Growing up in a family that didn’t go to church, I was determined when I married for ‘church’ to be the centre of our family. Of course, this was idealistic, and there were many moments when I thought it would have been easier to stay at home.
I hadn’t realised that this goal of mine wasn’t as easy as it sounded. I wanted my children to go happily, for church to be a delight to all family members. But this does not always happen. We certainly had a revolt on our hands for a couple of years, by a couple of teenagers who simply did not want to go to a Bible Study on Friday nights in addition to one on Sunday afternoons with church to follow! I know that we should just go to church come what may as we want to meet the Lord, but are there any tips we can share about creating a positive attitude to what is a pretty important activity?
For my part, here are my top ten tips:
1. Go every Sunday
Create an expectation that you and the family will be there. Make it simply a very good habit.
2. Go with joy and expectation
Church-going should not be a drudgery and mere duty. If you treat it as such, so will your children. If it is an opportunity to meet the Lord and to meet the Lord’s people, why would we not greet it with enthusiasm and expectation? Do we really think that will happen?
3 Arrive on time
As far as church is concerned, that means at least a few minutes early. There are always things to do, so the family can serve others. Also, new people always arrive early and we can meet them. As well, it is discouraging for a congregation and a minister if church starts with only a few people present. I know how hard it is to get a family with babies and children ready on time – but sometimes we give up and do not even attempt to set out in time. It might simply mean getting the nappy bag and morning tea ready the night before. I know when I didn’t there was often some drama which set us back.
4. Pray as a family before you arrive
As you drive to church, commit the day into the Lord’s hands, expecting that he will bless. Of course, pray for the Sunday School teachers and your children’s friends who will be there.
5. Treat church as an extended family gathering
We are meeting with brothers and sisters in the Lord. This is one of the few places in the community where such relationships are possible. Church should not be a burden or mere duty – it is the weekly outing to see the family.
6. Stay until the end
Don’t be in rush to leave. Here is where the family is. This is what really matters. Also there are things to do and people to meet. Why depart quickly? Often the children persistently ask ‘are we going yet?’ which can be exceedingly irritating. Counteract it by getting them to bring a book to read, a game to play or maybe their DS, while they are waiting.
7. Speak well of church
Have you noticed what big ears children have? If you are all the time carping and criticising, children will draw their own conclusions. Why should they want to go to a place that makes you so unhappy? You’re just as likely to hear yourself being embarrassingly quoted, if you’re not careful.
8. Receive the word with thankfulness
God is unknown to so many people and so many others run from him. We have the immense privilege of hearing from him in his word and hearing the word explained and applied each Sunday. One spiritual danger is complacency. The antidote is thankfulness. Another spiritual danger is sleepiness. The antidote is gladness. I have found over the years, taking notes of the sermon helps me concentrate and focus on the passage. Otherwise my mind tends to race to the week ahead and all that has to be done.
9. Look for new people and people with needs
There is no harm in seeing the same brothers and sisters, even sitting in the same seats – that is what a family is like. But we need to see the congregation with the eyes of love, looking out for people in need and new people. It is so sad that there are many people in our community who have no one to pray for them. Let us at least make sure that we are praying with and for one another. If you have small children, having a conversation without being distracted is practically impossible but try not to let that be an excuse not to meet new people.
10. Thank your minister
Remember those big ears again! How can you expect your children to respect the teaching of the word if you continually criticise? We sometimes forget that the ministry of the word is very demanding and that like us, ministers are human beings. He needs encouragement too. Make it a habit of thanking him (and his wife if he is married) and offering his family special regard and affection. As we thank them, our own family will be blessed, because we are being generous and caring.
I am sure that there are many more tips on church-going. These are ten that come straight to my mind. I hope that they will be a blessing to you!