Finding community can be a long and challenging process, but the rewards are worth the wait.

The Search for a Church that Feels Like Home

Slightly hard of hearing in his Sunday suit and tie, the smiling usher boomed a greeting into the cold and cavernous narthex.

“You forgot to set your clocks ahead, right?”

Immediately the disjointed pieces of that chaotic Sunday morning fell into place:
The full parking lot, the strangely empty narthex–yes, we were an hour late for church, which meant we had arrived just in time for the sermon conclusion and the last amen. Wearing our awkwardness like ill-fitting choir robes, we exited as discretely as two people wearing dress shoes can manage in an echoing church entryway, and we rode in silence across town to our tiny apartment on Middle Street—an address that had become an accurate and stinging summary of our entire lives in that season.

A career change for my husband had put our workplaces over two hours apart, but we’d cheerfully split the difference and settled in neutral territory exactly half way between, telling ourselves it was temporary and a good test of our independence within this new marriage of ours. No friends, no family, no church ties anchored us in this new home base, but we were optimistic, so . . .

Let the church hunt begin!

Are you looking for "the perfect church?" Finding community can be challenging, but the rewards are worth the wait.

I’m sharing the story of that crazy season of our life together over at (in)courage today, and whether you are living in the on-ramp toward faithful church attendance or standing along the way cheering others forward, you are in a unique position to put the beauty and uniqueness of God’s love on display.  

Finding community can be a long and challenging process, but the rewards are worth the wait. Thanks for joining me, and while you are there, take a minute to browse the work of other writers in that community of faith, connection, and friendship. You can welcome them into your daily inbox by clicking here to subscribe.


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63 thoughts on “The Search for a Church that Feels Like Home”

  1. The truth of the gospel is best understood in terms of our yearning to belong, our struggle with homesickness, and the ache of all our longings for home.

    I like that.

    I guess it means we are in a position to grasp the gospel afresh in this unrooted grandparenting stage of our lives. It will be three years next month since we moved to our current smallish town locale in order to be nearer our growing grands. Have we settled on a church home? Mostly. But we have found that it is good to be known in the whole Body here hence we attend one church regularly but are involved in two others more casually and in small group settings. The Body has different faces but one Spirit. It’s been a season of discovering this even if we haven’t found a perfect fit. We are planted here for God’s purposes…Thx for sharing your awkward search, and bless you for being the friendly face at your church,Michele!

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    1. I love that you have positioned yourselves geographically in order to be intentional about your grandparenting. When I see my own little grands every single week at church and drive a mere 20 minutes to their home, I am often smitten with a sense of unworthiness, because, truly, we are blessed to have them nearby with no finagling on our part.
      It sure looks as if you have the same ministry of proximity in your community too, making your dear selves available to anyone who wants you.
      And here you are today, showing up to encourage me! I do appreciate it. Sooner or later here, we have to get another book discussion group going. I miss regular Linda visits.

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  2. I enjoyed reading about your ultimately successful search for a church home. I don’t know why, but my hubby and I were both brought up in the Lutheran church and when we got married, just looked for a Lutheran church in our town. We have been there for almost 40 years. I have the line from Robert Frost illustrated, framed and hanging by our front door as a statement to our children!

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    1. I really need to do something about making that line from Frost visible. I think this is the second time this year I’ve quoted him in something I’ve written.
      And there’s a lot to be said for denominational faithfulness. It certainly narrows the search!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. You’ve certainly got the formula right, Lauren. I’ve been there, too, and those wilderness days can be tough, but I do think our roots grow deeper when we’re waiting and depending on God for our encouragement and for the next step.

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  3. I tried to leave a comment at (in)courage but it seemed to vanish- probably in their spam folder 😦
    Anyway I enjoyed your post. Finding the right church family is so important. For me, the challenge was finding the courage to move on from a church I had struggled and persevered with for years and to take the risk on something new, but the church I am part of now has been one of the biggest blessings over the last few years and it has made a huge difference to truly feel that I belong!1

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    1. That’s so good to hear, Leslie–about your church, not about the comment disappearing. Shucks. Thank you for persevering, though, and for sharing your encouraging story. Just because one church does not work out is no reason to write off “the church” forever!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. My family went through this a couple of years ago and we just kept going to one of the first churches we visited. I dread the idea of ever having to move again, because choosing a home church is such a hard process!

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    1. Oh, that’s so true, and I’m thankful when I hear someone saying that this is part of their process of moving. It’s so easy to just lose the habit in all the clutter of moving and adjusting. A loving church family gives our believing walk so much stability.

