I think for most kids going to church is an excruciating experience. Sure, Sunday School might be fun (especially if you’re a young child), but sitting through a service is hard. When I was a kid, I used church time to daydream and clock-watch. I rarely listened to the sermon. Attending church was something that was expected of me. When I was a teen I was allowed to choose the church I attended, so I went to my sisters’ church and not my parents’. I had friends there but they usually just stopped in for Sunday school. I longed to hop in my car and join them at the nearest restaurant, but if I did that I would not be upholding my Sunday obligations. So I would say goodbye to my friends and envision them driving off with the music cranked and the cigarettes lit (it was the 90’s in NC).
Religious organizations have their structure. That structure includes a certain number of services per week that its members are expected to attend. A lot of times the “goodness” of people is measured by how many of those services they are present for. I remember being very aware that the best members of our church attended on Sunday morning, Sunday night AND Wednesday night. You were the cream of the crop if you did this. We lived too far away from the church to do that so we settled for once a week on Sunday morning. BUT it was every Sunday and we always attended both Sunday School and preaching.
It bugged me that it was such a part of the regimen. Sometimes, OK most of the time, I just wanted to stay home. I wanted to feel comfortable and happy and church didn’t make me feel that way.
Now that I have embraced different ideas about God and what a spiritual life looks like, I find that most of the time I WANT to go to church. My church is not typical. It is still a church though and it relies on people becoming members and donating their money and time. One thing I find though is that it is about as close as you can get to church as a factory.
My friend Rob and I had this conversation one day and he made this great analogy. Church should be like a factory. You go in and they give you all the tools you need to live a spiritual life. They teach you methods for prayer and meditation and offer you resources to study. They build up your confidence and remind you that you are special and unique with talents and gifts to offer the world. THEN they should say…now go live and be happy! This process may take longer for different people. One person may need to attend church weekly and hear these messages over and over for 20 years before it breaks through to their being. Someone else may only need to hear it for 6 months. But there should be a point where you can “attend church” within yourself daily or weekly without needing to sit amongst a congregation. And the great thing is, that if you backslide and feel you’ve forgotten how to use your tools, you can always go back for a refresher.