Sunday morning comes around and the temptation to sleep in is strong! But then, you consider the importance of your spiritual life. Like sleeping and eating, investing in yourself spiritually is essential to your well-being. So, you make the decision to get up and go. Plus, you want your children to attend Sunday school, and it’s always nice to gather with friends and family.
But what else is “church?” Hebrews 10:25 tells us, “…not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Acts 2:42 references church as a community of believers in Jesus Christ who “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Sounds a lot like a family, or a group of good friends, or a strong community, doesn’t it? Your local church should be a mix of each of these descriptors.
Many people live far away from their family because of work, college, or other life choices. Oftentimes we find ourselves in need of someone who can come alongside us and step in for the far-away family. We’ve had the privilege of hosting college students in our home over the years and have enjoyed getting to know them and hearing about their plans for the future. Couple that with a few meals and a comfy bed, and they’re your friends for life!
Sometimes as young parents, we appreciate the wisdom of older adults when we have questions about raising our children or perhaps about our adult relationships. It’s nice having a place where you can confide in others and gain understanding about life in all its stages. Being stand-in grandparents or aunts and uncles can be a huge help to young families!
Everyone needs loving encouragement from time to time, and your local church family should be ready, willing, and able to step in and provide that. Depending on the size of your church, getting connected through a small group can be very effective. If you can’t seem to find one that meets your specific needs, perhaps you could consider starting one yourself! Chances are if you have an unmet need, others in your church do as well.
I have loved watching my daughter and her husband develop strong friendships with other like-minded couples. They gather for game nights, trade off babysitting, provide care for each other in times of illness, and support each other when the pressures of parenting come in hard. They study the Bible together, laugh and cry together, pray together, and play together.
Developing friendships with people with whom you share fundamental beliefs is extremely important. While you may not agree on every single point, as long as you have more in common than not, you’ll have great fuel for growth, debate, and deepening relationships. These friends should also encourage you in your relationship with the Lord and lead you closer to Him, not away from Him.
Being an active participant in a vibrant, healthy community is a strong indicator of good mental health. It’s also a good indicator of spiritual health when you choose to become involved in a local church. Look for a church that reaches beyond its walls and even beyond borders. Find where you can use your personal gifts and abilities to minister to people inside and outside the church.
Within the walls of the church, look for ways to serve and be a part of the church community. Be a giver as well as a taker. Allow people to serve you and then determine to pay it forward when the opportunity arises. It truly does take everyone working together to be a successful church community.
Many local churches are very hands-on in their larger community. This is vital for church growth. Being involved in local schools, shelters, hospitals, orphanages, or other outreach opportunities may stir something in you as well. Check with your small group leader or a pastor about ways that you can get involved with what your church is doing in your town.
Choosing a local church isn’t always easy, especially if you live in a city where there are many choices. Even if your options are limited, do great research before you visit. Hopefully, you can access websites or social media sites to learn about their position on foundational beliefs, teaching and preaching methods, style of worship, and activities for your age group as well as programs for singles, women, men, children, and teens. It’s a tremendous advantage to have made up your own mind about what you believe and what you are looking for in a church.
To help figure that out, here are a few questions you can ask yourself:
- Is the fundamental teaching of this church in line with the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
- Does this church share my view on foundational beliefs?
- What is the church’s stance on various social issues that I’m concerned about?
- How can I fit in and not only attend but also become actively involved?
- Would I prefer a small or large congregation?
- Do I prefer contemporary or more traditional music?
- Is a liturgical service more suited to my style of worship or do I like something less formal?
- Does this congregation have an exciting but spiritually deep program for my children?
- Is there a variety of small group dates, times, and locations?
- Is this church ready, willing, and able to reach out to those who don’t already know Jesus?
Church means different things to all of us. Whether you prefer a small town country church or a big city megachurch, the important thing is that you put much prayer and consideration into choosing the right congregation to attend. Your spiritual health is too important to do anything less!
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