How to Find a Faith Community

by Doug Burrier

Picking your first church can feel a bit like guesswork. Picking a church after a bad experience can feel risky. Even picking a church in a new community can feel challenging. Where do you start? What do you look for?

Most people pick their new church based on location, buildings, worship style, and the teacher. Some are looking for what they had before and others are looking for something opposite of a bad experience. Some limit their choice to a denomination. But, today, most people just respond to marketing.

Though there’s nothing wrong with enjoying the environment or experience – big or small, hard or easy, hip or hymns, classic or edgy, casual or formal – the experience can’t deliver what I really need on a terrible Tuesday. In other words, it can’t just be about Sunday. And it can’t be just about how we feel.

So I came up with a few checklists to help me think slowly and without emotion. My three checklists are:

  • Three Must Haves (these are non-negotiable),
  • Three Negotiable Things, and
  • Thirteen Things to Avoid

You can find my checklists below. But before you go any further, let me be transparent. I am spoiled rotten when it comes to a faith community. So my lists may seem a bit ideal to you. But if I have to move, these are the lists I am going to use because I want ideal. It is kind of like making a list of what you want in a girl (or guy) before you start dating. The list helps you avoid the emotion of the moment.

Three Must Haves

These three things are important. In my opinion the most important. They are why churches go bad and people get hurt. They are why people sit in small groups for thirty years and never grow up. They are why the church overall is dying off. 

People

The church is made of people so that’s the first thing I look at. Without being too judgy or quick, ask questions like:

  • Do the leaders talk more about themselves or God? 
  • Do I feel like a project, a number, or a person? 
  • Are the people inwardly focused or open to new comers? 
  • Are they Instagram and Facebook or are they real? 
  • Did anyone have a real conversation with me? 
  • Was the worship a performance or did the musicians have a moment with God? Do I feel/see hypocrisy or humility? 
  • Do I feel/sense unity?
  • Can I see myself building strong relationships here? 
  • Would I be proud to call these folks my best friends? 
  • Will this place make me better?

This may take a bit of time, a few visits, a few events before you get the feel but, without a doubt, the people in a church are the church you will be a part of. They will be your community – warm or cold, open or closed, happy or sad, friendly or not, prideful or humble, empathetic or judgy.

Purpose

There is a very clear purpose for the church in the Bible, and surprisingly it isn’t what most churches do. Jesus’ final charge to the leaders was, “Go make disciples.” Paul described the church as the place that equips God’s people, building them up until they are mature. 

The purpose of the church is to,

Introduce People to a God who loves and understands them, knows who they are and who they can be, and help them to apply God’s truths to their decisions so they can be prepared, confident, and skilled to live their best day ever on earth.

Look for a place thats primary purpose is making disciples. A place that is proactively reaching out to those who don’t know and helping those who do know to become prepared, confident, and skilled in their faith.

Plan

The final criteria on my short list is the faith community having an actual plan to accomplish that purpose. Not a vision. Not a theory. But an actual, measurable plan that will equip me: help me discover God’s truths, help me apply God’s truths, and help me become self-sustaining in my faith.

Look for a concrete plan with a concrete end date that will have you prepared, confident, and skilled in your faith. A plan for your transformation not your education. 

Even more important, a plan that has proof of concept. A plan that has worked and is working. A plan that is turning out people who are mature, solid, and capable. If you are going to pick a community to coach you, you want a coach with a good track record. It’s my version of “show me the money!”

When you find a place that has these three things pretty much nailed, take a look at these negotiable items.

Three Negotiable Things

Pick transformation over location.

I am initially going to pick a faith community in my community over one far away. Why? Because I want to live life in community and that’s much easier when I am close by. After all, time and geography are the two most important factors in a relationship. But let me ask this, “How far would you drive to get a cure for cancer?” Be willing to drive that far to find a place with great people, a Biblical purpose, and a plan for your spiritual success. Always be willing to pick transformation over location. 

Pick variety over familiarity.

It’s only natural to find your people. People like you. Music like your music. Teachers that you immediately connect with. But let me ask, “Have you found the value in the truth that opposites attract?” Be willing to make friends with people different than you, older than you, or younger than you. Some of the strongest relationships are between opposites. Variety makes us stronger. People who are different, who think different, who have different spiritual gifts complete us, guard us, and challenge us. Always be willing to embrace variety in a place that will let you be your unique you.

Pick content over presentation.

I am always going to pick the best communicator that I can find. Why? Because great communicators inspire me, challenge me, and, well make things easy to understand. But have you heard the phrase, “You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig”? Demand excellent content that is clearly Biblical, immediately useful, simple, and actionable. Always be willing to pick content over presentation.

Thirteen Things to Avoid

I have been working with leading churches for twenty something years. This is my list of things that cause me to stop and think. Each of them is a symptom of a deeper personal, spiritual, or Biblical problem. The reasons are listed after the things. Remember, this is my ideal list. It may not be yours.

  1. Churches that vote. Voting never worked out well in the Bible.
  2. Churches led by just one guy. That plan never worked out either. God’s plan was a group of spiritually mature people.
  3. Churches that constantly need money. If they can’t plan a balanced budget, how can they plan my life?
  4. Churches where the leaders say, “I think.” Tell me what you know to be true. Give me solid, proven truth.
  5. Churches that are afraid to call me to action. Don’t they think I will rise to the challenge? Do they think I can’t handle the truth?
  6. Churches that ask me to watch kids before they know me. Need I say more.
  7. Churches that talk down to me. God believes in me. They should too.
  8. Churches that talk about their plan and not my plans. 
  9. Churches that pass an offering plate. Do the people need to be reminded?
  10. Churches that call the guy who leads “Pastor” or “Reverend.” There’s a verse that tells us not to do that. Haven’t they read the Bible? Or aren’t they following the Jesus’ words?
  11. Churches that are wishy-washy on things that God doesn’t approve of. People got in trouble for watering things down in the Bible. Aren’t God’s boundaries important to know?
  12. Churches that are mean to lost people who don’t know what they don’t know.
  13. Churches that push politics.

Want Help Finding a
Faith Community?

We are more than happy to help you find that perfect fit. We don’t know all the churches in the community. But we know most of them and are happy to help you find your people. Just use the form below.

Community is more than church. You can find faith community in smaller groups outside of church. If you are interested, we champion a network of disciple-making groups around the world. And they work. If you can make a 90 minute weekly gathering, I guarantee that you will be amazed at the end of the year. Groups meet on a variety of days and times beginning the second week of February. You can fill out the form below to learn more.

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