For many Christians - students, professionals and families alike - finding a new church is the hardest part of moving. It might be hard to find a church that’s nearby - or the opposite and there are too many to choose from; a church in the city centre, or in a suburb? An evangelical church, or traditional congregation? Whatever your situation, the church you finally call home will have a bigger impact on your life than your job, university – even your home.
Several members of Cornerstone say that if they move again, they will prioritise finding a church over their new home. When you truly feel part of Christian community, moving house feels a lot easier than leaving the church you feel attached to. So when the time comes, consider finding your church home even more important than you the home you eat and sleep in.
Start looking early
There are many evangelical churches in Newcastle upon Tyne, each with unique qualities that help them to worship God and make disciples in different ways. The same is true of many cities and towns throughout the UK - so start searching soon. Even googling ‘Churches near me’ or ‘list of churches in Newcastle’ is a start, but hopefully you won’t stop there.
It’s not always possible, but finding a church should be part of your decision making process for when and where you move. If our identity is truly in Jesus, then the church we belong to will become more important than our suburb, house or commute length. Looking at churches sooner will give you more time to pray, get to know the congregation and leaders and even visit before you move.
Look for churches connected with your current congregation
Joining a new church can be an opportunity for you and both churches to appreciate the sense of church family we see in the New Testament. Rather than just moving because of work circumstance or your own choices, you may see God at work in your life in a new way. To build them up, God 'sent' people from one church to another when the church was young (Eph 6:22, Col 4:8, Philemon 1:12), and He still sends people today - including you.
Finding a church connected to your current congregation, through networks, friendships or other affiliations, can help you and both churches feel the unity and connection God designed churches to have. The connection doesn’t have to be formal – it could be a church you’ve partnered with in mission in the past, or just know through close friendships. Ask your church leaders and other members if they know any churches in the area you’re thinking of moving to.
Prioritise churches you can help, over churches you feel comfortable in
All of us find it easy to choose the easiest or simplest option. When it comes to choosing a church, that could mean choosing the congregation with the most people your age, or worship you prefer. But choosing a church while following Jesus’ example means looking for a church to serve and build up - just as Jesus did (Matt 20:28).
To Christians today, Paul’s exhortation for Timothy to fulfil his ministry (2 Tim 4:5) reminds us our priority should be finding fulfilment first through serving - and not by feeling comfortable and served ourselves. Many people at Cornerstone settled here because they found places to serve and feel valuable early on.
This doesn’t mean finding the church you feel you have the least in common with – just that the style of worship, leadership structure or preaching experience of leaders might not be as important as they feel. Look for a church where you can try to give as much as you receive.
Look for churches you can attend consistently
Although it is possible, it’s hard to attend a church farther away and not feel like you're missing out on community. The same goes for meeting times – if you have commitments that regularly clash with Sunday or midweek meetings, it's easy to feel disconnected from your church during busy times.
Where possible, look for churches you can serve and attend consistently. That could mean forgoing a preferred job or dream home – but in the long run you will be happy you made the sacrifice (2 Cor 4:18).
We can find belonging where we least expect it
We already discussed prioritising churches to serve over those we feel comfortable in; but it’s worth mentioning that the church God sends you to might not be the one you expect. If you’ve come from an established church, it could be the fledgling congregation. If you’re single, it could be the church with more families. Maybe there’s a church reaching a group of people you’re not familiar with, but you can see the need. Be ready to step into something new – the familiar place is not always the faithful place for you to be.
Get in touch with churches before you visit
Call a church or send a message if you're thinking about visiting – it will never hurt. It can make you more comfortable if you’re nervous and give you more time to get to know the church and God's vision for it; someone might be free to meet you for coffee so you can ask more and get to know you. Most importantly, it means the church you’re considering can pray for you too, and the more people praying on your behalf for such an important choice the better (2 Cor 1:11).