Living in the Bay Area can be overwhelming at times because of the pace of life and the weight of responsibility in trying to not only lead ourselves but also our families. As a father and a husband in the Bay Area, I sense this tension on a regular basis. I have come to discover over the years that a great way to help with the pressure of these realities is to be connected to a healthy and loving church. Here are my top five signs that you should look for when finding the right church for you and your family.
#1- Do they have a culture of grace and truth?
At The Bay Church we aim to be a church that is gracious in acceptance without compromising truth. If you’re like me you might be asking yourself what exactly does that mean? Grace is receiving what we don’t deserve. Truth is that which is right and pure.
We live in a time and place where our culture has a diminishing desire to live out Christian values and beliefs. To take it even further because of hurt or lack of understanding or simply a desire to control how their life will be lived, independent of what God says, we are finding more people fighting against any concept of absolute truth.
The world, our neighbors, co-workers, friends and family, deserve to receive “grace upon grace” (John 1:16). The Word of God is full of truths and instructions to live by, but it is also full of radical compassion. If we can’t demonstrate compassion, we will be denied access to share truth. When we build trust through relationships full of grace, we can share the hope and truth of the gospel.
Grace is important, but know that it is not more important than truth. I mean, the truth sets us free, right? (John 8:32) “Or” is not a choice on this one. We must be full of Grace AND truth, simultaneously.
So when looking for a church be sure they tangibly express grace and compassion but never at the expense of biblical truth. If a church won’t share the truth in difficult situations they rob us of the ability to experience what Jesus has called us to, a transformed life.
#2- Do they prioritize my kids?
Kid’s ministry is crucial. Why? Because we need someone to keep them alive while the adults are busy doing the really important God things, right? Okay, that’s not the real reason although I am sure I could get a few “Amens” from honest parents who love having a place we can leave the littles to get a break.
Not having a healthy Children’s ministry was a “deal-breaker” for our family when we began looking for a new church. Kids are like sponges and giving them a place where they can consistently be exposed to the love of Christ by hearing His Word and by seeing it lived out in the action of believers is important for their development. There is a big difference between churches that simply occupy/entertain kids versus churches that have an intentional engaging plan to develop and encourage children to experience a life-transforming relationship with Jesus Christ. You will know it when you see it because they will invest money, time and resources in a way that creates captivating environments for children at all levels of development.
#3- Do they have a plan to invest in teenagers?
Let’s take a moment and think back to when we were teenagers. Was it just me, or did anyone else have a mild anxiety attack during that little exercise?
There are many decisions we make as teenagers. Some small, some big but they all follow us into adulthood, helping to shape and form who we will become. Do you know a teenager that couldn’t benefit from some encouragement, love, guidance or support?
If I can be honest here, number three is especially personal for me. You see, my relationship with Christ started as a teenager. I had the opportunity to encounter Christ and literally change my life because a local church felt that it was important to have a program for teenagers.
Statistics will tell you that someone, with a childhood like mine, can grow up to be many things. However, a well-adjusted adult would be very low on that list. The adults that spoke life, confidence, and worth into me, helped me overcome and seek more from myself.
#4- Do they understand the needs of families? (time, marriage needs, resources, counseling)
The divorce rate in the US is dropping, approximately 39% of marriages will end in divorce or separation.*
Or 61% chance you will succeed if you are a glass half full type of person. Either way, we can all agree that 39% is to large of a number to ignore.
No one is immune to marital problems.
Marriage is hard. Parenting is hard. Even for God-fearing, Christ-centered families.
I believe, belonging to a church that allows not only space for us to be honest about this but also for a place to receive help and offer resources, only then will we see improvement in our families. Be sure to ask any church you attend what type of resources are available to engaged and married couples including small groups, pastoral counseling and other marriage enrichment materials.
#5- Do they create a place for you to belong? (serving, etc..)
Be His hands and feet. Anyone else ever notice how strange some of the phrases that are thrown around can sound for those who have never read scripture or are new to their faith?
It is a simple concept though. We can teach and talk about the love of Jesus all day long but at some point we should “put our money where our mouth is” right?
But how? How can we tangibly show the love of Christ?
By serving. Serving is what Jesus was all about.
Ok, but how do we serve. It’s actually pretty simple. You see, we are all uniquely made, with specific gifts and talents. Serving is just using those things to help others in the church and around your community, expecting nothing in return.
Finding a church that not only allows you to serve, but one that will enable and empower you to live out those gifts to further God’s kingdom is imperative.
Matthew 20:28 “just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”
Most healthy and effective churches today have a clear plan and system for helping the people that attend to not only discover their gifts but to empower them to use those gifts to serve in the church and community. If a church does not have a plan to help you engage your gifts and talents you may want to plan to find one that does.
Co-Authored By Jason Bishop (Executive Pastor at The Bay Church)
& Katrina Grijalva (Administrative Assistant at The Bay Church)