Whether you’re moving to a new area or simply need to find a new church, there are a variety of factors that parents must consider before settling on membership in a specific congregation. For many, decisions regarding their spirituality and the religious training of their children are some of the most important choices they’ll ever make. While everyone must approach this intensely personal journey from the perspective of their unique family and individual needs, there are some basic guidelines that can make the search a bit less complicated.
Children’s Ministry Programs
For single adults or couples without children who are setting out to find a new place of worship, the children’s ministry and programs available for kids generally don’t rank high on the list of considerations. When you have children and are in the process of finding a church home for your family, however, these programs are among the most important. Take the time to carefully examine the children’s and youth programs in a new church before committing yourself. If there aren’t many children in the congregation and there is nothing in place for the few kids there are, it may be difficult to get youngsters involved in church programs that are tailored to adults.
A Family Atmosphere
Some churches are simply more welcoming to families and young children than others, which is an important trait to look for when you’re choosing a new church. Your children and their spiritual education are two very important factors in your happiness with a church, and it may be difficult to get them interested when their needs aren’t being met. Traditional services can be a bit monotonous and short on stimulation, making it hard for kids’ to focus on the message that’s being passed along to the grownups in the congregation. If a church seems to have a more adult-centric atmosphere, it may not be the best place for your young family.
Shared Doctrinal Beliefs
There are many subsets of the Christian church, from Baptist to Pentecostal, to Methodist to non-denominational. In order to feel truly at home in your new church and ensure that your family is receiving the religious education you desire, it’s important to take doctrine and doctrinal teachings under consideration. While the basic premise of Christianity is the same across the board, those relatively small differences in interpretation can be surprising sticking points. Before even visiting a new church, think about the doctrinal association and what that means in relation to your own affiliations. If you’re not sure that you can comfortably submit to doctrinal teaching that differs from your own, it may be best to think twice before getting involved.
The size of a church’s congregation may be more important than you initially realize, with pros and cons for both very small and very large churches. Massive churches with hundreds or even thousands of congregants will almost always have an impressive array of programs to choose from, including those focused solely on kids and youth ministries, but can also be somewhat impersonal. It’s difficult for even the most dedicated pastor to keep the names of thousands straight, so you may have little more interaction with such a pastor than a passing handshake.
On the other hand, very small congregations are very personal. Everyone tends to know one another, offering a very friendly and supportive atmosphere. However, those groups may also be so small that they can’t support many ministry or outreach programs.
Deciding which factors are most important to you can help you make the decision, as can selecting a church that falls somewhere in the middle on the size spectrum.
Visit More Than Once
The first time you visit any church is unlikely to be indicative of the actual atmosphere. Some services may be more heavily attended than others, or have more difficulties than others. In order to make an informed decision and give each church on your shortlist a fair shake, try to visit for more than one service.
Get acquainted with a few members of the congregation, and make your decision based on a few visits, rather than a snap judgment made after a single service.
Take Your Time
While your spiritual health and that of your family is of the utmost importance, it won’t ultimately be served by a church that’s an ill fit.Rather than rushing headlong into a church membership that’s less than ideal for your family simply to ensure that everyone is attending services on a regular basis, take your time. Make sure that the church you eventually choose is one that will nourish your family spiritually.