"It is tougher as president," Obama told ABC's George Stephanopoulos in his first year. "This is not just an issue of going to church, it's an issue of going anywhere."
Joshua DuBois, the White House religious affairs director, said last year that the Obamas "will choose a church home at a time that is best for their family."
It's now looking increasingly like their search may be indefinite.
Aides and family friends have spent months visiting various local churches on behalf of the Obamas. And on two occasions, the first family turned to an old presidential favorite across the street from the White House, St. John's Episcopal.
Every president since James Madison has attended a service at St. Johns, where pew 54 is designated as "The President's Pew."
President Obama also enjoys worshipping "fairly regularly" at the Evergreen Chapel at Camp David, where the Rev. Carey Cash -– a U.S. Navy chaplain and great-nephew of singer Johnny Cash -- ministers, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs has said.
"We've been attending church, there's a little chapel up in Camp David when we go up there," Obama told ABC News' "Nightline" in July. "There's a wonderful young pastor up there, a chaplain, who does just wonderful work. And the Camp David families attend."
Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush, also frequented the chapel at Camp David and ultimately chose not to formally join a church in Washington during his eight years in the White House.
A president's not formally joining a Washington, D.C., church is consistent with precedent, historians say.
"For the modern presidency, it is not the norm that a president attends church regularly," University of Maryland presidential scholar Matthew Burger said.
Burger, who studies presidents, religion and public life, points out that George W. Bush and his father, George H.W. Bush, were both "frequent attendees" at local churches but did not formally join a D.C. congregation.
"Ronald Reagan stands out as someone who articulated certainly the values of evangelical Christianity but was a pretty infrequent church attendee," Burger said. "He wasn't a member officially anywhere."
Jimmy Carter, who joined First Baptist Church in Washington, stands out as one of the most prominent presidential church-goers. He attended 72 Sunday services at First Baptist while in office, according to records kept by the Carter Library.
"Whenever he could, when he was on the road, he'd go to church, too," Steven Hochman, Carter Center researcher and assistant to the former president, told ABCNews.com.
And the Clintons, who attended Foundry United Methodist church near the White House regularly but did not formally join, are perhaps the exception in modern history for first family participation in church life, experts say.
"The fact that Chelsea Clinton was able to be part of the youth group and sing in the youth choir and that all three of the Clintons could just drop in on a Sunday without creating too much of a stir really is a testament to that church congregation and may also have just been a stroke of luck," said Amy Sullivan, author of "The Party Faithful: How and Why Democrats Are Closing the God Gap," who also formerly attended Foundry Methodist at the same time as the Clintons.
"I don't think the Obamas could assume they can do the same thing, and the Bush family concluded they couldn't do that in D.C."