About the Author

Michele Morin is a wife, mum, and Bible teacher with a passion to see women become committed followers of Christ and inspired students of God’s Word.

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  1. Thank you Michele. I remember a similar time many years ago my family and I were visiting a few different churches in our area. There was one church in particular we visited and on the second week of being there, I was washing my hands in the restroom and approached by a woman asking if I would teach Sunday School. My immediate thought was – you don’t even know me or anything about me. I did not accept her offer. Another event stands out in my mind in that same church, I asked if I could sign out a library book, it was strongly discouraged as I wasn’t a member. I never want anyone to feel like that in my church today, where my husband pastors. I think our own personal experiences, shape how we treat new visitors. I’d hope no one would feel unwelcome.

    • Once we’ve been “in the saddle” for a while, we sort of forget that people come to church with all kinds of motives–that may or may not have anything to do with God. If we want the people He brings to us to persevere in our particular pews long enough to let the Truth soak in, we need to assure them that they are not alone in this world, that we are willing to walk beside them, to hear their voice–and even to lend them our books!
      (You can borrow mine anytime!)

  2. Michele,

    Finding a great church home is hard. My mom & I visited a large church in town & no one even said hello-not even the pastor. That was it for me. Fast forward many years. I got married & went to church with hubby. The first day there one of the elder’s wives came back & said welcome, glad to have you, please come back. It made me feel welcome. I have been going there ever since. This church is small, but super friendly & does a good work in the neighbor hood. We do mostly old hymns, but sometimes listen to new music. They are friendly to the max. Now when I spot a “newbie” I got & say hello. Wanting everyone to know that they are welcome in the church. Best part is our pastor has been there for over 30 years. There isn’t another church like it.

    Blessings 🙂

    • MIchele,

      Finding that church has been more than a blessing to me & my family. I got baptized there (was Methodist/Presbyterian before). The pastor took time & spoke with my dad-who wasn’t going to church at the time. He helped him get baptized. After mom died dad starting coming to church some. They even fed my family when mom & dad died. Such great people.

      Blessings

      • Beth, it makes my heart so happy to hear the joy you have in your church family!
        We really do inherit a ministry of greeting and caring and welcoming once we’ve become part of a community. I hope I never forget what it was like to be “the visitor.”

  3. This brings to mind some frustrating transitional times. Disappointment for lots of reasons. Unmet expectations and feeling invisible and hopes for ministry dashed.

    We’re all imperfect. And so are the faith communities we live in …

    But one step of a time, we find our way, He makes a place for us.

    • Linda, you’ve added such an important thought to this conversation: God makes a place for us. He is sovereign over every detail of our lives, so we can certainly trust Him with the messy business of finding a place to worship and serve and grow in community.
      Thank you, as usual, for wise words.

  4. This message was an encouragement to me — I am in a new state, a new neighborhood, after leaving my home of nearly 30 years. I live with my son and am finding it difficult to readjust. My children are wonderful and helpful but I still consider myself alone in my search for a new home church. I was beginning to feel as tho I wasn’t working hard enough or not being willing to just choose a church. After reading this I realized that I am not alone in my searching and that it does take time ~ I am hoping that some day soon I will have an ending to my search and be the person who can help others in their struggle to feel welcome in their new Home Church.

    • Oh, Bonnie, I do love your heart.

      Lord, hear the hopefulness of this servant of yours! We ask that you would lead her in your time to the church home where she can be ministered to and also put your love on display by her warm welcome to others. Thank you for her helpful children and for Bonnie’s perseverance in this search process.

  5. First of all, I love seeing your name here, Michele, and hearing this piece of your story. We’ve been part of our church for about 15 years and God has taught me so much about himself there, even when I wondered if it’s where we should be. But God is so faithful, thankfully. xo

    • I think we put his faithful love on display, Kristin, when we hang in there with a church body even during the hard times. He grows us up when things don’t go our way, and we learn that it’s okay to be uncomfortable for season. Brett McCracken has written a book called Uncomfortable about our consumer mindset when it comes to church — and pretty much everything. It’s so convicting!

