If you find yourself in a new church for various reasons; maybe you moved to a new location, you had to leave a previous fellowship or you have been out of church for a while; there are some great mindsets that can help you make the best of your journey in a new church fellowship.
I have watched this transition from various perspectives. Whether it has been in the position of being a staff member, a lead pastor or in helping a local church, there are many things I have observed in over 20 years of experience.
Listed here are ten helpful tips I have found to make your new church experience the best it can be, no matter the situation.
1. Recognize No Church is Perfect
You would think this goes without saying, but we have to recognize that no church has it all together, no matter what is projected from the stage. Everyone is battling something or going through something challenging. Every church has its strengths and weaknesses. No church is going to have all the programs, ministries or emphasizes that you want.
In addition, you have to remember the people in the church are not perfect. Sometimes it can be easy to say that “church people are hypocrites” as an easy cop out for ever having to be a part of a church body. Usually it comes from a place of hurt more than anything else. Give those in the church, including leaders, the grace to work out their journey and growth, just as you need that.
2. Give it Time
One of the key things I tell people is to give it time. Take your time getting to know people and the vision of the house. It takes a while to develop a new friendship, so why don’t we apply this to our new church?
Take some time to especially understand the heartbeat of what God has called this fellowship to be. Does that DNA line up with your heart? Is God calling you to plant here?
As you get to know people, don’t expect to have ten years worth of relational connection in 2 weeks. Give God time to build those relationships.
3. Don’t Try to Change the Church
One of the dangerous things I have observed numerous times is when people come into a church with the mission of changing the church and especially the pastor. So many people will talk to me about their church, with this subtle mission they have of trying to change or influence their pastor to “correct” something in him. They want to influence his decisions and change the way he sees things to match the way they perceive life, the Bible and church ministry. This is not a healthy motivation when entering a church. In fact, it is very manipulative. Our heart’s motive should be that of blessing and adding value to the atmosphere of the body. Don’t try to change anyone. Just simply be available and let God show you His heart for that church body.
4. Find Out the Special Call on that House
I have a personal conviction that every fellowship has a unique reason they have been set in the community. Yes, there are the overall directives from Scripture for the church in general. But I believe there are some unique things each fellowship brings as a contribution to the body of Christ and also to that specific area. Take some time to tune into what that might be.
Every church has strengths that line up with its calling and no local church is strong in everything. The biggest mistake churches make is they try to be like other churches or get as many programs going as possible, without thinking through specifically why God has placed them where they are. Yes it is there to reach people, evangelize and make disciples, but what does that look like for this house?
Sometimes we criticize a church for what they don’t have, when in fact, what you are criticizing is not a part of that church’s core calling in its identity and strength. Could it be there are churches set in certain regions for a specific purpose? Find out what that is.
5. Don’t Make Quick Evaluations
Ive seen more people make this error–they jump to a conclusion too soon. They either say, “This is the best church ever!” or they judge the church negatively too quickly. In taking your time, don’t come to conclusions too quick, but give God a chance to work the process of our new season.
Some look for that instant, “this is home” thought in their heart from God. Don’t put that much pressure for that to happen. I find that people who have that experience don’t automatically produce consistent fruit.
6. Beware of Past Church Hurts
I believe its the number one destructive influence in churches today. The hurts that have gone unresolved from your last church will likely be your radar in this new place. You will look for those dysfunctional patterns, even if they are not even there.The hurts that have not been resolved from your last relationship will likely be your radar in this… Click To Tweet
When people transition into the church I lead, I prefer to walk through that process slowly; where they work through it with their old church and walk away with honor, so as to bring the least amount of baggage into our fellowship and to leave as little damage in the previous place as possible. Now this does not always happen, but it’s worth the effort on my part to encourage this process. I know what’s it’s like to have people leave suddenly, without healthy transition. So I would never want to influence a situation that does not honor the previous church.
7. Don’t Leave Burned Bridges from Past Church Relationships
As best you know how to do, don’t leave things unresolved from your last church experience. What needs to heal? What relationships need to be addressed? Are there people you need to forgive? Unhealed wounds from the past will creep up in this present environment at some point, so you mind as well deal with it now.
8. At Some Point, Make Your Decision Known
Don’t sit in limbo forever. At the right timing, its important that you make your decision to plant yourself in the church known. But make sure you don’t say it until you are ready to back it up with action. Don’t say you are “all in” until you are ready to show with action that you mean that. Its important to take your time, but at some point a decision needs to be made.At some point, make all your commitments known. Click To Tweet
Once the decision is made, know there will be things you’ll need to work through, but that is the process God is bringing us all into–becoming one as Jesus and the Father are one. But remember, its your covenant commitment that will make the biggest difference in the life of your church. Once you are “all in,” the rest is details. I have this saying which I believe fits so well. The best church in the world is the one you are married to. Break through the uncommitted culture of today and be one that commits all the way.The best church in the world is the one you are married to. Click To Tweet
9. Become Someone Who Adds to the Life of the Church
Don’t be someone who just sucks off the fumes of the church’s people and resources. Don’t just take up a seat. Find ways to contribute with time, financially and relationally. The question to ask is: “How can I best flow from my gifting in this church environment?”
10. Be Willing to Work Through Any Issues
Issues will arise, so be ready before they come up to work through them. Make a decision now that you will choose to grow in everything, versus running away or adding to the problem. The day that every church members gets that their role is important, they will see negative issues as a way to grow in relationship more than anything else.
What’s the best way to work through tough issues? Let God work on your heart. Most of the time, we think the problem is everyone else, so we shut down relationships or move away in fear. But quite often the struggles we face with people are our greatest discipleship opportunities to grow into a new level of maturity.The relational struggles we face are our greatest discipleship opportunities to grow. Click To Tweet