Looking for a Church? (part 2) Things to Observe

On the last blog post, I mentioned that people often tell me they found a church "just like" Northridge. But what that typically means is that we have many superficial similarities (that's not all bad). And actually, churches that are most like us may not superficially look like us in a lot of ways. You can read that post HERE.

So – if you are looking for a church – here are some things you ought to observe. In the next post, I will point out some questions you should eventually ask someone in church leadership. To be fair, these things you observe need to be observed over weeks and not in one visit or that could lead to an unfair judgment. Also, observe with a spirit of personal humility and loving grace. 


  • Get the doctrinal statement and read it. Feel free to send it to me or someone you respect to get another set of eyes on it. 
  • Keep reminding yourself you will not find a perfect church – so don't expect it. In your observations – have a spirit and tone of grace and love – not criticism and expectation.

Churches Rochester NY_12

THINGS TO OBSERVE: (remember – to be fair, these need to be observed over weeks – not in one visit)

  • Do they view the Bible as authoritative in the way it is used and talked about?
  • Do I sense authenticity and humility from those up front?
  • When they talk about people far from God – do you sense love and longing or condemnation and pride?
  • Are small groups a priority? If not – how do they organize to be sure that biblical fellowship and accountability takes place?
  • Do you sense any preferences which are given the same weight as biblical truth? 
  • Is the time of singing genuine and meaningful (regardless of musical style)? Are people participating as worshippers or observing the worshippers on the stage?
  • Would you feel comfortable inviting an unbeliever to the church service you just sat through? (versus it being an "insider" focused service that wouldn't connect with lost people)

What other things do you think you should observe?

Churches Rochester NY_11

  1. Maybe a unity of mission and vision? Essentially. do the volunteers, staff, and leadership seem to all be on the same page with the same vision for what the church should be doing? An environment of conflict is usually a bad indicator!

  2. I would look for a church that seeks a balance between Truth and Grace. I wouldn’t feel very comfortable bringing an unchurched person to church if the emphasis was on one of those two extremes. You mentioned it already, but small groups would also be high on my priority list.

  3. I don’t think you can get the complete picture, but I bet you can get a sense for it.

    If I had to navigate a new church for a few weeks, I’d listen to volunteers and staff and ask lots of questions. If they speak the same language, it might be a good indicator that the vision and mission of the church is well-communicated and that volunteers own it and run with it.

    Are they able to clearly articulate the goal of the church? Do they describe it simply and plainly? And is it consistent? (If you ask different groups of volunteers/staff, do they say the same basic message?) If these things aren’t true, then there is likely some conflict between ministries or teams about the purpose of the church.

    Like I said above, you probably can’t diagnose it too deeply, but I bet after a few weeks you can get a sense of the unity of a church.

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