Finding a Church is Like Dating
Your friend introduces the two of you or you come across something you think could be really special. You stalk them online: looking into their activities, their values, their family, their vibe, etc. Then, you reach out and you try to get to know them better. You have a few conversations, see if things could be a good match, and then you meet in person. You go on a few dates, go to a few events together, meet the people that are important to them, and then establish the relationship. Do you continue on? Do you enjoy it as much as they enjoy it? Could you see yourself doing this long-term? If you’re lucky, the answer is yes, and you commit to a loving, long-term, supportive, trusting, honest, open, vulnerable, and fun relationship.
And this is how you find a church.
Especially as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, it is really important to find a good, supportive, and affirming church. It can be tough enough to find a good church community anyways, so now you adding another parameter to the mix can make things a little bit more complicated. However, I believe that if you look at finding a church like dating, much of the process can be better understood and managed.
Now, I don’t know about you, but dating can make me kind of nervous. And I don’t know about you, but finding a church can also make me kind of nervous. Just like you wonder if a person is a right fit for you, you wonder if a church is a right fit for you. And, before you commit to a relationship with a person or a church, it is important to figure out that fit.
1. Stalk them online. Church websites have an incredible amount of information. There is information about the specific parish and oftentimes information about the whole denomination as well. From beliefs and values to volunteering opportunities to groups to get connected to, the church website is a great place to start.
2. Message them. At this point, you’ve done your stalking and you’ve gotten a better sense of whether you’re interested or not, whether you’re "attracted" to them. Reach out to someone on their staff or a pastor/reverend/priest to ask questions and start connecting. They may seem like a great fit online, but not be such a great fit in person. I’m sure everyone can relate to that to some extent when it comes to dating too; this analogy might be too real. Anyway, the person you reach out to can also introduce you to others and get you started in certain groups you are interested in.
3. Continue hanging out and eventually establish the relationship. So the first date went well and the second went well and now you’ve seen each other at least once a week (e.g. Sunday service) and continue to spend time with one another. If at this point you’re still enjoying it, then it might be time to get more involved and establish the relationship. It might be time to consider joining a committee, contributing ideas, giving money, or becoming a leader in some capacity. By taking on a specific role and investing more of your time and energy, you are communicating to yourself and to the church that this is something that is important to you. From there, stronger and deeper connection can form and a strong connection with a church community is one of the most beautiful connections you can have.
4. Experience life together. Depending on what stage of life you’re in, you might be with this church for four years of college, a year for a Master’s degree, two years for a temporary job, ten years, thirty years, or even more. In this church, you might meet your future partner or experience loss or get married or struggle or raise your kids or learn more about yourself, and the list goes on. Let yourself be loved by this community and let yourself experience life with an incredible group of Christians.
It is important to remember that you’re allowed to be picky and have standards when it comes to finding a church. A church community is a place where you share so much of yourself, where you grow and learn with others, and where you are open and vulnerable. These are not things to be taken lightly. And especially as someone of the LGBTQIA+ community, you want to find a safe place to do all these things, a place that welcomes you, honors you, and appreciates you, a place that knows all of you and loves you whole-heartedly and unconditionally, a place that reflects God’s love in the way they love.
Don’t be afraid to love and be loved. Don’t settle. Put yourself out there, baby! Go date those churches!
That Christian Lesbian