What qualities should I look for in picking a church? Should it be based on theology? The church's vision? Pastor's personality? Offered programs? Music style? Age groups? Children's ministry?
There isn't too much the Bible says about how we ought to pick a church. This is because the early church was attended based on geography. If you lived in Corinth, you attended the Corinthian church. Our context is very different today - we have more churches to choose from, various denominations, etc.
Before I answer this question, please remember that I don't expect everyone to follow my opinion on this topic, since my criteria and priorities may be different that yours.
To me, the bottom line in picking a church is by considering the following questions (by the way, I'm assuming that the church is biblically based):
1. Can you see yourself calling this church your home?
This is the most important one. Whatever church you end up picking, it needs to be a place you can be for an extended period of time. You will be sharing life with these people, confiding in them. Pastors come and go, music styles change, but communities more or less stays the same. The church (the Bride of Christ) belongs to the congregant, not the pastor. This is foundational.
2. Can you see yourself serving at this church?
The body of Christ is empowered when each person contributes their talents to the church. The church exists because of the people who serve in it. Without people who serve, there's no ministry.
3. Can you see yourself being challenged by this church?
Growth in your faith usually comes through being challenged by your pastor or your small group. When you listen to a sermon, are you looking to be challenged or comforted? Most people want to hear a sermon that falls in line with what they already know. This isn't a bad thing, but my experience has been that most Christians know enough of the Bible to be saved, and not much beyond this. In the words of the Paul, "I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it."
4. Can you see yourself worshiping at this church?
The ultimate goal of Christianity is to worship God with our brothers and sisters. If something gets in the way of worshipping (music style, the people around you, etc.), this may create a big obstacle for you to connect with God.
5. Can you see yourself becoming a more loving person at this church?
A good indication that God is working in your life is through the evidence of transformation in your life. Does your church promote these attributes? In the book of Galatians, Paul lists nine attributes that you should see in your life if you are allowing God to transform you: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Christianity has more denominations than I can count. But, these sects were not created out of hatred and disagreement. They were formed because some people worship freer in a more liturgical setting, while others in a more contemporary setting. Some people find it a bit more difficult to think through the mysteries of God when people are speaking in tongues, and others find healing in more charismatic worship settings. You may find it more fitting to serve in a social justice oriented church, while others get more spiritual nourishment from seeing people make decisions to follow Jesus.
I recommend not choosing a church based on pastor personalities, church programs, and age-demographics since these things can change overnight. Rather, I suggest you choose a church based on if you can see yourself becoming a part of that church community, how much you will be challenged about your perception of God, and how much you can grow.