How To Find A Church In A New City
It was 10:55 and, as I circled the church parking lot in my new college town for the third time, I realized there was no way I was going to find a place to park in time. I rarely missed a Sunday back at home, but I couldn’t figure out any solution than to leave the parking lot and drive back to my dorm. While it might not have seemed like a big deal, I felt like such a failure for not making it to church my first weekend at college.
Thankfully, the next week, several girls invited me to ride with them to a different church, which ended up being the church I attended throughout the rest of my college years.
Whatever the circumstances of a move, finding a church in a new city can be daunting. Since college, I’ve moved five times, and, unfortunately, I still find it difficult to attend a new church for the first time. It’s never been quite the disaster it was that first time when it literally seemed as if there were no place for me, but sometimes the fear of not belonging weighs on me. After all, moving to a new place is already a difficult transition, and having to search for a new church only adds to the feeling of displacement.
However, I have always forced myself to eventually attend a church for the first time in a new city, and I have always benefited from the communities that I’ve become a part of. It may be tempting to think that you can can worship God privately rather than needing to meet with others, and while you absolutely do need to cultivate a personal relationship with God, there is so much value in worshipping with other believers.
As we read the words in Hebrews 10:24-25, “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good words. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another…,” it becomes apparent we need the support of others in our walk with God. Worshipping with others glorifies God, and it also provides us with a group of people who want to help us move forward in our faith.
Finding a church home in a new place can be so difficult. While I will admit that I still feel awkward when trying a new church for the first time, I have found a few ways to make the transition easier.
Use the internet. There is nothing wrong with Googling the churches near your new house or apartment. In fact, you should definitely check the website of any church you are considering to find out if the church’s core beliefs match yours. The Gospel Coalition has an amazing directory of churches that teach sound doctrine.
Know what the non-negotiables there are for you in a church as well as what aspects are preferences. The things that fall into either category are a very personal choice and knowing yours will help you find a church that is a good fit for you.
Find someone else to go to a new church with you for the first time. This can be someone that you’ve met after moving or it can be someone who is coming to visit you in your new place. If you have a sibling, parent, friend, or anyone else in town helping you move in, you can absolutely have them go with you if that makes you less nervous. Once that first visit is over, it will be much easier to go again.
Recognize it is ok if you put off going for a week or two as you get settled. Especially if you are introverted, the idea of greeting a whole sanctuary full of total stranger,s regardless of how friendly and well-intentioned they might be, may be more than you can handle. Give yourself permission to adjust. Then, go.
You may have to visit more than one church. There is nothing wrong with figuring out that a specific church is not quite the place for you. This is not a critique of that specific place.
You will not find a church that is perfect. The leaders who are there and the community aspect can have a positive impact on your spiritual growth. However, if you are searching for the church with a specific program that is somehow going to transform you into a model Christian just by attending, you have an unrealistic expectation.
Pray for guidance as you search for a church. This is the one thing that I tend to forget, and I have a feeling that I am not the only one. Sometimes we think about what we think we want and need, but we forget to pray to God to see what it is we actually need.
How did you find the church you currently attend?
Do you have any advice for the new girls looking for a church home?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Elizabeth is an educator at heart. So far this has taken the form of a camp counselor, a museum assistant, and currently a middle school teacher. She loves to watch people grow and learn. You can read more of her writing at her blog Chronicles of a Southern Belle.