Why Go to Church?

How bad is it if we just stop going to church all together for a season? I mean in the past year we’ve made it to church about once or twice a month anyway, is that really enough to say that we go to a particular church? I mean I’m quite certain that the majority of the people at our current church don’t really think of us as “part” of the church, and maybe they shouldn’t with as sporadic as our attendance has been. Honestly, I think it took over a year of attendance for ME to start thinking of us as “part” of the church and even then we often wondered if it was really the right place for us.

It wasn’t always like this. The church we were at before this we only ever missed when we were out of town or very sick. I wanted to be there. I felt welcomed and involved there. I felt like it was a place where I could truly bring my gifts and my ideas and my questions and I loved that. Sure there were some Sundays when I dragged my feet getting out the door, but I felt like if I wasn’t there people would miss me and wonder about me and I always knew that in the end I would be glad I’d gone.

Lately it hasn’t been like that. Some of it is because we are at a different church and I’ve never felt like there was really a place for me at this new church or like my voice would be valued there. Not that we didn’t have friends there, in fact we do have a few wonderful friends at our current church, friends who I love and who love us well. But, I never felt much connection with the church leadership as a whole, or the church structure, style, and at times world view. I did however feel like it was the best place for us in this season especially since many of the people who we thought of as family went there.

Some of our irregular attendance was due to nothing more than a change in life situation. Having a child gave me a whole new outlook on church. Honestly, going to church with a child is often more headache than it’s worth. I’d heard people say things about how difficult it was to go to church with children, but I never fully understood this until having a child myself. Getting out the door is always difficult with a child and for some reason seems more difficult when we are going to church. Once we got to church there was the struggle to keep our son contained and quiet until it was time for him to go to the nursery. Then there is the nursery time…Often for me, since I didn’t want to leave my son in the nursery, church ended up feeling like a glorified play date.

By the time all this is done the value of going to church could be redeemed by a quality time connecting with friends, but I’ve always felt sort of awkward by the after church socializing time. Usually I feel unsure who to talk to even when I have good friends there. Plus, by now it’s late and Thad is hungry and tired and generally out of sorts, so we rush home. What is the value in any of that? Most weeks it just feels easier and more rewarding to stay home, have a nice meal together as a family, and maybe read or watch a movie together.

But even with all this I was starting to feel more inspired to go to church. I was starting to feel like maybe it was worth it... for the relationship. I was starting to feel slightly more connected at our new church and was making some new friends there, and then this happened… and now I find myself wondering yet again if there really is any value in going to church? When church leaders put their own comfort above the needs of the church as a whole? When you have a young child and aren’t really able to enter into church fully? When you’re sometimes awkward and shy and have a difficult time connecting with people in church settings? When you don’t fit the typical Christian mold and have questions that you don’t feel would be welcomed there? When you have talents and gifts that don’t fit into the very few, very limited ways that people are asked to “serve” in the church (or the ways women are asked to serve in the church)? Am I being selfish? Does it really matter all that much, how bad would it be if we just stopped going? Is it worth looking for another church when the problems I have going to church will probably be an issue at any church? Am I giving up too soon? Do I need to stay and call the church to something more? Perhaps the value is simply in staying amidst the uncomfortable?

These are questions I’m struggling with right now…

What do you think? Do you go to church, if so what has your experience with church been? If you’re a mom how do you find value in going to church with young children?

More to come tomorrow…

Rejoicing in the journey - Bethany Stedman