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  5. I just read an article talking about how people ‘church shop’ only to please their needs & dont think about that WE are the church – WE have to be invested on making the church a good place. 🙂 … I do know not every church is for everyone & there’s nothing like finding a good church home

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    1. This is a concept that’s become very meaningful to me in the past several years. WE are the church–pastors and buildings come and go, but we are commissioned to show up and stay faithful in serving our communities and one another. God did not call us to be perfect or to find the perfect church that meets all our specifications.

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  6. What a great post, Michele! Took me back to the years when I was searching for just the right place. It can be so hard. I just love the Body of Christ. Corporate worship is with the time and effort it takes to find a good church home. (Shared from in courage on fb and Twitter.)

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    1. I agree with you, and even after we find a church home, it is still worth all the time and effort and even the frustration sometimes and the disappointments that come because, after all, we are all human and there’s no one else besides sinners to come and fill our pews. Still worth it!

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    1. Online community is certainly valuable, but I would argue that it cannot take the place of a real life connection with people who see us in many different contexts and can walk with us in practical, hands on love.
      Blessings to you–and thanks for reading!

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  7. We went through the search for a new church home last year. It was almost a painful process but God brought us to the perfect church home for us. Thank you for this insightful post!

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  8. Headed over to read more, Michele. I remember being new to town and searching for a church on that Sunday when the clocks changed. No one said anything as we came in late. And we were naive enough to think maybe they had their sermon first and their worship last. Didn’t realize till service was over but continued our search till we found one we called home.

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  9. We went through this process a year and a half ago after moving, we were so blessed to find a church fairly quickly that felt like home, and after praying felt God’s go ahead to join. It can be such a pain to try and figure out!

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  10. I love that you are sharing your journey and helping others remember their experiences and find their way too xx Thanks for joining in for #AbloggingGoodTime

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    1. Thanks for reading, Mackenzie. I think one of the reasons for our experiences is that they give us compassion for others, and our story can encourage someone else that they are not alone.
      Blessings to you, Mackenzie!

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  11. After a year of visiting, we joined our new church last Sunday! The commute is long, and it makes our Sundays seem rather full, but we couldn’t be happier. We know the Lord led us there to be fed as well as to serve. I could write quite the thesis on this topic. Thank you for all you wrote, Michele.

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    1. Oh, congratulations, Julie, on a brand new church family for you! We also drive a bit to go to church, but have found it to be worth the trip. Trusting that so much good is in your future, and that you will find the relationships and mutual edification only grow sweeter with time.

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  12. Congrats on your post over at in(Courage)! That’s awesome! For most of my adult life, I’ve worked as a teacher for our denomination’s school system–which means that my church choices are limited to one, possibly two. I’ve learned to cope with what I’m constrained to. This may have jaded my whole view of church and community ;).

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  13. First of all, Michele! Congratulations on getting to post at (in)courage! That is so exciting. I loved this post. It reminded me of our early days of marriage and trying to find the perfect church! When those expectations are sky-high, we will end up disappointed, won’t we? Over time, God has reminded me that the church is his body, but the people in it are works-in-progress, just like me. It’s a humbling, reality-grounding reminder that there is no perfection this side of heaven. 🙂

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    1. I love it when I get to visit over at (in)courage!
      Yes, we need those “reality-grounding reminders,” for just as we are sometimes stuck in a rut of bad behavior, that person who drives us crazy may also just be “stuck” like us. We need so much grace!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Good morning, Michele,
    My granddaughter and her new husband are searching for a church home right now and a little frustrated with the process. She has moved away from home for the first time and they moved some distance from the church he had been attending. I’ll be sharing some of your thoughts with them! Thanks for talking about this important subject!

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  15. Oh my – I, too, want to be the one. The one who extends the welcome and even the one scribbling down names…intentionally trying to remember which name goes with each face. And the families that go together:) Having recently changed churches (after 30 years), I am so grateful for those who welcomed us – greeted us – when we came to our new church home. What a difference it makes!!

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    1. So now you are on the learning curve! I remember after having attended our church for several years learning that two women who usually sat together were actually sisters! All the family trees and their branches get so tangled in our brains as we try to learn the names and the faces! Blessings to you as you persevere in this!

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  16. I need a new church home. Haven’t had one in years and it’s a little intimidating at times. I have a list in my head of churches to check out but I haven’t done it yet. Thanks for sharing this experience with us at #OMHGWW!

    Like

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