Visiting Churches

My Wife’s Take on Visiting 52 Churches

Another Perspective of Visiting 52 Different Congregations for a Year

By Candy DeHaan

What do you do when God prompts your husband to take a one-year break from your home church to visit other congregations, a different one every week?

You can’t argue with God, so you go on a fifty-two-week adventure by your husband’s side.

And what an adventure we had. We had the honor of worshiping with friends, old and new, that we never would have otherwise enjoyed. With many memories and thoughts that I take away from our journey, here are a few:

  • With just seventeen people present, the pastor said, “If there are any visitors this morning, please raise your hand.” I still giggle about this, as everyone knew we were visiting. What would have happened if we hadn’t raised our hands?
  • Seeing firsthand how a congregation can pull together, as a family, when dealing with heartbreak was truly inspiring.
  • When a pastor is unavailable for a service, what a blessing when members step up and fill in.
  • The many ways that others worship God are amazingly diverse.
  • Worship in a group of five can be sweet, and a shofar is loud! This group met in a small office building. After the teaching, we went to a different room for worship: how breathtaking when they pulled the curtain aside for us to enter and we saw a replica of the Ark of the Covenant, cherubim and all. Awesome!
  • Even with a language barrier at the Chinese church (Church #20), the joy of Christ came through.
  • Just because you have guitars and drums doesn’t make your service contemporary.
  • Shared meals and conversation around a table are inviting and inclusive.
  • After three experiences with Catholic Mass, I’m still unable to follow their services.
  • It’s so nice when someone, noticing you’re a visitor, invites you to sit with them.
  • Also appreciated is when others offer guidance throughout the worship service to help visitors follow along.
  • I’m still uncomfortable when everyone shares the cup for communion. Just wiping the lip of the cup with a little white cloth is not going to remove the germs of everyone who drank before me. It’s just not sanitary.
  • There are some amazing husband-and-wife ministry teams who work together beautifully.
  • It isn’t necessary, but we appreciated it, when a pastor would make sure he or she reached out to personally welcome us. My favorite was the teaching pastor of one of the larger churches we visited. He welcomed us as we entered the building, simply introducing himself as “John.” What a notable example he set for the congregation—if only they had followed his lead. He was the only one to welcome us that morning.
  • Almost all churches had a cross somewhere in their facility, but the most meaningful was the one placed in the middle of the sanctuary, right in the center aisle.
  • If you have a talented vocalist, no instrumentation is necessary. The beauty of a solitary voice, simply praising God in a room with good acoustics, is fabulous.
  • A Belgian waffle breakfast for first-time visitors, with the pastor and his wife, is a great idea.
  • I appreciate a pastor who will take a stand on hot topics and face them head on, sharing what the Bible has to say instead of ducking the issues.
  • It was great to be included when most of one congregation headed to Arby’s after church. Potlucks are delicious, but this was the next best thing.
  • One church had a coffee bar. To help celebrate Lent, the barista topped my latte with a blue marshmallow Peep. What fun! Plus, their visitor packet had a coupon for a complimentary coffee, so it was free.

The most important thing I learned from this trek was how to—and how not to—make a visitor feel welcome. I need to take these lessons to heart as I reach out to visitors and those I don’t recognize.

The church is the body of Christ, not a single congregation or just one denomination. We have a huge spiritual family, and it was so good to worship with them for the past twelve months.

After being gone a year, it was amazing to come back to our home church on Easter morning and celebrate Resurrection Day with all four of our kids by our side.

God is good!

[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.