      • I’m adding it to my list now! I recently read Letters to the Church by Francis Chan and it was so good – and convicting. Our small group is working through the video series based on the book now. Good (and sometimes hard!) stuff.

        • I just listened to a podcast featuring Brett McCracken, too, and it would give you an audio intro to his topic. It was a fairly recent episode of The Gospel Coalition podcast.

  6. Michele, this is just beautiful! I’m forwarding it to my pastor and church ladies because it’s something we talk about too and it’s so good to hear it from the other perspective.

  7. “…the truth of the gospel is best understood in terms of our yearning to belong, our struggle with homesickness, and the ache of all our longings for home.” Michele, this is an excellent piece of writing! I can so relate to what you’ve shared here, and I appreciate your example and challenge to work at making our church feel like home to others. It’s easy to forget that; to get comfortable in our “home” and neglect to reach out to those for whom it’s new or a temporary stop on the continuing journey.

    • I’ve caught myself falling into that trap at times–too busy with my “list” to notice who’s there on a Sunday morning; too comfy with my little group of friends to make room for others; and (worst of all!!) too enamored with my own way of doing things to make space for new voices with new ideas. (Phew, that’s a tough one to admit!)
      It’s so good to know, Jana, that there are others who are endeavoring to trust God for these same challenges.

  8. Its been my experience that people make up a church atmosphere, and depending on the growth or maturity, there will be differences. Yet, The Word remains the binding that knits us together, the singing and joining our voices together to worship and praise the lord is what we are compatable in. And respect for the pastor or leadership is good manners. Yes, friendliness is important, but if it isn’t up to our desired measure, we can be friendly anyway. We can be the love to give out. We can do this and watch God change the atmosphere and soften hearts in His favor. Take the ground wherever you go because “love” covers a multitude. Be the person you’d like to attract. Human nature responds either positively or negatively, but the light of His Spirit, always shines bright. Be encouraged, because you represent Him, and that is pleasing to Him.

    • YES, Lynn! We can BE the people we wish had greeted us when we were the newbies. There is so much good scriptural encouragement in your words today, and we know for sure that it is only by the power of His Spirit that we can become the people He wants us to be.
      One of the greatest joys of my life has been watching God at work in His people when they show up together to make something good happen for His glory!

  9. The truth of the gospel is best understood in terms of our yearning to belong, our struggle with homesickness, and the ache of all our longings for home.

    I like that.

    I guess it means we are in a position to grasp the gospel afresh in this unrooted grandparenting stage of our lives. It will be three years next month since we moved to our current smallish town locale in order to be nearer our growing grands. Have we settled on a church home? Mostly. But we have found that it is good to be known in the whole Body here hence we attend one church regularly but are involved in two others more casually and in small group settings. The Body has different faces but one Spirit. It’s been a season of discovering this even if we haven’t found a perfect fit. We are planted here for God’s purposes…Thx for sharing your awkward search, and bless you for being the friendly face at your church,Michele!

    • Linda, your grandchildren AND the people in your community have so much reason to be thankful for you guys and the way you’ve made yourselves available.
      I love the idea that we have all been “planted for God’s purposes!” Amen.

  10. Michele-these words are ones I have lived and continue to live. Being a member of a very small church has it challenges when it comes to community. It is evolving and honestly it doesn’t feel fast enough for me. I am trying to find my way in a church filled with families with young kids. I am taking your wisdom to heart and praying for God’s guidance.

    • I hear you. Small churches are pretty much the rule here in Maine, and it’s challenging sometimes to find your tribe. It’s good to know this is something you are praying about–I’ll join you, and in the meantime, I can see you being a real blessing to young families, particularly with your teaching background and experience and your heart for the young mums.

