I must say, a church's website is a pretty huge first impression. If you don't have one... or if it looks like it hasn't been updated since 1992... I most likely won't read far enough to even find out when your service times are. You don't need a flashy, gimmicky site either (in fact, I'd prefer you didn't), but please make sure to list services times, directions, ministry and education opportunities, and also names and emails/phone numbers of people I can get in contact with in case I have more questions. Also, it is super helpful to have some photos/videos of actual members of your church (at a recent event, for example), to give me an idea of the age range / vitality of the church. If your church has ONLY white-haired people or ONLY college-age people... I'm probably going to keep moving. Maybe it's just me, but it seems like a healthy church should have attendees of all ages.
I'm trying a new church today, so I'll have to let you know how they rate on friendliness. Overall I think friendliness can make or break whether I decide to keep going to a church, though. I've been to churches that had great sermons but no one spoke a word to me the entire time - not in greeting or in finding out if I was new, etc. That's a huge red flag and a sign of some unhealthiness, if you ask me. I need to feel like I'm wanted at a church, first of all. For example, do they notice if I'm there or not? Does anyone bother to invite me along on their plans that afternoon or during the week (or does the church even have plans and things to do during the week)? I realize I'm introverted by nature, but it really shouldn't be my place, as a new person at a church, to reach out to them. Just saying...
While I realize that not all churches will have all things, at minimum it seems to me that a healthy, growing church should have Sunday Bible classes for all ages (including adults), as well as some system of weekly night Bible studies or fellowship groups. Sunday morning sermons are great and definitely a vitally important part of church, but... if a majority of the church isn't meeting together and getting to know one another on a more intimate basis outside of Sunday morning, church becomes just something we do, rather than a way to learn and grow in our faith. I love to see a church that has a children's ministry, high school classes, adult fellowship groups, etc. This tells me that people are plugged in and involved, not just weekly pew-warmers.
All this to say... I've been thinking a lot about churches lately and these are some factors that I've come up with to help me figure out where I'd like to call my new church home. Obviously Bible teaching is #1 in importance, but beyond that, I think some of these other factors can really be a good indication of the health of a church and whether or not it will be instrumental in helping me grow in my Christian faith.
What do you think? How do you personally pick a church? Have you had to do that since becoming an adult or do you still go to where you went as a child? What made you decide to stay at the church you're attending now?