When a newly married couple walks down the aisle and heads out of church for their honeymoon, one unresolved question often lingers: "Are we going back to the same church after the honeymoon?"
If he went to Church A and she went to Church B before the wedding, where do they go afterward?
Michael and Shari weren't sure.
Michael grew up in the Catholic church. Shari attended a couple of different denominational churches over the years. After their wedding, Michael and Shari bounced back and forth between their two churches, couldn't decide which one to call home, and eventually stopped going altogether.
Things changed after their first child was born.
"I can remember it to this day," says Shari. "It was a Sunday morning. Our son was a baby and I just felt God calling me to go. So I told Mike, 'We need to go to church,' and he said okay."
Many factors conspired against Mike and Shari finding a common church home, but they "prayed it out and worked on it...together," she says. They're now active members of a Free Methodist Church.
There's no one right way to answer the "which church?" question.
For Jon and Linda, the answer has changed over the years. Right now, Jon and Linda and their three children attend her church on Sunday mornings. That way, the whole family can worship together. But on Saturday evenings, Jon often attends his church. It's the best of both worlds, Jon says.
For Elizabeth and Billy, the answer evolved during their courtship. Two years ago, Billy visited Elizabeth's church a few times and then she started attending his church part-time. Last year, she transferred her membership to his church. But she still visits her old church once in a while.
The bottom line: you and your spouse may want to explore several options until you find what seems best for you.
Finding a New Church Home
Thanks to a new online resource, finding a good church home for your family just got a whole lot easier.
At your fingertips:
A. Quick links take you to reports on research studies that have documented the numerous benefits for couples and families who attend church together.
B. A 60-second online survey helps you determine what you're looking for. Choose what interests you and your spouse, then print out a quick assessment of your spiritual wishes. Do you want positive spiritual, moral, and social training for your child? Resources to enrich your marriage? What else? You decide.
C. Another 60-second survey helps you determine your current religious preferences. Describe what matters to you and your spouse, then print out an assessment. What spiritual factors are significant to your family? Use those factors to help you choose your new church home.
D. A comprehensive list of options allows you to examine the benefits of attending a larger (or smaller) church, find out what denominational (and non-denominational) alternatives you have, and then explore several church options near your home.
Overcoming a Bad Experience
If you or your spouse have had a bad church experience in the past, you're not alone.
Approximately 22 million Americans say they are Christians and have made a faith commitment to Jesus Christ; they say that commitment is still important to them, but they have struggled with faith or relational issues and quit going to church.
Typical reasons for a bad church experience:
A. Individuals feel like they didn't "fit in" at the church they attended.
B. They felt confused or overwhelmed by church expectations.
C. They felt rejected, humiliated, or hurt by someone in church.
Don't forget — the apostles of Jesus Christ had some bad church experiences, too. The apostle Paul was maligned by several imposters who infiltrated churches he had started. Even in his old age, the beloved apostle John reported that certain people were "gossiping maliciously about us" (3 John 10 NIV).
Thankfully, the U.S. is blessed with an abundance of churches — more than 315,000 at last count. If you have had a couple of bad church experiences, it's not time to write off every church.
The good news: There's a good, healthy, positive, faith-inspiring, family-friendly Christian church near you.
Thriving in Your Church Home
Once you and your spouse agree on a new church home, then what? Internationally respected Christian leader and best-selling author Luis Palau recommends:
A. Together, get to know one of your church's pastoral leaders.
B. Together, attend your church's membership classes.
C. Be baptized together, if you haven't already done so, to publicly declare your faith.
D. Take communion together as a way to say "Thanks!" again for what the Lord has done for you and your family.
E. As a couple, volunteer to assist with one of your church's ministries.
F. Always speak well of "our" church — especially if you have children.