  11. It’s so true that we all long for a place to belong and it is such a blessing when we find that place. For me, the challenge was finding the courage to step out from a church where I had persevered and struggled for several years to try something new, but the new church I am part of has been one of the biggest blessings over the last few years.

    • That’s kind of our story, too, Lesley. We had to risk a move to be where we are now, and it was SO HARD. Honestly, it felt like a small death, but God has given us a real family in the church we are attending. (And I still feel very close to the people I knew from our old church, so that was also a win!)
      I’m sure you are a huge blessing to your new church family, Lesley!

  12. Our church visiting about a year ago brought back to the forefront the angst involved in looking for a new church. I don’t know why we should be such a bundle of nerves when going to meet unknown-to-us believers, but we are. And that memory should make me more compassionate and friendly towards fellow newcomers.

    It’s funny how there can be churches with the same core beliefs yet with such different personalities. Foremost in our essentials were those core beliefs and a pastor who faithfully preaches them. But we also wanted a pastor, a shepherd, someone who cared about his people. We ended up bypassing the church where the preaching was my favorite because the pastor was distant (we had to snag him on our third visit rather than him making any effort to greet us, and then he seemed poised to get away as soon as possible). When we first heard of the church we’re attending now, we weren’t interested because it only had about 25 people. We knew a church would never grow if everyone felt that way about a small church, but still. But once we visited, we really loved the people and they quickly felt like family. (I’m not elevating friendliness and warmth above orthodoxy – the two preachers preached the same gospel, but one just had a bit more polish and his mind worked much like my own, making him easy for me to understand and follow. But our current pastor is a fine preacher as well as a caring shepherd.)

    • You’ve certainly described well the thought process that goes into the church hunt, and I am also puzzled — and intrigued, really– by the personality differences between churches that, on the surface, should be very much alike. I am inclined to say that the leadership makes a huge difference; not just the pastor, but the people who sit in the pews and either make it their business to project welcome or to maintain the status quo. I’m glad you’ve found a church home, Barbara, where you can stick close to the truth while still feeling a warm welcome.

  13. Michelle happy to see your thoughtful heart here. And I learned a new word – narthex.
    We’re all imperfect trying to see we’re we perfectly fit.

    • Yes, and I’m one of those imperfect people in the pew, likely driving someone in the building crazy every Sunday. We all need each others rough edges in this process of being conformed to the image of Christ!

  14. I’ve been praying over this exact topic today! Thankful for your perspective and encouragement that the kind of church I remember as a child is still out there. My husband & I have been attending a mega church — it’s difficult to explain our discontentment there when all the programs, preaching, & music is amazing. I long to feel like we’re part of a church family where my kids can learn from examples, not just a classroom, and my husband could have men to look up to since his Dad was mostly out of the picture. No one even notices us. I want more than Sunday morning!

    • Oh, Lord, please lead Natalia and her family to the church where they can find relationship and be led into truth by people who are willing to do life alongside them 7 days a week. Thank you for her positive attitude about her present place of worship. Please help them as a family to find the life on life experience they seek, whether it’s where they are now or in some other fellowship.

    • I hear you Natalia! I was part of a megachurch for years and loved it, but truthfully small groups were the only way I found real community there. That and volunteering or ‘being on team.’ It’s still the case now in a smaller church. I pray you find your people!

      • Agnes, you’ve hit on an important point, which is that 1 hour per week is not any basis for establishing deep and meaningful connections. We have to do the work of rolling up our sleeves, being available, inviting and receiving. I think that’s true no matter how big or small the church family. Life on life just can’t happen in the pew.

