Despite a decline in the number of Americans who belong to a church, there are still quite a few Christians who want to find churches near their home to attend.
So this article is for people looking for a local church but who aren’t sure where to start. However, before jumping into that search, it might help to take a quick look at some stats about Americans and church. However, if you’re in a rush and just want to get some quick tips on how to find a church nearby, then use these content links to jump ahead to the relevant section:
- Some statistics
- On denominations
- Things to keep in mind
- Find a Protestant Church
- Find a Catholic Church
- Final Suggestions
“Despite only about a fifth of Americans attending church or synagogue on a weekly basis, almost 40 percent consider themselves to be very religious,” according to Statista.
Statista also reports that Americans who tend to identify as “very religious” often live in the Deep South states. Most nonreligious people tend to live in the New England area.
But if many Americans consider themselves to be religious, why is there a decline in church membership? According to Gallup, fewer people belong to a church because a growing number of people simply choose not to identify with any particular religion.
However, the decline in church attendance and membership doesn’t mean most Americans don’t have any interest in church at all. But it can be tricky finding a church when you’re new to the neighborhood or even just visiting from out of town.
Before we jump in, it’s important to note that the term “Christian church” covers different traditions and denominations. For example, the Catholic Church is the largest Christian denomination in the world. However, in the U.S. there are more Protestants than Catholics — and both fall under the “Christian” umbrella. There’s also a large diversity of Protestant denominations and even differing Catholic traditions around the world. Another fun fact: there are more than 300,000 churches in the U.S., according to the National Congregational Study Survey.
There are two things to know before going further.
First, this article doesn’t break down Christian churches by denominations or traditions. So, if you’re looking for a Reformed church or Pentecostal church nearby or a Church of Christ congregation, you’ll simply have to keep those preferences in mind as you review the resources presented.
Second, this article caters to both Protestant and Catholic church searches.
Finding a local church is sometimes only half the battle. Finding a church that fits and has a congregation that feels like family is the other half. So before you even begin your church search, it’s helpful to write down your criteria for a church you’d like to visit and/or potentially one day call home.
For example, if worshiping with people of other ethnicities and cultures is important to you, that should be high on your list. Other things on your list might cover: if you are more likely to connect with God through a specific style of worship; if you want to be around people of a certain age group; if the church has social programs; or if there are meeting and fellowship times beyond regular weekend worship.
As previously mentioned, you should keep your specific criteria in mind when using the following tools to find a nearby church. So if you’re looking for a Black church, a nondenominational church, a progressive Christian church, or even a church that uses a specific Bible translation, you’ll have to sort through search results and review each church to see if they’d make a good fit.
Many churches have a website, YouTube account or Facebook or Instagram page that allows potential visitors to get a sense of how they worship, their dress code, and if they are diverse.
Further, if you’re looking for a specific denomination, you can start with the denomination’s main website. For example, you can search for churches affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, Assemblies of God, United Methodist Church, or the Presbyterian Church (USA).
One of the obvious places to start with a church search is Google. Google lets you actually type in “churches near me” as a search phrase. Once the results load, you can narrow down the list by choosing the specific day you would like to visit the church — although the common day of worship for many Protestant churches is Sunday. You can also filter the results by star ratings.
The more ratings a church has, the greater the possibility that there are actual Google reviews from people sharing their experiences with those churches. However, be cautious with using these reviews as your main criteria for choosing a church. Longtime members of these churches could be behind the reviews. That isn’t necessarily bad, just biased. There could also be reviews by people who have never actually attended the church. For whatever reason, these people felt compelled to leave a fake review. Another tool similar to Google is Yelp. Yelp offers unique filters to narrow your results and features user photos.
Another search tool to consider is church.org. Using church.org to find a nearby church is straightforward enough. You plug your city or the name of a church in the appropriate fields and hit “search.” The result is a list of local churches with profiles you can scan through. You may even find reviews from local members to help inform your decisions.
The Church Finder website might also be useful. It allows you to do more than simply search for churches near you. The site claims to be the largest Christian church directory. So it offers a small directory of churches that do online church live. The site even includes an in-depth “journey guide” for how to decide on a church. You can create an account to help you organize a shortlist of churches and even keep a journal of your experiences.
Finally, some Christian organizations include a “Find Christian Churches Near Me” tool on their websites as a service. One organization that does this is the Christian Broadcasting Network, or CBN. Another Christian organization offering this service is Joel Osteen Ministries, with it’s “Find a Church” page. CBN makes it clear that churches appearing in its listings do not equal an endorsement. But Joel Osteen Ministries states that “[e]ach church listed has been highly recommended to us by ministry partners of our organization” and that “we sincerely believe that the men and women who pastor these churches are gifted, talented and dedicated to helping you reach your highest potential.”
Besides trying word-of-mouth, the simplest way to find a Catholic church to attend is to use an online search tool. For example, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) hosts a search tool on its site for you to “find Catholic Mass times with church maps, masses and worship services near you.” You can search by zip code or city and state. Once you input your search criteria, the results pop up (symbolized as tiny churches) on a handy map. You can then zoom in and click on one of the tiny churches to get the name, address, phone number, and website (if applicable) of a church near you.
Catholic Mass Times
There are a few other similar sites. However, some of them offer additional details. One such site is called Catholic Mass Times. Like the USCCB search tool, you type in your city and state or zip code. But instead of a map, you get a text list of prospective churches to consider. What’s also helpful about Catholic Mass Times is that the site offers a short daily reflection and a liturgical calendar.
The Catholic Church Directory
Another similar site for finding a Catholic church is The Catholic Directory. Just like the previously mentioned search tools, you plug in the necessary information to get a list of nearby churches. But with The Catholic Directory, you can also search for ministries and local schools. This is a plus if your family has recently moved. It even links to a Catholic business directory, if you have needs specific to such businesses.
If you’re a person of faith, certainly pray for God’s guidance in your decisions. Discuss your thoughts with family members or close friends. Or even ask neighbors or friendly local shopkeepers with if they have church recommendations. They might end up inviting you to visit their church!
If you’re a seeker and not too sure about how to go about visiting a church for the first time, it might help to simply pick up the phone and talk with someone at a church. Tell them you’re interested in possibly visiting and would like to know what to expect. You might find out right away if the church’s emphases match your criteria of a “good church.” Most church people are excited to have visitors, so they would be more than willing to answer your questions. Some churches also welcome email inquiries, if a phone call isn’t feasible or preferable.
It’s also important to acknowledge the possibility you won’t be happy with your fist church visit, or your second, or your third. You may end up feeling like giving up the search entirely. In this case, it might be best to simply take a break or try church online for a while. You might even find that joining a Bible study group or worshiping with a small group at home is a better fit. Whatever path you take, we hope this article has been helpful in your search to “find a church near me.”