Looking for a Church? (part 4) – Final Thoughts

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You can read the earlier posts here:

Here are three final tips in looking for a church.

1. Be careful about asking the questions too early.

Do not ask them on your first visit (or even your second or third). Only make observations until you've visited for a while. Take the long view. I can't tell you how many times I've been "quizzed" in person or via email after someone visited once or twice. And I believe their motive could be perfectly pure. I KNOW of examples where that is the case. Here is the problem. If I don't know the person asking, I begin to feel like they have an agenda for our church and I begin to question their motives and intentions. And as the leader for this church, I need to protect our mission and not allow the newest or loudest person to change our course. That isn't necessarily fair because they may have great suggestions and observations, but when given too early, it most often is viewed with some suspicion. I'm not saying that is right. I'm just telling you reality if you ask early. Most pastors have been burned by new people who want to "fix" the church. And we've been burned enough times that we have a hard time assuming the best about your motives and intentions – even if they are pristine. In reality, it is only time that reveals to the leader what your intention was. I have many good friends now who asked questions. Some of them very early. So it isn't at all a fatal mistake to ask too early. Just keep that in mind when you start asking quesitons. Be sure to ask them – just consider timing and how it may be recevied. 

2. Try to wait until you have a relationship to ask questions.

Based on what I said above, you will get better answers, more open answers, and lack of defensive answers if you have had previous conversations with the person you are asking. When I was dating in college, I wanted to marry someone who really wanted to be in ministry, but I wouldn't have asked that question on a first date. It may have made them wonder about my motive or intention. It is hard to wait to ask the questions listed on the previous post, but the longer you wait and the better you know the person you are asking, the more accurate the answers will be, the more gracious you will be in asking the questions, and the more understanding you will walk away with. 

3. Consider asking someone other than the lead pastor.

There are a couple of reasons you might think asking someone other than the lead pastor (although asking him is fine too). One, lead pastors get asked a lot of questions by people new to the church. But if you want the best answers – the "real" answers – ask another leader. It isn't that the lead pastor won't tell the truth, but he will answer where he thinks the church is or wants the church to be – not necessarily where it is now. Lead pastors don't always see their own church accurately. But if you ask another church leader – they will tend to answer based on where the church is now, the vision that has been communicated and is being practiced. And – sadly – they will tend to be less naturally defensive than the lead pastor. 

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2 comments
  1. David – we just arrived in Germany a couple days ago. Finding a good church is on the tippity-top of our list (well, after getting the visa paperwork done so we don’t get kicked out). So having you write your thoughts about finding a new church and what to think about when doing so is just perfect timing for us! Thanks so much for giving your perspective.

    (And thanks for putting sermons online too, which will also be a big benefit to us, and a little piece of “home” while we are in a new place!)

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