Every Christian wants to have a great church experience. But what we get out of our time in God's house depends to a great degree on what we put into it. So how can we get the most out of church?
- Avoid the 'Grass Is Always Greener Under the Other Steeple' Syndrome. Don't church hop. You'll always see other churches that appear more appealing. They may look more exciting, or the pastor may seem to preach better, or the people may appear friendlier. But church hoppers go off to another church they're sure will meet their needs . . . until they see another church that looks better. As a result, they end up not really having a church 'home' where they can find stability and acceptance. Find one church and stick to it. Realize that no church will be any closer to perfect than the people who are in it-including you! Instead, help make your church the best it can be.
- Be Faithful. Discipline yourself to be there as much as you can-even if you didn't get quite enough sleep the night before, or despite any other excuse you can use to talk yourself into skipping church. Remember, we constantly face spiritual battles. Perhaps the service you miss will feature a message that could revolutionize your spiritual walk! Don't let anything replace your church. You need that body of believers behind you, supporting you, encouraging you, praying for you.
- Be Involved. Maybe you're not growing because you're sitting on the outside of church activities. If you can sing, join the choir. Get involved in planning, or serve on different committees. Lend a hand and enjoy what your church offers. As you stay in the mainstream, you will feel more like a vital part of your church.
- Pay Attention-Take Notes. Don't just be deadweight in your pew or Sunday school chair-take notes and respond when input is requested. Become involved in what the teacher and pastor are saying. Don't let yourself be distracted by everything else.
- Beat the Rush! Get up early enough to avoid the Sunday morning rush. This way you can prevent arriving at church frustrated or emotionally drained, which definitely hinders the ability to concentrate on the Lord and His goodness! Also, get enough rest the night before so your mind will be fresh and alert for the service.
- Be Prepared. Do you have any written material that will prepare you for the lesson? You can also prepare spiritually by having your own time of prayer and worship as you get ready and drive to church.
- Don't be Critical. Be quick to appreciate and slow to criticize. Any worship you've experienced in the morning will be lost if you have 'roast pastor' or any similar meal for lunch.
- Meet New People. Don't always sit by the same people. Muster up your courage to sit by someone you don't know, or someone who looks lonely. These new pewmates may become tremendous friends.
- Pray Continually. Pray for the service, the pastor, the special music, and the choir. And pray for yourself. Ask God to give you the wisdom to understand the message and to learn from it. Pray for others in the congregation . . . you never know who might be facing pain or tragedies.
- Respond. If God tugs at your heart, respond. You'll not only keep your heart sensitive to God, but you will also encourage others to be honest about their spiritual walks.
- Minister. Find ways to minister through your church. Join an organized ministry, or start your own ministry-like sending notes of encouragement to others.
Want to get the most out of your church? Then get off your pew! Remember, your experiences with church are just what you make them. Don't let anything hinder you from what can be one of your biggest blessings . . . fellowship, learning and growing closer to God in His house!
Jeanette Gardner Littleton is a freelance author and editor living in Missouri. She has authored and edited numerous books and articles.