Finding a Church Home
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 home. 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 in the DC area.
What To Look For
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 in hopes of finding a church home.
- 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 speeches. 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.
The Deciding Factor
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!
I’ve since moved again, so I feel comfortable sharing that my church home in DC was The District Church located in Columbia Heights, NW DC.
If you have any questions specifically about the churches I did visit, or my process in general, leave a comment and let me know!
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Heather Foskit says
Alysse, you continue to amaze me with your strength and openness. I recently moved to Chicago and finding a church Home is a top priority. I found one that I’m liking so far but it’s encouraging to see some recommendations when searching as well as stories of perseverance when it comes to finding a faith community. I know you are doing some amazing work and I continue to pray for you and your family. Thank you for continuing to be an example of faithfulness.
Heather, congrats on your move to Chicago! Thank you so much, and good luck in your search.
Thank you for this, can’t rush the process on finding the perfect church home for you!