  15. Reminds me of my own search for a church home. I grew up in a little church in my home town and when my family moved away leaving my church beyond was the hardest part of it. When we moved to the town where I now live I went to the church that was the same denomination as the one I grew up in…but it wasn’t the same. Wonderful people, they never rejected me, but it wasn’t home. After I graduated from high school I started going to another church where I stayed for many years, but it never really felt like home either. Then we moved, were gone for several years, attended a nice church in our new town, and finally moved back. Those years away broke me out of the rut of attending a church just because other family members, or friends did. Instead, we found a church we felt God had led us to. Then when it became embroiled in disagreement, we followed the path we felt God had set before us. We were part of a small group that stayed together and eventually established a church which has been going for more than thirty years now. I am right where God put me and I am so glad I persevered in following after Him. Still love those other churches and the people there are dear to me, but I needed to be where God put me, not where it was convenient to stay. So many different churches, so many different people; God deals with the individual and each of those churches is right for someone and each of those people have a place somewhere that has been created just for them.

    • I love it when we can remain on good terms with people even though we’re no longer attending the same church. I have a number of friends like that, and they are truly a gift because I think we bring something special to one another’s lives simply because we come from different churches. We don’t have to compete or compare or try to convince the rest of the world that we have the best church home.
      It sounds as if you have had a very rich journey that has been a huge blessing to you–and that you are blessing to your larger community of faith.

  16. Michele, I so appreciate this post! My daughter has been on a church hunt all semester her freshman year and finally found one! Last month, I attended a meeting of newcomers to our church (my 30-year community) to discuss how we can do a better job at welcoming. One man said, “I see you have a tight-knight community and many multi-generational families have been friends 30 years. That is beautiful. Yet my first two weeks, no one talked to me at all.” Gulp. That was eye-opening. I have doubled my efforts to talk to new people.

    • I’d like to high five your daughter for being mindful of the need for a church home as a freshman in college!
      And your church sounds like ours: lots of family ties, and when we first started attending, it was clear that no one really “needed” us for community because they were surrounded by immediate family. Now, we have perpetuated that situation with our son’s attending as a married adult–his two children have four grandparents, a great grandfather, and any number of uncles, aunts and cousins in the pews every Sunday. It takes a “doubled effort” as you have said to tear my eyes away from those grandbabies and notice who else is there —or isn’t there!

  17. Michele, you are blessing my socks off and taking me back to an earlier time in my walk with Christ. I love the church! I have attended three places of worship thus far, all very different, and all loving. Thank God for the body of Christ!

    • We really do need each other!
      New Testament believers would have been incredulous at our 21st century notion that we can be faithful Christ-followers in isolation.

  18. Michele, I loved this piece you wrote! You described well some of the extremes to avoid (scrutiny and pressure to join ASAP vs complete neglect of newcomers). I remember feeling like an outsider at church as a young teen. The church was almost an hour away from where we lived so I knew no one and quickly realized cliques aren’t looking to welcome any new girls. (I recently spoke with an older lady who moved to a new state and she voiced similar concerns about their new church.) The pain and awkwardness of that season have never been forgotten and I pray God helps me show more awareness and compassion to others as a result. The good news is God can get our complete attention during times like that and more than make up Himself what we expected to receive from a person. Thanks again, Michele!

    • I remember as a single adult feeling sort of like an appendage at church. I didn’t really belong with the married couples and their kids (although teaching Sunday School and being active in various ways bridged that gap pretty well because I served on committees, etc. with the mums and dads)–and there was a vibe among the singles that I just didn’t really embrace either. (The senior citizens were the coolest thing going, as I recall!)
      Looking to God to meet our need for deep connection may look like spending time alone with Him–and it may look like embracing a tribe we would never have imagined connecting with . . . until we were “desperate!”

  19. i think the key to finding a perfect church is to first realize there is no perfect church. All the people at any church are flawed and lacking. Only God who should be the center, is without fault. Thanks for your post

    • Thank YOU, Karen!
      For years I heard that little chuckling slam about there being NO perfect church–and if there were and we joined it, it wouldn’t be perfect any more–and I thought it was something made up by a fairly contemporary soul.
      Recently, I realized that it’s a quote from Charles Spurgeon!

