Visiting Churches

Visiting Churches Is a Lot Like Dating

Dating Churches or Settling Down

Visiting churches seems a lot like dating: both parties are, in theory, on their best behavior and hopeful of a positive outcome. Dating is fun—for a while.

There’s variety and excitement for each outing, but eventually an emptiness emerges, and you yearn for more. You seek connection, you want commitment, and you desire permanence.

For me, dating churches was great fun for the first half of the year. After that, the allure of new started to wear thin, and I needed to work harder to have a successful date.

This was even more challenging because we knew there would be no second dates, while the churches we visited usually hoped for more.

Even after we told them we were visiting a different church every Sunday, most persisted in wanting that second date.

Even more so, visiting churches is often akin to going on blind dates. We had familiarity with five of the churches: for three, it was one visit, while for the two others our attendance was many years ago.

However, for the other ninety percent of the churches, we arrived blind. We’d never been there before and knew little about them—except what we could find online.

A Church Dating Profile

I suppose church websites and Facebook pages correspond to a dating profile, with the best photos—sometimes out-of-date or misleading—and featuring positive traits while ignoring flaws.

The effort of a few churches to put a positive spin on their online profile was more akin to lying.

One church (Church #30, Misdirected and Frustrated) gravely misled us. We couldn’t recover from their deception and were still mad as we drove home.

That date was an epic fail.

Blind Dates

When visiting churches, just as with dates—especially blind dates—attitude is everything. Ideally you approach the outing with a positive outlook: seeking the good, striving to get along, and wanting to make things work.

Either directly or indirectly, our pre-church prayer addressed this. Though I feel I went to each church with a positive attitude, twice Candy thought otherwise and offered correction.

Conversely, some people go on their blind dates with a negative attitude. They expect things won’t work out, looking for the worst—and finding it.

Now take the dating analogy one step further. It’s like going to your date’s favorite restaurant, one you’ve never been to before.

Your date knows the menu, addresses the staff by name, is friends with the manager, has a favorite booth, and orders “the usual.”

But you know no one, are overwhelmed by the food options, and find the ambiance off-putting. Strangers come up to your date, interrupting to have personal conversations as though you’re not there and laughing over things you don’t understand.

You smile and try to make the best of it, but inside you squirm in agony.

We often felt that way at the churches we visited.

Settling Down and Getting Married

If visiting a church is analogous to dating, joining a church might correspond to marriage. When you join a church you make a commitment, and you stop seeing other churches.

There’s a comfort in knowing what to expect, who you will see, and having community for the good times and the bad: “for better, for worse, in sickness and in health.”

Though our church journey was fun, educational, faith-expanding, and ecumenically insightful, I eventually grew tired of dating churches.

I wanted to be in a church marriage, to have a church commitment and be in a faith family I could depend upon and support.

I think that’s what most people want.

[Check out the discussion questions for this post.]

My wife and I visited a different Christian Church every Sunday for a year. This is our story. Get your copy of 52 Churches today, available in ebook, paperback, hardcover, and audiobook.

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.

Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.