Last week I wrote about the importance to committing to attending participating in a number of worship services in order to help you discern whether your attendance in a church would be worshipful. Knowing who you are and who the church is feeds into this process and brings us to our next topic. Because you are already working on your self-awareness, you probably have some idea, by now, of your spiritual gifts. You probably also know which ministries within a church body you are well-suited to support with those gifts. This brings us to the final chapter of our Church Hunting Series.
Committing to attend a few services over a certain amount of time provides you the opportunity to tap into a study or small group that interests you. You may even be able to support a service project with the church if there happens to be one around the time of your attendance. Either way, you need to get involved during the time of discernment.
We rarely understand well what is going on within a church until we get involved with its ministries. This sort of involvement provides, to a greater extent, the same sort of deeper knowledge that you get when you follow up. Depending on the nature of the ministry your gifts fit well, you will likely get a pretty clear picture of one of, if not both of, two very important areas of faith life. Remember that worship is not just about what happens on a Sunday morning, so this will demonstrate how the congregation worships through their behavior.
If you choose to participate in a small group or Bible study, you will be able to observe some of the dynamics between members. Keep in mind that there are a couple of variables here. First, if there are two people in the group that are more closely connected than the others, their interaction may be an outlier. Second, small groups usually end up being people who enjoy being around one another, for the most part. This may end up painting a slightly rosier picture of the church’s relationships than average. That is not necessarily a bad thing, though, unless the group sets itself against another group in the church. You may also be able to glimpse a bit of the personality of the congregation though your conversations here.
On the other hand, you may choose to join in on a service project to support your community. In this setting, we see how the body of believers relates to the community. You can learn about how well they are engaging with those living around them, which is critical to healthy churches. Leadership also tends to show up in projects. You can assess how well your gifts contribute to the current leadership environment of the church. Maybe, they need you to lead, or maybe they need you to lend a hand without taking charge.
No matter how the situation plays out, the benefits to early involvement in the “non-Sunday” activities of the church are numerous. In the same way that you were open and honest about your discernment process through multiple visits, you can gain a lot (and the church can gain a lot) by your involvement in these ministries. As you go into the church hunting world, just remember that finding the right church is not about what you get out of it. The purpose is to worship God regardless of what you are doing.
Looking forward to seeing you out there,