First Steps for Joining a Church

First Steps for Joining a Church

Let’s say you don’t currently go to church. It’s been awhile, if ever, since you’ve been involved in a church or attended services. You’re an outsider who doesn’t do much more than drive by various church buildings, but you can’t shake the sense that God is whispering, “Find a church.”

Where do you begin? How do you just start going to church? How about beginning by addressing all those other voices that are trying to drown out God’s whisper?

I don’t know which church to try! Start by praying about it. Your prayers can be simple; just pray them over and over. “God, where should I go? Which church would be a good place for me? For my spouse? For my family?” And then listen to your life. Listen to the voice of God’s Spirit speaking in you. If you didn’t read the post Finding a Good Church, take a look and do some reading on church websites and talking to others about the churches in your area.

When my husband and I were involved with two of our young kids in a small church that closed its doors, we decided to do just this–pray. Not just for a week or two, but for six months. We committed to six months of praying daily and visiting many local churches before settling on one. Our kids joined us in the daily prayer, and visit we did. Large churches, small churches and many in-between. We learned a lot about the congregations in our area and it was a good time of worshiping God with others we didn’t know but felt a bond with in Jesus nonetheless.

I’m not used to getting up and going out on Sunday! For many of us, Sunday is a day for sleeping in, for leisurely breakfasts and a break from rushing and activity. For those with children or spouses, Sunday can be a day for togetherness and meaningful time at home or outdoors. For others, it’s a day to join up with friends for meals and recreation. Putting church in the mix can feel like one more “To Do” on the schedule, and it can feel like a damper on all the other good pursuits a Sunday can hold.

My first encouragement is to be willing to let go of these other pursuits in view of not letting the good keep you from the best. We talked in earlier posts about how God is at work in the world and in people primarily through the church. We looked at the book of Hebrews in the Bible and God’s words, “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:24-25, bold mine). ” If God’s best for you involves your joining with a church, God will make a way for your other needs to be met and those of your spouse or family. Some churches offer Saturday night services , and other churches meet on Sunday afternoon or evenings. For those who work weekends, most churches have mid-week opportunities for involvement in Bible studies or mid-week worship services. Ask God where he’s leading, and then follow, trusting he’ll take care of the rest.

I don’t know what to DO in church! With a little prep beforehand and then a good dose of being easy on yourself, you will get through that first and second visit just fine. You might call ahead and talk with someone at the church about how the service  proceeds. If you have children, find out whether kids attend their own classes, where the classes and nursery are located, and what the procedure is for  getting them there. If you haven’t called ahead, ask at an info table or inquire with a greeter when you get there. Some churches practice liturgical reading and you will follow along in a bulletin, or maybe a book in the pew, reading the congregational part when noted. Some churches have congregational responses that are not written because they become familiar to the congregation. Other churches do very little of this liturgical reading and response. Don’t worry about not taking part in what you don’t know. Just absorb and enjoy experiencing God’s people meeting together for worship. Join in singing as you would like and don’t let expressions of worship such as lifting of hands or vocal offerings of prayer or praise by the people around you cause you discomfort. These are just indications that people love God and are showing it.

What if I don’t like it? Keep praying, because you know what?  Chances are good that if you haven’t been attending church, getting started will take some time and perseverance. You probably won’t like everything about the service you attend. You may not understand all of the sermon. You may not care for the music. It might feel too long. You may feel like a fish out of water. Your toddlers  might cry all morning or your teen may hate it. All of that is normal, friend. Don’t let it keep  you from going again, and don’t assume that because you had mixed feelings it was a bomb. Trust God’s leading and keep praying for his help.

We had all sorts of experiences during those six months of praying and church-seeking. Some churches we just knew weren’t right for us. Others felt like possibilities. It was a good time. And God was faithful. We settled on a church God seemed to be confirming in various ways and we’ve been there now for almost eight years. We’re serving, giving, and growing there. Can’t imagine life without our church family and without the way God is guiding our lives in this world through the church.

If God is whispering to you, “Find a church,” then get going. He’ll guide you, too. There is a place somewhere that you’re needed. Start going and start getting involved. It will be one of the best things you’ll ever do.

Is anything keeping you from finding and joining a church? How can this Living in the Word family help you to take the next step?

A Giveaway! If you or someone you know would appreciate the book Church: Why Bother? by Philip Yancey (http://www, enter to win this random drawing by midnight Saturday, May 25. There are many ways to enter: leave a comment here, become a new subscriber (free) to receive this blog in your email, or LIKE Living in the Word, Brenda Quinn on Facebook (new Likes)–you’ll find a link on the sidebar. The winner will receive this book direct from Philip Yancey and with his signature!

See earlier posts in this church series:

Why Go to Church?
Finding a Good Church
Why Church Matters

[Thank you to Flickr/chiptape for the use of your photo!]

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