I’ll be the first to admit that while I love being at church once I actually get there, I don’t always love the process of getting my whole family out the door every Sunday morning. There are too many weekends where I’d rather stay cuddled up in bed with a favorite book or binge watching my latest Netflix obsession.
I don’t know what it is exactly that makes getting out the door on Sunday feel so much harder. Maybe it’s because while our weekday routine is pretty set, our weekend schedule is far more relaxed. It’s our time to kick back and recuperate, without always having to DO something. Or maybe it’s that I want to look nice and make sure the girls are looking their best, which sometimes requires a little extra prep time–effort that I don’t always feel like putting in.
I’m guessing we’re not the only family that struggles to get to church sometimes.
For many families, scheduling and making time for church in the middle of a jam-packed week can feel like a test in itself. Whether you go on Saturday evenings, Sunday mornings or even weekday afternoons, it can be hard to part with what we see as “free” time, especially when it conflicts with other things we really want to do.
But over the years, one thing I’ve realized is that when I get to a point where I feel like I just don’t have time for church, it is a pretty clear sign that I’m pushing myself too hard. And that usually means that I need to reevaluate my schedule and regain some sanity, because at the end of the day, I’ve never once regretted taking the time to attend church. There’s just something about being there that calms me down, makes me feel connected and whole, and simply allows me to breathe again.
And it’s not just me, apparently. Research shows that people who regularly attend church report stronger social support networks and less depression. They smoke less and lead healthier and even longer lives. In a very real and physical way, Church is literally good for your health.
Which means that if you haven’t been in a while, this might be a great time to start going back, or to find a new church home that fits your personality and your family—one where you click with those around you, make great friends, and feel a strong and welcoming sense of community.
And if you’re still not sure you’re ready to give it a try? Here are a few more surprising benefits of going to church:
Church Connects Us with God
There is something reverent about simply being inside a church. It gives us a physical space to connect and draw closer to God and to realize that there is something out there bigger than ourselves.
Plus entering a house of worship, we’re instantly elevated to a state where we’re opening ourselves to God and trying to understand his message. The simple act of walking in the door brings you closer. Ultimately, that connection with God is strengthened and reinforced by church attendance. We’re making time for God and physically allowing him into our lives by attending a place of worship.
Church Gives Us a Chance to Reflect on Gratitude
By practicing gratitude, we can reframe negative or frustrating situations into learning opportunities. Gratitude helps us to realize how blessed we are and how much we truly have. Even when things seem dire and awful (say, your husband lost his job, your child is sick, or a loved one passes away), church helps us change our outlook and stop dwelling on empty questions like, “Why is this happening to me?”
Church can help us realize the things we do have, even when we feel lost. For example, we may have access to modern medical care for our sick child, a network of people to support and help our spouse during a job search, or memories and lessons we hold on to from our time with our loved one, as well as the prospect of reuniting with them in heaven. Even if it’s hard to see the blessings at the moment, attending church can help us open our hearts and eyes to see the things we have.
Church Connects Us Socially
A more peripheral benefit of church attendance is the way it connects us socially. This is especially true if you have recently moved to a new town, or even just a new neighborhood. As a general rule, church people are pretty friendly, and most churches have a variety of social events, groups, clubs, and connection opportunities available each week. If you’re struggling to meet people or to make friends, this is the place to do it!
Church Helps Us Better Connect with our Spouse
Not everyone is on the same page as his or her spouse when it comes to faith. However, couples who attend church together report higher levels of happiness and satisfaction within their marriage. Why is that? Church reconnects us to our shared beliefs. It reinforces the higher philosophy and purpose behind marriage and family and it allows us a safe space to connect with God and our spouse together.
Couples who attend church together are making time to reiterate the important foundations of their marriage. When you got married, you pledged to love and support each other. When you commune with God at church on Sundays, you’re reminded of your pledge and your connection is reinforced.
Church Allows Us to Feel Reverence
In the chaos of every day, do you ever long for peace, quiet and reverence? When we attend church, we’re transported to a place of worship and peace. I’m always amazed at the peaceful feeling that washes over me the moment I walk into the building. It’s a place of calm and a place of joy.
Attending church can help us revisit this revered state regularly. It gives us a space to pray and to express humility and gratitude. It allows us to feel at peace and gives us respite from the hustle and bustle of our daily lives.
Church Provides Plenty of Opportunities to Give Back
Most Christian churches offer some type of charity work and assistance for their communities and other areas of need around the world. Through our faith, we’ve been able to visit and help communities around the world, as well as locally in a variety of ways.
Church offers an opportunity to donate our time and money to causes we believe in. We can also help out through organizations who share the same values and want to share God’s Grace and love with those in need. We’re so blessed to live full lives with so much opportunity, safety and freedom. So many people in the world live in poverty and pain, and through our faith, we can help bring them comfort and help.
Church Helps Us “Find the Lesson” in our Trials
A friend of mine was recently struggling because, try as she might, she and her husband couldn’t get to stable financial ground. It made her heartsick to have to work full-time when she was desperately longing to stay home with her young child. She said, “I’m having such a hard time figuring out what I’m supposed to learn from this experience.”
It’s such a normal response, isn’t it? We all want to know why things don’t always go the way we planned.
But I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve been struggling in a particular area and found that the sermon or message applied so directly to my situation that it felt like the pastor was talking directly to me. Church helps us “get it,” whether we are ready for it or not.
Church Teaches Us Forgiveness
It can be hard to let go of disappointments, frustrations and annoyances. Maybe a friend has let us down, our kids have been out of control lately, or our spouse has said or done something hurtful. Forgiveness is one of the hardest lessons to learn, and yet, when are finally able to let things go, it can take a huge weight off our shoulders.
There’s no better place to be reminded of the gift of forgiveness that we have already received than by going to church, and our hearts can help but be softened in the process.
Church Fills Our Hearts with Song
There’s something a little bit magical about music. Listening to hymns and religious music can uplift us and give us messages we may not otherwise hear. It’s amazing how open our hearts can become through song, and how sometimes even the weight of the world can be lifted off our shoulders the moment that first song begins playing.
Through music, we feel more spiritually connected because song is a conduit to God. We can feel joy and happiness by listening to music with a great message, then carrying that song in our hearts all week long.
Church is Where We Find Deeper Meaning in our Lives
In my most frustrated and stressed-out moments, I sometimes find myself wondering, “What’s the point?” When we feel despair, sorrow, frustration and stress, it’s easy to lose sight of the greater plan and purpose that’s out there for all of us. We might even feel alone and isolated from God and from other people.
But when we go to church, we’re given a greater sense of purpose and meaning. We can see the history of what has led us up to this point, and the promise that lies in our future even beyond this world. Church helps us revisit the larger narrative of life and the reasons to hold on and keep the faith.
The next time you’re feeling like church might be more stress than it’s worth, remind yourself it’s a sign you NEED church in your life even more! Church can help alleviate our stress, ease our burdens and carry us through the week—something we all need.