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Hacking Church: How to attend service 52 weeks in a row

Hacking Church: How to attend service 52 weeks in a row

    I think it’s safe to say that many people have the desire to attend church more consistently and improve their spiritual life. On this date last year, I was not a member of a church and I rarely attended any church services. On February 26, 2006 I set a personal goal for myself to attend church for an entire year without missing a single week. This coming Sunday, will make it 52 weeks in a row that I attended church without skipping even once. I will give you tips on how to find a church, and how I to find the motivation to attend every week for an entire year.

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    Keep in mind that your church won’t be perfect
    The first step prior to attending church on a regular basis is to actually choose a church. When I set my goal to attend church for an entire year I was not a member of any church. In fact, I was deep in the “church-shopping” process and did not have a church I attended regularly. Finding a church was the most difficult part of my journey. I visited several (probably over 10 churches) before I came to the realization (thanks in part to the Purpose Driven Life and my girlfriend) that no church is absolutely perfect. What I mean by that is (in my opinion) no church will match your tastes on every facet. I think you could spend years visiting various churches and never be totally satisfied with any of the churches you visit. Gaining satisfaction with your church will take time. Rather, you have to find a church that will satisfy you enough to motivate you to keep coming week after week.

    Get to know the members
    For the past four or five years I’ve attended various churches (I’ve moved a few times) without ever being a member. I would go to church, sit quietly by myself in the back and leave immediately at the end of church. I am in the process of becoming a member of a local church and I have learned an important lesson. You cannot get to know a church without getting to know the members. This lesson took me many months, if not years, to finally figure out.

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    Get involved with the church
    Getting involved with some facet of your church (whether volunteering, ushering, reading, or joining a committee) will increase your accountability for attendance. Besides the benefits to your community (and the spiritual gains you experience) by volunteering at your church, you inherently gain a great deal of accountability in regards to attending weekly. I had the mindset of “how can I serve on so-and-so committee and not go to service on Sunday? How would that look? What would people think of me?” I’m not advocating making a huge time commitment or attending service simply to not look bad in the eyes of your congregation, but offering to fill a position in the church will definitely motivate you to at least make a weekly appearance and keep you motivated to achieve your attendance goal.

    Substitute Saturday night for Friday night
    The number one barrier preventing me from reaching my goal was the desire to sleep in. Previously I posted about how I get up at 5AM Monday through Friday. By Friday night I would be pretty tired, so I would tend to stay in and go out on Saturday night. This social schedule makes getting up for church very difficult on Sunday (especially after a few too many “adult beverages” on Saturday night). This tip is more common sense than anything else, but switching Friday to my big social night allowed me to relax on Saturday night, and in turn, have no problem getting up for church on Sunday morning.

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    Promise someone
    Whether it is yourself or a loved one, promising someone that you will attend church every Sunday will help motivate you. In my weight loss article, I made a comment about the importance of making your diet public. I think this mindset can be applied to attending church as well. Tell someone that you plan to attend every Sunday — this will increase your accountability leaps and bounds. If you would rather keep this information to yourself, write it down and put it somewhere that you will see it every day (fridge door, bathroom mirror, inside your wallet, etc.).

    Go with a friend or loved one
    77% of church-goers that attend service with a friend report happiness in their spiritual life. Try bringing a friend, a family member, or a significant other to church with you. Besides making the experience more enjoyable and meaningful, having confirmed plans to attend church with someone else will increase your accountability.

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    Rationalize the time

      I gained some motivation to attend church by comparing the amount of time the church-going process takes to the length of the entire week. My church service (including travel time) is only 1.5 hours total and that is only .89% of the week (168 hours/week). I also rationalize the length of the church service as half of a movie, three sitcoms, less than two episodes of Prison Break, etc. whatever works for you.

      Conclusion
      At first, I was motivated by making my attendance “mandatory” and comparing the amount of time I was spending at church to other “lazy” activities I enjoyed. I was able to balance making myself accountable and not feeling pressured to attend. As time progressed and I got more comfortable attending church, the motivation to attend became inherent. I started noticing major improvements in my spiritual life. By attending church every week for 52 weeks, I was able to meet many people, strengthen my faith, improve my personality, become more involved in my community, and most importantly strengthen my relationship with God. If you think that 52 weeks seems daunting, try setting smaller goals for yourself like attending 3 out of 4 weeks per month for six months. How do you find the motivation to get to church week-in and week-out? Have any of you set similar goals? How did you fare?

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      Last Updated on September 18, 2019

      How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

      How to Take Notes Effectively: Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

      Note-taking is one of those skills that rarely gets taught. Almost everyone assumes either that taking good notes comes naturally or, that someone else must have already taught about how to take notes. Then, we sit around and complain that our colleagues don’t know how to take notes.

      I figure it’s about time to do something about that. Whether you’re a student or a mid-level professional, the ability to take effective, meaningful notes is a crucial skill. Not only do good notes help us recall facts and ideas we may have forgotten, the act of writing things down helps many of us to remember them better in the first place.

      One of the reasons people have trouble taking effective notes is that they’re not really sure what notes are for. I think a lot of people, students and professionals alike, attempt to capture a complete record of a lecture, book, or meeting in their notes — to create, in effect, minutes. This is a recipe for failure.

      Trying to get every last fact and figure down like that leaves no room for thinking about what you’re writing and how it fits together. If you have a personal assistant, by all means, ask him or her to write minutes; if you’re on your own, though, your notes have a different purpose to fulfill.

      The purpose of note-taking is simple: to help you work better and more quickly. This means your notes don’t have to contain everything, they have to contain the most important things.

      And if you’re focused on capturing everything, you won’t have the spare mental “cycles” to recognize what’s truly important. Which means that later, when you’re studying for a big test or preparing a term paper, you’ll have to wade through all that extra garbage to uncover the few nuggets of important information?