  20. Thank you Michele. This blesses my heart in a much-needed way tonight. God built the desire for roots in our hearts, and yet there is so much He teaches about being rooted in Him when it’s hard to find “home” in church and circumstances. Thank you speaking grace- and especially grace seasoned with the salt of experience.

    • This article frames one of my least favorite seasons of life, a sort of in-between time when we were neither here nor there in so many ways. and yet I see the hand of God in it all. He was at work in ways that I am benefiting from today. It’s a great joy to me that this experience is blessing you in some way.
      And I do appreciate your heart, Bethany.

  21. We have found ourselves between church homes on more than one occasion. It is difficult to find the place where the fit is just right. However, like you wrote, it is worth the wait! One thing that I have been thankful for, especially during our “in between” times, is my online community! They don’t take the place of face to face, elbow rubbing in the pew community, but, they have helped me stay connected and encouraged. I am so grateful!

    Blessings, Joan

    • Great point, Joan! We get day by day encouragement here on the web, and it does meet a need for accountability and inspiration. I also agree that we need the face to face, life on life challenge of faith in real time with our believing brothers and sisters.
      This is certainly an interesting time in the history of the church and I do wonder, 100 years from now, what the historians will say about the impact of social media, etc. on spiritual friendships.

  22. “Community is the sandpaper by which we find ourselves continually being re-made and re-formed, for the truth of the gospel is best understood in terms of our yearning to belong, our struggle with homesickness, and the ache of all our longings for home.” This says it all!

    • One of the greatest lessons I have to keep “teaching” myself in this following life is that Heaven is not HERE, it’s THERE. The longings we have right now for home, for community, acceptance, security (fill in the blank) point to a future fulfillment. In the meantime, we look to Jesus and hang on to the means of grace.

  23. Michele,
    I love this phrase: “Community is the sandpaper by which we find ourselves continually being re-made and re-formed, for the truth of the gospel is best understood in terms of our yearning to belong, our struggle with homesickness, and the ache of all our longings for home.” We ALL have that homesickness for the “perfect church” which we will only find when in heaven with our Savior and Heavenly Father. Ironically, there will not be a need for a church building in eternity because we will be in constant communion with our groom – Jesus. You have challenged me to think about how welcoming I am to strangers who wander helplessly through our church’s doors. Am I the family that has to take them in? Do I make it such that they want to come back? Lots to ponder and an excellent post. So great to be reading your words here at (in)courage!
    Blessings,
    Bev xx

    • Thanks, Bev, for your faithfulness here in this space!
      It sounds as if we are both in the same place–recognizing our need to be present to the people who walk through our church doors with feelings that are all to familiar to us because of our own seasons of church roulette!

  24. Michele, I smiled as I read your story. When Hubs and I were first married, we were stationed in Alabama. We had trouble finding a church. We took a weekend to get away and visited a church in that town . . . four hours away. I LOVED IT! I actually considered trying to make a way to get there every weekend. But God . . . He had other plans for us. He led us to a church in our community that was a great fit for what we needed at that time. And we made life-long friends during our year in that town.

    God has a way of teaching us so much through imperfection and through our willingness to trust Him.

    • There’s so much to be delighted about and amazed by in the Body of Christ. So glad you found a place nearby to worship and call home. And it’s so great to “collect” friends from all the places we’ve lived and served with–just a teensy foretaste of heaven!

  25. Good morning, Michele,
    My granddaughter and her new husband are searching for a church home right now and a little frustrated with the process. She has moved away from home for the first time and they moved some distance from the church he had been attending. I’ll be sharing some of your thoughts with them! Thanks for talking about this important subject!

    • You must be just bursting with pride over this particular “struggle” your granddaughter is sharing with you. I’m glad this article came out in time for you to share–it is really frustrating to be without church roots. And it’s so incredibly awkward to be visiting . . . and visiting. I know you’ll encourage her and her husband to persevere!