How do I choose new church?

Attendance at Christian churches among millennials (those born between 1980 and 2000) is going down. There are many factors that play into that downward trend.

However a common critique is that for the last 30 years both church leaders and potential church attenders have been asking the wrong questions in their efforts to reach out and in their search for someplace to belong. Namely, the focus for both has been on matters of style and catering to consumer sensibilities. And after decades of making style and consumer questions the most important thing people are finding themselves dissatisfied.

Here are three better questions to ask when looking for a church.

#1 It is local? Ask, "Is it close enough for me to be involved beyond Sunday?” Might the people you meet in the pews actually be your neighbor? According to recent research, the primary reason for seeking a church, and a primary factor in millennial retention at a church is relationships. When people make friends on Sunday, then share life outside of Sunday, they tend to stay.

#2 Is it invitational? Does the church have a posture of openness and warmth for those outside of its walls? Do they hold events in the community that make people smile? Do they greet you and make you feel at home when you visit? Do they attempt to make the service—regardless of style—understandable to the outsider? Or is it simply a foreign subculture that you’re left to learn on your own?

#3 Is it Christological? Christological means focused on the person and work of Jesus Christ as the answer to everything. When a church is being faithful to historic, Christianity the goal for that community is to know and love Jesus—who he is, what he’s done—more and more. That’s really it.

It’s a relatively new idea to see Jesus as someone who came to earth to help us become the best versions of ourselves. And millennials—who have access to more information than any generation prior—realize there are 1,000 ways to “live your best life” without waking up at 8AM on a Sunday.

A recent survey by the Barna group found that those who stay in local churches cite "intimacy with God" as a primary factor. They want to hear that, and understand how, the truths of Jesus transform relationships, vocation, and equip them for cultural discernment.

Here's a quick way to tell if a church is Christological: analyze the grammar. As you sing the songs and as you listen to the pastor speak who’s doing all the work? Who’s the subject of the sentences? Who’s the "doer" of the verbs? If every song is, “I want to” and “I need to” and every sermon is "what you’ve got to do", and "who you can become” then that church isn’t giving you transcendent truth. They're offering advice, which to many doesn’t make them much of a church. Maybe they’re still asking the wrong questions.