How to choose a Church (A Challenge)

by jpserrano on August 20, 2012 · 2 comments

This week I was led to this article A Non-Churchgoer’s Guide For Finding A Church For Your Family. I was quite interested in what the author would have to say about how to choose a church.   This article however was not helpful at all since it was filled with all kinds of assumptions not based on how churches actually are.

First, I want to say that I really liked Mr. Nick Shell’s article 8 Non-Religious Reasons To Take Your Kids To Church. I highly recommend it for non-church going folk because I think he is spot on. I thought it was a well written article with good advice. But his article on choosing a church is found wanting.

His first tip.

“I recommend the kind of church that meets at a school.”

The fundamental error here is that he equates location with a certain type of church specifically Saddle Back Church in California. The location that a church meets doesn’t say a whole lot about it. There are all different kinds of churches with different worship styles, theology, and stances toward children. These churches meet in a school because they either choose to, are renovating the sanctuary, or are building a new church. The location a church meets is unhelpful for choosing a church, it tells you nothing about them.

In his second tip he recommends churches without denominational ties.

“Often the names of these “purpose driven” churches include phrases like family, life, community, and fellowship as opposed to official denominational ties, such as Baptist, for example…These churches are typically designed with you, the newcomer, in mind.”

Again, Mr. Shell’s advice isn’t helpful. Many denominational churches have changed their names and removed the denominational affiliation from the name only. These churches are still Nazarene, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodists , etc., etc. They’ve only taken out the affiliation in the name. The beauty of denominations, which Mr. Shell doesn’t acknowledge, is that in most of them the Pastor is well educated, has been vetted by numerous people, and is accountable to a larger group. If the pastor starts to go the way of Westboro they will be answerable to others.

Mr Shell advises that the churches he describes they are more likely to be a certain way.

“I predict at a place like this, you won’t feel like you’re being held over hell like a marshmallow, but instead will feel welcome and part of the crowd.”

Unfortunately this predication, like most, is wrong. There are many churches who fall into the above description of churches that are fundamentalist in their preaching and will hold you over the fire which no doubt turn a family off to the church. You will feel as a non-church goer that you unwelcome because you don’t believe.

There is one thing of value that Mr. Shell adds at the end,

“What matters is that you find the church that is the best cultural fit for your family so you will want to go back, not feel like you’re supposed to or have to.”

Bingo, Mr Shell is on to something here and it is good advice to the Church. I agree with this statement whole heartedly. New comers to church should not have to culturally commute in order to understand the worship service or the preaching.  They shouldn’t need a dictionary of Christian terms, a manual to follow the service, or firm knowledge of the local procedure to be integrated quickly in the church.

I recognize that here I have not added my own tips on how to choose a church and so far this has only been a critic of Mr. Shell’s advice. I promise my advice on how to choose a church will be coming soon.

Sometimes it’s hard to get inspiration to write so I hope this helps.

The Challenge

 I know many people who are leaders in the church and therefore would like to issue them this challenge.

I challenge church leaders in the blogosphere to write their own tips to non-church going folk on choosing a church.

Remember this is for non-church going people.  I want people to be able to look up descent advice on how to choose a church and there is a lot of people I know with good ideas.  

Let’s end this little challenge two weeks from today Sept 3, 2012.

Here are ways to join in:

You can add your tips in the comment section but I would prefer if you would write on it in your own blog and put a link in the comment section below.

If you’re the emailing type email it to me (jeremy [at] and I will add it.

You can send me the link on twitter (@jpserrano)

I look forward to hearing your responses.


Update: Here is my contribution- 5 Tips for choosing a Church (For the Non-Church Goer)

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Daniel Pugh August 20, 2012 at 11:32 am

So interesting, a good read Jeremy. I was most concerned with the total lack of theological investment given to finding a church. I’m not Mr. Theological or anything, but it should be int he discussion more than “not feeling like a marshmallow roasted over a fire.” I would also add to the list finding a place where you can use your God-given gifts, which you will not find using a spectator’s mentality.

I wrote very recently on a very similar line of thinking this week. It may be a good read for you and your followers!



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