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3 Things You Need To Discover About a New Church

Written by Bob Martin on

Life comes in chapters. And one of the scariest parts of a new chapter can be finding a new church. After all, this spiritual community will be a huge part of my life. But what do you really need to know about before you decide to commit and stay at a church? And if you’re settled right now, how do you help a friend or family member who is assessing a new church?

I’m New. I’m scared.

Visiting is hard. As a pastor who has been involved in membership for over nine years, I feel a big burden for those who are stepping into a new church.

  • Will people like me?
  • Are the pastors trustworthy?
  • Will I agree with the teaching?
  • Do my kids like their class?
  • Are there any groups for single people?
  • How do I form relationships?

Our minds can swirl with questions. And it’s important to ask them. But what are the top three questions you need to ask and discover at a new church?

Here are the three questions we openly discuss at DISCOVER, our monthly newcomer event. And I think that they can unlock any new church that you check out.

1. What’s the church’s mission?

Spoiler alert: Every church should have the same mission. Jesus gave it to his first disciples after his resurrection at the end of Matthew’s Gospel:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:19-20).

But each church phrases this mission a bit differently. At College Park Church, our mission statement is “igniting a passion to follow Jesus.”

“Jesus”: We are focused on worshiping and following Jesus. This is his church. And we exist to proclaim the gospel that he alone is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

“To follow”: This is our summary of discipleship. We are called to form our lives after his life together.

“A passion”: Spiritual life isn’t just about our heads. It’s also about our hearts. You become like what you love. And we want God to transform our affections so that loving him isn’t just our duty, it’s our delight.

“Igniting”: As humans, we want to put together the kindling for God’s Spirit to spark a flame of divine work. We can’t make the work happen—but we can bring together God’s people, God’s Word, and prayer to invite God himself to change us and our community.

Is the church you are considering a place that is on Jesus’s mission? If so, that’s a good sign. But what makes the church unique?

2. What is the DNA?

What makes this church this church? The “feel” of a church can be hard to put into words. But churches usually have core values or some way of summarizing the key values that they try to live out.

I think of these values as the DNA of the church: the features that make this church unique compared to another church with a similar mission or theology. Put another way: what is the culture of the church?

There are six Core Values that display the DNA of College Park Church:

  • Pre-eminence of Jesus
  • Authority of the Word
  • Redemptive Community
  • Biblical Unity in Diversity
  • Extravagant Grace
  • The Call to Go!

These paint the picture of our church.

  • It’s a place where we focus on Jesus.
  • We follow and teach the Bible.
  • We want to apply the gospel to one another’s lives in deep relationship.
  • We want to be a small picture of the diversity of God’s kingdom and reach where God has put us.
  • We want to give our lives and resources because we believe that God owns it all anyway.
  • We’re committed to going across the street and around the world so others can know about Jesus.

Does the new church you’re checking out uphold values that you think align with God’s Word and that you can join in on? Great! But what about actually getting involved?

3. How Do I Plug In?

Sadly, plugging into a church takes time, no matter the size of the church. But it helps if your church has a process for how to help newcomers become “all in.”

At College Park, our discipleship pathway is three simple words that express every member’s journey in the church:

  • Belong
  • Grow
  • Multiply

First, someone who is new attends membership events to help them become a member who knows about their church and knows people and leaders in the church. When someone becomes a member, they are officially and objectively “in.” As a member, I’m saying, “I belong to these people and these leaders, and they’re committed to me too.” That’s how someone belongs.

Then they grow by getting involved with groups and classes. Groups provide great ongoing community. Classes equip with great content. Bible studies pull people into ongoing committed growth too. Whichever environment someone chooses, they are choosing to grow together with others in an important, consistent way.

But no one is off the hook from multiplying. Jesus calls us to “lose our lives” so that we can truly find them (Matt. 10:39). As we give, serve, and go, we link arms with those in our church family who are also on mission in this city and the world.

Have you figured out how to plug in at your church and be “all in”? Perfect.

Now you most likely have an idea of why the church exists (mission), what it’s like (core values), and how to get involved (pathway). It’s now time to decide to commit (especially if the church has a membership process), get involved with relationships, and find your group (for community) and team (for serving).

After all, the best part of a new chapter is knowing where the story is going and feeling like you can’t wait to turn the page.

Learn more about DISCOVER at College Park Church.

Bob Martin

Bob first joined staff at College Park as a Pastoral Resident in 2011 and has served in several important roles since that time. He now serves as the Pastor of Membership & Connection. Bob is passionate about seeing men and women enter into community with others to find hope together. He enjoys spending time with his wife, family, and friends.

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