So here’s the thing. I consider myself a Christian and in theory, I think church is important. I love the idea of community and Bible studies and corporately worshiping with a bunch of other people who also love Jesus and strive to be more like Him. I grew up more or less in the church and even though I had my own particular issues with it, church was an important shaper of my life.

I haven’t really gone regularly to church for a very long time. There was a brief trial period for a few months when Gamera was born, but I fell off the wagon and for various reasons or another (more like excuses, really), I stopped going.

Ideally, I would like to start attending church again. But it is very hard for me to overcome inertia and my own multitude of prejudices and “requirements” for a church that I think would be suited to me. Actually, the hardest part about church is coming to terms that there is no such thing as an “ideal church” (in terms of my personal preferences) this side of Heaven. Also, I’m pretty sure that Heaven is going to be vastly different from what I expect anyway. I only expect to be awesomely surprised.

Anyhow, I’ve been mulling this topic on and off for the last decade or so. You see, there are a few things I would like in a church and thus far, no church in my area hits all of them. (Surprise, surprise.) So now that it’s taken me approximately ten years to come to this conclusion, I figure I should just get my butt into a pew somewhere and just deal with it – but WHERE? What items on my list should take precedence? Especially since I want my kids to attend and the foundation of their faith (or lack thereof) in the future will be laid here.

Here is an arbitrarily ordered list of the things I look for in a church:

– Women in leadership (and not just in Women’s and Children’s Ministries)
– Diverse membership and leadership (in racial and socio-economic sectors)
– Sermons and Bible studies that examine the text from a mostly inductive manner (eg: taking into account style of language, cultural context, audience, etc. vs having a topic and cherry-picking verses to fit the argument)
– Within a 30-minute driving radius because otherwise, it’s too hard to attend and meet people in my community
– Members that are keen on building a deep and intimate community

The sad thing is, just looking for women in leadership pretty much cancels out more than half of all churches. Throw in ethnic and economic diversity and I might as well be searching for a unicorn. So, which should I compromise on?

I’d prefer a place that examines the Bible in an inductive manner – but this, too, is difficult to find. Most churches say they are “Bible-based,” but what exactly does that mean? Does that mean they adhere to ALL the rules/laws in the Old Testament and the New Testament? Or does that only pertain to edicts about homosexuals? But nothing about giving all their money away to the poor, divorce, bringing in the full tithe, and there being no Greek nor Jew, male nor female, etc.?

I think ultimately, I will have to settle.

Also, I will have to actually discuss things with my children and not just leave it up to whatever church we end up at. I think that’s what REALLY bothers me. I am far too lazy for my own good.

Any advice? For those of you who are religious and attend places of worship, what were your criteria? And how did you ultimately end up selecting a place?