I am a Christian and yet I am sitting in my home sipping coffee while other families are scrambling to get out the door to go to church. This is not a new thing, this is not the first time or even season in my life that I have been specifically choosing to have a quiet morning at home. Sometimes I have felt judged or misunderstood. Sometimes I have felt that I am “less holy” than those who are committed to going. It’s not to say we don’t ever go to church or we won’t go regularly in the future, but in this season again, we are choosing to find an alternative. Check out the top (yes, there are usually more) reasons I might not be at church this Sunday.
- I am alone. My husband works shift work. He is not dependable, at times he is working or on call and I have to go by myself, with all the kids. It isn’t a good experience, I rarely (if ever) get help, I am frustrated with the kids getting out the door, we are all stressed when we show up, and I am ready to cry by the time we get home. That is NOT what church is meant to be!
- It is far away. Where we live right now, there is no church. The nearest one is 45 minutes away and it is a tiny town with no where to eat. This is difficult for us in the best of circumstances, gas is atrocious up here, kids are hungry and whining afterwards, and it is a huge strain on our family just to get there.
- We need family time. Some weeks we get one day. One day where there aren’t a million things planned. One day where we can be together and love on each other or just have fun together. Often this is Sunday. When we don’t get this day of rest (which is what it was originally designed to be by the way) the stress level goes up, even in our marriage. We are exhausted and not taking the time to connect as a family and rather than coming home from church smiling, we come home grumpy and overwhelmed that another day is essentially gone.
- It is shallow. This is a tough one, and a bit more of the meat behind why we might not be going to a certain church. No church is perfect, and I am not looking for perfection. But some are just so “on the surface” that I feel like I am wasting my time. Everyone plasters on their church face and smiles and says how are you, but no one asks you anything real or gets to know your family in any way. The sermons are simple and barely skim the surface, so that no one is offended. When we walk into churches like this, it doesn’t take us long to walk the other direction, quickly.
- We don’t get fed. I know this is hard to hear, and a lot of Christians would (and have) told me to “not forsake the fellowship of believers”. I know it might come across as selfish to some but frankly, I am looking for solid food, not milk (Hebrews 5:12-13). When I walk into a passive little church and the message is something I heard 20 years ago in Sunday School, I may not show up next week you guys.
- There is nothing for the kids. No church is all of these things listed above, but if they pair one of our challenges with the fact that there is no sunday school or nursery, I’m out you guys. I have spent so many Sunday mornings sitting in a back office with all my kids, turning on Dora or something on my phone. They get nothing out of it, I get nothing out of it, it is a waste of time. If I packed up all my kids and got out the door, I am maxed, I need to know that someone is going to shower my kids with love and teach them about God in their sing song voices while mommy recharges herself. We ALL need to be refreshed, and with young kids, this is important for not only me, but them as well.
- We are burning out. Both my husband and I are musical. I play piano and lead worship and he plays guitar and can lead as well. While we love getting involved, there have been times when we have been folding bulletins, volunteering in the nursery and in Sunday School, leading worship, doing sound, helping clean up afterwards, and leading a women’s study, all at once! We have felt completely burnt out and used up by a few churches in the past, and it is so difficult because while we want to help and serve and share, we also are in a season of our lives with 5 young children where that is incredibly challenging.
- We are sick. You wouldn’t believe how often this has been the reason we are not at church. It happens, a LOT. And often, it is a result of going to church! It is so disheartening to have a toddler you bring to nursery only to have them suck on toys that are visibly dirty and they come home with a cold to share with us all.
What we do instead
If you are going to church this morning and feeling defensive, that is not my intention at all! Let me clearly state that no church is all these things and all churches are some of them [tweetthis display_mode=”button_link” remove_twitter_handles=”true” remove_hidden_hashtags=”true”]Let me clearly state that no church is all these things and all churches are some of them. #church [/tweetthis]. We move around a lot with my husbands policing job and that means we try a lot of churches. We are not looking for a perfect church that checks off everything on our list, but we often have very limited options, and if the church is many of the items listed above then we might make a conscious choice to stay home.
Where we live now we started up a group with local believers in our home on Sunday nights. We pray and worship and share our testimonies and it has been amazing to see God move each week. I am not forsaking the fellowship, I get fellowship every week, in a much more personal way than I have ever had in any church. Because it is at our house, our kids can go to bed and there is no stress. We are investing in the community that God has put us in, we are using our gifts and talents in a way that works for our family. We have the day to rest and recharge together. The older kids can be involved in the evening instead of being whisked away to do actions to a song. When we move to another community, we will try the church or churches in that area and make our decision based on what works best for our family at that time.
The reality is, there is always more than meets the eye. I struggled with not going for some time, feeling like it would show God how much I loved him if I went, if I sacrificed. But after coming home crying and tired and another busy week on the horizon week after week, I have finally found peace that it is okay. [tweetthis display_mode=”button_link” remove_twitter_handles=”true” remove_hidden_hashtags=”true” remove_hidden_urls=”true”]Churches put pressure on you to show up, not God. God does not need a building, a pastor, a board #church[/tweetthis]. He doesn’t need a service, a greeting committee or a Sunday School room. God doesn’t want me to feel obligated or go because of duty… that is religion and that is not His intention for His people. Right now, you might love your church and that is awesome! You might be getting filled and connecting with other people and going because of all the right reasons– praise God. Or you might be like me, feeling guilted but exhausted and worn and frustrated in which case I hope this post encourages you to find what God is asking you to do.