So, you’ve considered the principles of the church and know practically what to look for, but you’re still not quite sure how to go about finding a new church. You hate the idea of church shopping and don’t want to spend the next few months looking for but never settling upon a church community. (If you don’t hate church shopping – go read through the principles again.) So how do you go through this process as quickly and painlessly as possible?

Let me first say that this list is by no means exhaustive or authoritative. But over the summer, I was attempting this and made several mistakes along the way. So if you want to learn vicariously through my mistakes, keep reading.

1. Talk to other Christians you know – ask where they go. This isn’t a foolproof way to find a great church, but it’s always a good start.

2. Do your research! Check out their website – that’s the easiest place to find out what they believe. If they don’t have a clear statement of belief on their website or still have questions, make sure to ask them! Many churches require prospective members to take a class so that everyone is clear on exactly what the church believes. If the church hasn’t gotten all of their institutions straight out of Rick Warren’s The Purpose-Driven Church and is still located in the ecclesiastical stone-age, you should ask the pastor/minister/reverend to have a talk. Make sure to ask any and all questions that you have about the church!

Ask about doctrine. Ask about lifestyle. Ask about meetings of the body. Ask about other Christians and churches (and what their attitudes toward them are). Ask any question whose answer you think would change your decision about joining. If you disagree with one of their answers, be willing to listen to them to see if they are right. Bring a Bible. Expect to use it!

Being voluntold is just like volunteering, except that you’re told exactly what you will be “volunteering” for. Getting put on snack duty is pretty easy – don’t complain!

3. Attend a few times before deciding. That week they had an evening service to say goodbye to their youth pastor? Probably not characteristic of their regular service. (Which is a shame when you are supposed to be attending a pentecostal church for class.) That slightly heretical preacher that comes out of the woodwork every month or so? You might not see him on your first visit. Just know that if you show up for more than 3 times or so, you’re pretty much committed. Expect to get voluntold to bring snacks for the next service or to start designing the church bulletin.

Any other suggestions or tips?