For most us growing up we end up going to a church by accident rather than choice. Perhaps it’s because as a family we all went together, or we went to the church where our friends went.
But what about the choice we face post-youth group? For many it is when they move away for university or leave home for a new job. The prospect of choosing a new church to go to is both a great opportunity but a terrible challenge. How will I ever find a church like my old one? Do I want to? Will there be people my own age? Will I make friends? What will the preaching be like? What will the worship be like?
The statistics are sad reading when they show the largest drop off in church attendance is for those negotiating the transition from the youth group to ‘adult church’. But Church is so important for us as Christians. Trying to keep following Jesus without being part of a community of disciples is like trying to keep a coal white hot once it’s been taken from the flames.
In Acts 2:42-47 we see something of a blueprint for the Church:
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
But how do we find the church for us? Whether we have had a great experience of church so far, or it’s been more difficult, no church is perfect, but it’s absolutely necessary to find the place for you to be part of a community, worshipping together and serving God’s Kingdom. Just reading articles on The Bridge won’t cut it!
Be a part of something. The Church is the people, the community of believers, and you have a part in this.
The great thing about the church is both its diversity and its unity, no matter where you go in the world there are people worshipping the same Lord. It’s important to have people you connect with. Are there people at this church who can look out for you, journey with you, and support you in your faith? This might be through home groups or community groups or perhaps people who you’ll touch base with on a Sunday morning that will become friends.
The chances are you’ve had an experience somewhere between the extremes of being the only young person at your church or part of a thriving youth group. It’s hard to find a church that has this balance perfect but to find a church where you have peers with similar life experience to you and to also have the vibrancy of young families and elderly wisdom is such a helpful resource for your growing discipleship. Whilst it’s great to spend time with those just like us in age and background, the experience and insight of the diversity of the church is invaluable.
Sure, it’s not all about what you can get out of church, but if it’s all hard work and no reward, then you’re missing out!
What is it you want out of a church? Is it meaty, biblical teaching? Is it charismatic, contemporary worship? (Both is my preference!) Think about what sort of church will suit you best, your spiritual temperament, stylistic preference; we are all individuals. But it’s important to choose a church where you can meet with God yourself, where you can feel fed and at home to grow in your faith in God. It may take a bit of time to find it, you may have to compromise on your expectations, but sometimes it’s ok to be selfish and go for what you need. That’s not too say you change churches every time something doesn’t go your way, but instead take a long-view and consider what sort of Christian will this church make you if you are a part of it for the next few years.
Give something. You’re right, it’s not all about receiving. It’s about giving, serving and having opportunity to partner in God’s mission as part of a local church. Bill Hybels isn’t wrong when he says “The local church, when it’s working right, is the hope of the world.” Different churches will have different things they feel called to whether it’s student mission, reaching out to the homeless, running a foodbank or involved in initiatives such as healing on the streets or Alpha. As soon as you feel like you’ve decided what church to stick it out at, think about how you can give something of your time and effort to contribute, perhaps serving the kids team, the worship or the welcome team. It’s without a doubt the best way to get to know others in the church and will very quickly feel like you’ve made your home.
Church is about more than rocking up on a Sunday for a sing song and a lecture, the real life of the church is in its action and impact for God’s purposes amongst its community and surrounding area.
I hope those 3 points give you something to think about if you’re looking for a new church. It’s also worth checking out Fusion’s ‘Student Linkup’ for information on local churches if you’re moving and interested to see what’s there.