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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?