search by talking to his parents. My future mother-in-law had attended the same church for many years. While we weren’t sure what we were looking for, exactly, we figured we wanted to part of a nondenominational church, leaving behind the man-made rules we both felt distanced us from our other churches.
Have an open an honest discussion with your family and friends about their churches. Let them know what you are looking for, and ask them if they would hesitate for any reason to recommend their church to anyone.
Visit church websites.
Not all churches have a website, but many do. There you can check their statement of faith and doctrinal beliefs to see if they match your needs. You might be able to review upcoming events that would be open to the public, which would give you a chance to meet the members of the congregation in a friendly setting. The website might also tell you what ongoing programs the church runs.
Attend services a few times.
A one-time visit might not give you a good feel for a church and its congregation. First impressions remain important, but they might not tell the whole story. You’ll want to see if the style of service is one you would enjoy regularly and if you feel welcome. If there is fellowship time after church, make a point to attend at least once, so that you get a true glimpse into what life with this church family would be like.
Finding the right church for you will take some time, but it is time well invested. Through prayer and with God’s guidance, you’ll find a church family that will help you grow in faith.