This past summer I moved for the 4th time in my life. I am no stranger to the process of making new friends, starting somewhere new, and having to find a new church. In undergrad, I spent an entire year and a half trying out different churches, and while I loved the one I ended up going to, I wish I could have been more involved and that I could have been there longer. With my move to D.C I knew I wanted to get a jumpstart on the process of finding a church home.
Searching for a church in D.C can be a little overwhelming. Basically, there is a church on every street corner, and many more “undercover” ones housed in places like schools, movie theaters, and even clubs. So when I was looking for somewhere to start I first visited places recommended to me by friends, then I just started googling. Mark Batterson, the author of the amazing book, The Circle Maker, has his church here, so I visited there. Hillsong has sister churches, so I visited the two of those. All in all I think I visited six (maybe seven) different churches.
I find it interesting that almost every church I visited led with the fact that their church has “small groups” “life groups” “community groups” etc….Honestly, every church has some variation of that so here is the mental list I carried with me as I visited churches in Washington D.C.
- A medium to large size congregation: I’ve grown up in churches pretty large in size. I know that is a turn off for some, but I really enjoy it. It gives you a wide array of people to meet, learn from, and just share the presence of the Lord with.
- Women in leadership: The church historically has a problem with this, and I’m not interested in a church that does not have women (a diverse set of women) at the table. I’m looking for women to not only be in “traditional women spaces” like child care, hospitality/greeters, but also as worship leaders, pastors, and other positions of leadership.
- Strong worship: Again, I grew up in churches with strong worship, but this is obviously subjective. I enjoy a solid mix of contemporary Hillsong, Bethel music, Isreal & New Breed, but ya girl loves a solid transition to a beautiful old school hymn. Honestly though, with worship, you can quickly tell when you’re feeling it and when you’re not, so this was easy to judge.
- Teaching rooted in the gospel: Obviously the most important part. I’m looking to get fed each week. As I visited different churches I noticed that some sermons seemed like heavy anecdotal feel good speechs or very basic foundational sermons that didn’t expose me to anything new. This past weekend I got to attend my church in Charlottesville again, and it was a great reminder of exactly what I was looking for in a sermon. The pastor was teaching on a few verses in 2 Peter. Something I could have easily glanced over if I was reading it on my own, but here I was reminded of the hard truth about God’s judgment. How the Lord is always a righteous judge, and how His judgment is related back to the of the gospel. It was great, and something I look forward to each week.
- Diversity in race and age: Do you see a theme here? A lot of what I am looking for are things that I saw when I was growing up, specifically in my church in Chicago, and in Houston. I not only want a racially diverse church, but also a church that has members in many different age brackets. Specifically older adults. I’ve found that after undergrad I don’t have older adults around me, at least not in the capacity that I could talk to them about my life. So I appreciate having the opportunity to create those relationships in the church.
Alright, so after visiting different churches and looking for these five characteristics, I finally landed on one. During my first visit, I can say that the atmosphere felt right. Right in a way I can’t articulate. The sermon was literally about the gospel, the worship was good, but I wanted to keep visiting other places but I added to the list to try again. So about three weeks later I visited again. This time, the sermon wasn’t preached by their lead pastor, but by their worship director. A black woman. Honestly, I was sold. A church that literally provides a platform and a pulpit for women of color? They are doing something right.
So there it is! That’s how I found my new church. It only took about 7-8 weeks, but I did it!
If you have any questions specifically about the churches I did visit, or my process in general, leave a comment and let me know!