      What to Write Down

      Your focus while taking notes should be two-fold. First, what’s new to you? There’s no point in writing down facts you already know. If you already know the Declaration of Independence was written and signed in 1776, there’s no reason to write that down. Anything you know you know, you can leave out of your notes.

      Second, what’s relevant? What information is most likely to be of use later, whether on a test, in an essay, or in completing a project? Focus on points that directly relate to or illustrate your reading (which means you’ll have to have actually done the reading…). The kinds of information to pay special attention to are:

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      Dates of Events

      Dates allow you to create a chronology, putting things in order according to when they happened, and understand the context of an event.

      For instance, knowing Isaac Newton was born in 1643 allows you to situate his work in relation to that of other physicists who came before and after him, as well as in relation to other trends of the 17th century.

      Names of People

      Being able to associate names with key ideas also helps remember ideas better and, when names come up again, to recognize ties between different ideas whether proposed by the same individuals or by people related in some way.

      Theories or Frameworks

      Any statement of a theory or frameworks should be recorded — they are the main points most of the time.

      Definitions

      Like theories, these are the main points and, unless you are positive you already know the definition of a term, should be written down.

      Keep in mind that many fields use everyday words in ways that are unfamiliar to us.

      Arguments and Debates

      Any list of pros and cons, any critique of a key idea, both sides of any debate or your reading should be recorded.

      This is the stuff that advancement in every discipline emerges from, and will help you understand both how ideas have changed (and why) but also the process of thought and development of the matter of subject.

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      Images

      Whenever an image is used to illustrate a point, a few words are in order to record the experience.

      Obviously it’s overkill to describe every tiny detail, but a short description of a painting or a short statement about what the class, session or meeting did should be enough to remind you and help reconstruct the experience.

      Other Stuff

      Just about anything a professor writes on a board should probably be written down, unless it’s either self-evident or something you already know. Titles of books, movies, TV series, and other media are usually useful, though they may be irrelevant to the topic at hand.

      I usually put this sort of stuff in the margin to look up later (it’s often useful for research papers, for example). Pay attention to other’s comments, too — try to capture at least the gist of comments that add to your understanding.

      Your Own Questions

      Make sure to record your own questions about the material as they occur to you. This will help you remember to ask the professor or look something up later, as well as prompt you to think through the gaps in your understanding.

      3 Powerful Note-Taking Techniques

      You don’t have to be super-fancy in your note-taking to be effective, but there are a few techniques that seem to work best for most people.

      1. Outlining

      Whether you use Roman numerals or bullet points, outlining is an effective way to capture the hierarchical relationships between ideas and data. For example, in a history class, you might write the name of an important leader, and under it the key events that he or she was involved in. Under each of them, a short description. And so on.

      Outlining is a great way to take notes from books, because the author has usually organized the material in a fairly effective way, and you can go from start to end of a chapter and simply reproduce that structure in your notes.

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      For lectures, however, outlining has limitations. The relationship between ideas isn’t always hierarchical, and the instructor might jump around a lot. A point later in the lecture might relate better to information earlier in the lecture, leaving you to either flip back and forth to find where the information goes best (and hope there’s still room to write it in), or risk losing the relationship between what the professor just said and what she said before.

      2. Mind-Mapping

      For lectures, a mind-map might be a more appropriate way of keeping track of the relationships between ideas. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of mind-mapping, but it might just fit the bill.

      Here’s the idea:

      In the center of a blank sheet of paper, you write the lecture’s main topic. As new sub-topics are introduced (the kind of thing you’d create a new heading for in an outline), you draw a branch outward from the center and write the sub-topic along the branch. Then each point under that heading gets its own, smaller branch off the main one. When another new sub-topic is mentioned, you draw a new main branch from the center. And so on.

      The thing is, if a point should go under the first heading but you’re on the fourth heading, you can easily just draw it in on the first branch. Likewise, if a point connects to two different ideas, you can connect it to two different branches.

      If you want to neaten things up later, you can re-draw the map or type it up using a program like FreeMind, a free mind-mapping program (some wikis even have plug-ins for FreeMind mind-maps, in case you’re using a wiki to keep track of your notes).

      You can learn more about mind-mapping here: How to Mind Map: Visualize Your Cluttered Thoughts in 3 Simple Steps

      3. The Cornell System

      The Cornell System is a simple but powerful system for increasing your recall and the usefulness of your notes.

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      About a quarter of the way from the bottom of a sheet of paper, draw a line across the width of the page. Draw another line from that line to the top, about 2 inches (5 cm) from the right-hand edge of the sheet.

      You’ve divided your page into three sections. In the largest section, you take notes normally — you can outline or mind-map or whatever. After the lecture, write a series of “cues” into the skinny column on the right, questions about the material you’ve just taken notes on. This will help you process the information from the lecture or reading, as well as providing a handy study tool when exams come along: simply cover the main section and try to answer the questions.

      In the bottom section, you write a short, 2-3 line summary in your own words of the material you’ve covered. Again, this helps you process the information by forcing you to use it in a new way; it also provides a useful reference when you’re trying to find something in your notes later.

      You can download instructions and templates from American Digest, though the beauty of the system is you can dash off a template “on the fly”.

      The Bottom Line

      I’m sure I’m only scratching the surface of the variety of techniques and strategies people have come up with to take good notes. Some people use highlighters or colored pens; others a baroque system of post-it notes.

      I’ve tried to keep it simple and general, but the bottom line is that your system has to reflect the way you think. The problem is, most haven’t given much thought to the way they think, leaving them scattered and at loose ends — and their notes reflect this.

      More About Note-Taking

      Featured photo credit: Kaleidico via unsplash.com

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