I get asked fairly often, "how do you know when you have found the right church?" This is easy I think, and here are a few things to consider, or ask:
1) Do you like it? (style, feel, people, etc)This is hugely important! Who wants to be in a church they do not like? Interestingly enough ... far too many!
And I am going to step out on a limb here because I have dealt with this very issue often; Parents like it but the kids don't, what to do then? Great question! And let me just say that "kids not liking it, doesn't mean that it isn't good ... hello, their KIDS for pete-sakes! They say that about school all the time, and when they do you don't just up and move to another school!
My son and daughter have through the years said, "I don't like school, or church, or football, or dance, or soccer..." or whatever ... they are kids and all they want to do is play,have fun and eat candy, which is totally fine on occasion, BUT in church it should be all of those things; FUN, PLAY, and most importantly LEARNING LIFE CHANGING PRINCIPLES from the BIBLE, not playing PlayStation 3!
One more thing - the reason I believe it's SOOOOO very important for the PARENTS to like (actually love) the church is because they (parents) are the ones who should be TEACHING and TRAINING their children in the things of GOD! And when parents are excited about God and church ... wham, the kids will be also! Trust me, kids loving God and following God as they grow older is 90% up to the parents and their HOME life!
I remember when I was a kids sitting in Sunday School surrounded by 4 white walls, seating on maroon chairs, Bible in hand, while the teacher used a felt board to tell stories from the Bible. What is important is WHAT IS BEING TAUGHT, not a cool wall mural (though when we have a church building we will have that).
2) Do they *teach the Bible? (real important ... though there are many different styles ... different strokes for different folks ... none are better then another)
a) Verse by verse teaching (using lots of Greek and Hebrew)
b) Topical (pick a topic, then teach on it using scripture as a support or foundation, i.e. 3 ways to conquer fear)
*I would say that these are the two primary teaching styles ... a third would not we worth talking about because that would be a church that hardly teaches the bible, nor uses much scripture ... I wouldn't really consider that a church really. That's just me though)
Here is the bottom line when it comes to teaching styles; do you learn something? Are you moved? Challenged? Encouraged? Called to action? Touched? Do you relate, or connect to the message? Do you like it? Do you feel God? (now this also can be based on what "you" think "God moving" is. For a pentecostal "God moving" is different then what a Methodist would think "God moving" is. And here's the deal ... DO NOT JUDGE another on the "God moving" deal ... again, for one it's dancing down the isle with uplifted hands, yet for another it's quiet stillness, for another it's candles and hymns, for another it's organ and burning incense ... for another something else completely! Stop being so narrow-minded to think that "what you were taught, or what you think" is "God moving" is the only way God moves! God can move through a Donkey if He so chooses.
Know this; when we get to heaven there will be NO DENOMINATIONS ... just the people of God! Nothing wrong with Denominations! I'm just sayin!
3) Do they encourage, and allow anyone to be involved in leadership? (giving opportunity for people to use their gifts for God as they fit within the church.)
4) Do they challenge you spiritually? (a church should challenge your walk, encouraging you to live holy, make right choices, forgive, love, be kind, etc.)
5) I think this one is very important; do they have a non-judgmental welcoming feel? Meaning, are people friendly, open-armed to NEW people, people who may not fit the typically "look" of a church going person ... a church that permeates love and acceptance? If so, this is truly a great church!
I want a church I can bring my friends to, and know that they'll be accepted no matter what their social status, lifestyle, religious background may be, or not be.
6) Is the worship passionate, heartfelt ... and let's be honest ... good? I want quality too! It's hard to worship with bad music, and off pitch singing! Ouch! Jesus enjoys it, but not me!
7) Are the children's programs solid ... meaning, are they teaching the life-giving truths of the bible to my children and having fun while doing it? If so, then I am happy!
8) Are they inward focused or outward focused? Do they only circle the wagon; "our four and no more?" Or are they supporting global missions, local community groups, etc.
If I was looking for a church right now for my family I would look for those 8 things and I would ask the question; is this a place I feel at home? And if so, then that is my church ... I'd jump in with both feet giving of my time and resources to help make it succeed!