There was a time- not all that long ago- when I dreaded visiting a new-to-me church. I am a totally Type A person and I really like knowing what to expect. But, my love for Jesus and desire to be in a church on Sunday mornings always trumped my fear.
Between moving to several new cities, and traveling often- I was forced out of my comfort zone a lot. Our family has visited hundreds of churches and I learned a few ways to make it easier for all of us. And, guess what?
Now I actually look forward to visiting new churches!
Before I go into some tips, I want to say that every single church I’ve ever been to has a “come as you are” policy. So, no matter what, please hear me say- these are just tips to help YOU feel more comfortable. They are not, by any means, guidelines or things you “must do” to visit a new church!
If you take only one thing away from this, it would just be to show up. That’s it.
However, if you’re like me you might want a little help thinking it out! Here are my tips for visiting a new-to-you church with kids (or without…most of these tips apply to any situation!):
- Plan: One of the easiest things you can do to prepare for visiting a new church is to do a little homework. First, figure out where you want to go. If you don’t have access to recommendations from friends or family in the area, you can alway ask at the hotel concierge. I have also had luck asking around town- ask your waitor at a restaurant, or the check out clerk at the grocery store. So often we’ve gotten GREAT recommendations! If all else fails, Google and Yelp! are always helpful. Once you decide where you are going to attend- google the church to find out its hours. Keep in mind that some churches alter their schedule for holidays.
- Bible App: If you aren’t traveling with your Bible, you may want to download the Bible App on your cell phone ahead of time. Some churches provide Bibles or copies of the scripture; however, that seems to be a dying trend. We love being able to pull out our phone and follow along.
- Attire: Again, the “come as you are” approach is always acceptable! But, I find that I’m most comfortable if I blend in. Jeans seem to be completely acceptable in most churches these days. You might also consider a simple sundress or pair of khaki/black pants. Holidays do tend to be the most dressy time in churches; However, there’s even an acception to that rule of thumb in very touristy destinations (Disney-area, beaches, etc.) I typically put my son in a collared shirt, and my daughter in a casual dress.
- Children’s Program…or Not: A lot of churches have fabulous children’s programs, but it’s completely understandable that your children may not feel comfortable in a new place. I have one child that LOVES to go into any program (she’s super outgoing) and one child that always wants to stay with me in “big” church. When we travel I let my kids know that either option is perfectly acceptable. Sometimes we wait and decide once we get there, but more often than not I ask them ahead of time which their preference is going to be that day. Most programs will have a special spot to check in visiting children and someone will help you figure out where they need to go.
- Resources: If your young children will be sitting in church with you, plan to bring a few simple activities to keep their attention. I am a huge fan of this bible for kids: The Jesus Storybook Bible. Even if your child can’t read, it has WONDERFUL pictures! For very small children I recommend: The Beginner’s Bible for Little Ones or The Big Book of Bible Stories for Toddlers. You may also want to bring something like these coloring/activity books: For Such A Time As This: A Biblical themed coloring book, Make Your Own Noah’s Ark with Stickers, or Bible Coloring Wordsearch. Snack are also an easy way to keep small kids occupied and happy!
- Differences: Realize that every single church you visit will be different. We have come to really love checking out new churches when we travel because it gives our children all kinds of different experiences. As long as the church is preaching out of the Bible, there’s nothing wrong with the service being a new experience. Maybe the music will be louder. Perhaps you will stand or kneel at different times. Embrace the differences! But only as much as you are comfortable. For example, communion might be taken in a different way in the church you visit. Remember that if you don’t feel comfortable participating- that’s okay too!
Hopefully these suggestions will help you prepare to visit a new church as you travel this season! Remember, the most important thing is that you show up! Our family just recently joined the welcome team at our church and there is nothing that we love more than meeting new families that come to worship!
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