Monday, June 29, 2009

Alien Presbyterians

Recently, a close family member began searching for a new church home. This proved to be quite a challenge because the various churches visited were so different from his faith tradition. After visiting the Presbyterian Church, the frustrated searcher exclaimed: "THEY ALL LOOKED LIKE ALIENS!"

This is a reminder of how churches often appear to outsiders, even those outsiders who are Christians but belong to a different denomination. Those of us who want to embrace hospitality and welcome the stranger would do well to objectively think about how our church may appear to those who visit.

For those searching, it is also a reminder of the challenge of finding a new church home, especially if consideration is being given to a church that is not part of our faith heritage. If you are in this category, here are a few guidelines to help in your search.
  1. It is going to be different so matter what. Embrace the difference and don't be turned off when you experience a different liturgy or worship style.
  2. Decide what's really important to you; what is non-negotiable. If you expect an egalitarian worship experience, don't waste time with a denomination that does not allow women to play an active role in public worship.
  3. Write down you list of "must meet" criteria. Use it to evaluate each church you visit.
  4. Recognize up front, however, that no church is perfect.
  5. Consider what level of involvement/commitment you are prepared to make beyond just attending worship on Sunday morning. If you want to get your "hands dirty," a smaller congregation may offer more opportunities for ministry than a larger church.
  6. Get clear on worship style. Where does this fall in your priorities.
  7. If you are serious about a particular church, make sure you meet with the senior minister. Prepare a list of questions for her (or him); make sure you understand what the specific membership requirements are for this church.
Finally, if you have anxiety about leaving your present church home, explore dual membership. Many churches recognize people, for a variety of reasons, may need to retain membership in their current faith tradition (family pressure, financial commitment, etc.). So ask about the church's attitude toward dual membership.

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