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Conversations on Belief
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May 2007
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Caranam [userpic]
A Question

As I work on my PIF (Pastoral Information Form)there is this question that is increasingly occupying my thoughts.

How do you choose a church?

Many people simply stay with the church they grew up in. If they move, they don't ever really find another one. I know some that test drive churches: they go to several different ones and sit through a service to see if they can find their niche there. Does that work?

From my side of things I know that one of the biggest issues for Presbyterian churches at least, is getting new members. But looking at it from the other side, how do people new to a town find a church? What is it you look for? What is it that immediately turns you away from worship?

As a side note to the other pastors on the list, when you are seeking a call, what do you look for? What catches your interest and makes you look again?

Current Mood: awakeawake
Current Music: St. Caffiene

hmm, since i've really fallen away from attending church since I don't live with my parents this is an odd one. But there have been times I've wanted to find a spiritual community. If i ever get off my butt to find one it will be seeking out a belief system I at least mostly agree to, a congregation I can relate to, and just, well, a connection. I will probably always be connected to Catholicism even though I also have my issues with it. I would say the most likely way I would end up finding a place of worship would probably be to kinda become connected with it indirectly, meet some people from there, attend a function, and then maybe work my way up to going to services, see how it felt. I'm not sure if i fall into any sort of average, but those are my thoughts.

parishoners please

Well i was born a Lutheran and I plan on dying a Lutheran so I first look up all the Lutheran churches (well all the ELCA churches). If I couldn't attend a Lutheran church or the one there was not a good fit I would then try to find a church that met with my ideals and than made me feel welcome. I have gone through the finding a new church thing a couple times and one time the church my father wanted to go to I hated. I was happy when we found a house on the other side of the area. We ended up going to another one. I am glad we did too because i wouldn't be the Christian I am today if we hadn't. Before that point I only went to church because I "had" to. The church I grew up in was full of old cranky German ladies who HATED me. I really didn't get anything out of church. But I agreed to try the new church and things were different from moment one. Everyone was nice and welcoming and the adults were actually nice and interested in me and what I had to say even though i was just a teenager. Anyway I digress. I guess my point is the right church setting can mean all the difference in a person's beliefs.

Back to the question at hand though. I look for churches that are not too big and are welcoming and whose members truly engage visitors and don't just do the outreach "dance". I also like churches that focus on the love of Jesus Christ as the centrality of their message, and who hopefully don't engage in hypocritical behavior.

I also think that what a church has to offer can appeal to different people at different points in their life. For example a young couple focusing in family will probably want to find a church that offers great Sunday school learning ops for their children; while a retiree might want a a church with an active senior group. You have to focus on what your church is best at in the community. For instance my home church has a larger senior population and we are small and cannot provide a lot of the things that the younger families want. So instead of chasing after illusive dreams we have embraced who we are and are focusing on providing opportunities for our older population and increasing membership in those areas. And adults that aren't necessarily focused on children. Happily last month we had seven new members join. And in a church with average attendance of 40-60 that is magnificent. I would bet that most pastors out there are often saddled with the pressure to increase numbers, but don;t forget that often times you can easily lose the message of your church as a whole when you play the number game.

I don't personally attend church, because I don't consider myself christian, and so don't feel it appropriate to do so regularly (though I do enjoy going when I do). However, I do recall moving to Bowling Green as a small child and watching my parents going through the process of finding a church. They are Lutheran, but had previously attended a Presbyterian church for several years where my mom had worked as a scelectary. SO, they were a bit out of touch with the community when they arrived. There are only a few lutheran churches in the BG area and they did pretty much precisely what you described above.

They went to a few services at each one. Knowing my parents I can tell that they looked for a church where the teaching lined up generally with their beliefs, there were pastors who could preach well and teach us kids (I did go through confirmation) and a community that was friendly and accepting of new people. We stayed there for many years, and as I said I was confirmed. The deal was that after I did that, I had the background to make my own religious decisions, and so I did. As I recall, the only reason we stopped attending regular services was because of a frustrating family situation.

Personally I would look for a type of emotional connection when I walk into a church as well as the things my parents looked for. I can't seem to get that in some of the new born again churches, but I know I've felt it walking into some of the churches we performed at on band tour.

That is all, good luck in your search.