Finding a church on your own, in a place you’ve just moved to can be a large, frightening task. I was not prepared for how hard + frustrating of a process it would be, especially coming from a person who had only changed churches once in their entire life. My youth pastors + parents did not inform me too much on this topic so that’s why I’m writing this post. I learned a lot from the whole process + want to provide you with some encouragement if this is something you are encountering.

Let me just start by saying that this is a completely different process for each person. Sometimes people just stick to the first church they go to + that’s all it takes. Others may not have a car so they only go where their friends are. Others may be experts on adjusting + switching to new churches so it’s not a big deal for them. So whatever your situation you may be, don’t compare it to those around you or those you know. Don’t place expectations on the whole process because it’s a different experience for everyone.

  1. it’s ok to not find a church right away

Let me say that again. It is OK if you do not find a church right away. It does not mean something is wrong with you. It is not a reflection on your relationship with Christ. It does not mean you have done something wrong.

I think we all have a timeline of when we expect to find a church + start to become frustrated when things don’t go the way we planned. Or we see friends + other people around us finding what looks like the ‘perfect fit’ + get down on our situation. Finding a church can be a process. You do not have to find a church right away. My mom told me that it took her more than just her freshman year to truly get connected with a church. It is better for it to take longer to find a church + be where you feel God is calling you to, rather than settling for something that is not as spiritually filling. 

So yeah, it might take you all of your freshman year to decide on a church or it may not. But choosing a church is an important decision that shouldn’t be neglected or rushed. See it as an opportunity to lean on God + learn through it. But go into it without any expectations on timing + all the other details.

      2. pray about it

Yep, this one is probably a given. Incorporating God into this whole process is crucial. If you want Him to lead you, give you wisdom + ultimately glorify Him through your decision, you have to turn to Him in the process + actually listen to Him. Prayer also helps us trust Him more through the process + gain a godly perspective.

So take your fears, your desires, your expectations + your thoughts + lay them at His feet. But also give Him the space to speak. Seek Him for where He is leading you to go– it might not be with your friends, it might be somewhere you’ve never been, it might not be the most popular church in your area. Ultimately, God wants to use the churches we’re at to speak into our lives, to build connections + to give us opportunities– I know I don’t want to miss out on where He wants me to be. Prayer is one of the main ways God communicates with us so it’s important that we are actively seeking Him to guide us in our church decisions.

     3. talk to your parents about it

I think it is completely fine to incorporate your parents, or other godly people you trust into the process. Those people know what it’s like to choose a church on their own + they might have some advice for you. They can encourage you + guide you towards what truly matters.

But please remember that it is ultimately YOUR decision. There may be tension with them wanting certain things in your church or they may want you to a specific denomination. But if you feel called to go somewhere else, then that is what you should do. Don’t let their opinions lead you away from where God is revealing you to go.

      4. don’t be afraid to try different churches

I think there’s a lot of people who stick with the first church they try + don’t really look anywhere else because the process was already uncomfortable. They settle for the first thing they try. And while I do think going to a church multiple times is good so that you can truly see what it’s like (because one sermon does not give you a good glimpse into what the church is like) I would suggest checking out some of the other churches in your area. See where your friends go to church or try out a different denomination– maybe something different than what you grew up with. This truly is a time to see what your preferences are + to embrace the whole church-finding process.

But also on the flip side, don’t try too many churches. This is something that I did + I kinda regret. It opened up way to many options for me. So I think that’s where the prayer part comes into it. If God brings another church to mind or is leading you to check out another, then do it. But please don’t limit yourself to the first church you find.

      5. don’t feel like you have to go where your friends are going

In par with the last one, don’t feel like you need to go wherever your friends decide to go. It is so easy to want to go with people you know (especially your best friends) to make the experience more comfortable… trust me, I get it. No one wants to go to a church alone where they don’t know anyone. But even within your own Christian circles, you will have different beliefs + different preferences + may not end up at the same churches.

So if you can drive, drag one of your friends along with you to check out churches that peak your interest. Otherwise, it may take you reaching out to someone you don’t know as well + asking them if you could join them to visit the churches you want to look into. This may look a little different if you don’t have a car, but I was able to make it work (somehow my friends + I all liked the same church). It may take going to church with different people or suggesting another option, but it is definitely not as hard as you may think it is.  

      6. Have priorities

It can be easy to be swayed by the opinions of others or what you’ve grown up with, but as you are looking for a church, definitely know what you need + what you don’t prefer. For myself, I wanted to go somewhere where I felt I could serve + get involved in, where the teachings were rooted in truth and God-spoken, + where the worship was God-centered. I attended some churches that I had a great pastor + great worship, but I felt like they didn’t have anywhere to get involved or didn’t have any outreach. Other churches had awesome pastors + I felt like I could get involved, but their worship was over-hyped, over-produced + they were focused on making their own music.

I’m not gonna touch too much on this topic or tell you what you should look for in a church because there are so many different beliefs, preferences + types of churches. But it’s important that you know your ‘must haves’/ what you value in a church.

On the flip side, though, don’t have so many standards that it is impossible to find a church. No church is perfect. No church will have everything you’re looking for. So try to have reasonable expectations. Try to look for less materialistic things, like the size of the church, how popular it is, how modern it is, etc + instead, try to consider more substantial things, like the pastor, the people + their beliefs.

*Lastly, you will be tempted to want to just watch church from online or if you’re friends decide not to go to church to go along with them. But let me tell you that you NEED community + interaction with others. The body of Christ is an amazing thing that God created + is crucial for believers. Don’t take the easy way out because of your fears or because it makes you uncomfortable. 

I hope you found this post helpful. This topic has really been on my heart + I’m so glad I could finally write about it + share it with you. I believe these are all things we need to hear whether it’s the first time we’re looking for a church or if we’ve already done it before. It is a hard process, but I hope this can make it easier.

I pray that you God will lead you to a church where you grow your relationship with Him, meet new people, + have opportunities to experience God’s love + overflow to others. Please let me know if I can be praying for you specifically.

Also I’d love to hear if there’s something you feel I left out or if you have advice of your own. There’s always more to learn + you may have a different perspective or experience. Please comment it down below so other readers can be helped by it as well. 

As always, I hope you have an amazing day + I hope to hear from you soon!

<3 Ainsley