It’s easy to find reasons to not go to church. So easy, in fact, that if you’re having trouble coming up with any, there are entire articles, polls, and discussion groups on the internet in which people share their reasons for quitting. Those reasons range from serious scandals among the clergy to the fact that churches have the audacity to schedule worship at a time that interferes with brunch. Some remark that they don’t believe anymore, or church doesn’t match their political convictions, or they’re too tired from working all week.
As you read all the excuses, one after another, it begins to wear thin. The point is, people are staying away simply because they prefer to stay away. The excuses are merely afterthoughts.
To me, because a church community is a family, the excuses feel like a weak attempt to justify giving up on your family simply because that family is less than perfect. It’s easier to disconnect and give up on the relationship. Rather than bemoan this tendency, I thought I might offer some reasons why it is so important to attend church, and particularly why it’s so important to bring children to church even though having children offers us myriad excuses to stay home.
Children, of course, make church attendance a thousand times more complicated. The trouble begins at home with their total inability to find that second shoe. The first shoe of any pair is always easy to find; it’s the second one that’s diabolical. And it happens every week. Every. Single. Week. And now the entire family is stressed out and five minutes late.
Toddlers talk all the way through Mass, asking questions and wiggling, commenting on people around them in super loud whispers. They demand snacks and require multiple trips to the bathroom. It seems as though they’re getting absolutely nothing of any value out of the experience. So, yes, it would be easy to justify not attending Mass with them.
Even with older children, it can be difficult. Teenagers don’t always have the best attitude and parents are reluctant to force their kids to go to Mass against their will because they don’t want church to feel like a punishment. Again, it’s easier to leave them home and attend alone or go ahead and allow the whole family to sleep in on Sunday.
To me, this is a question of intentionality: What kind of life do we want to live? What sort of people do we want to be? Instead of taking the easy route and making excuses, we carefully consider our actions. Why would a family want to go to church?
I’ve always had plenty of self-confidence, which I’ve come realize is a somewhat rare gift. The reason why I have confidence is because my parents took me to church when I was a child, and in church I learned that God created me for a purpose and has a plan for my life. Sure, I make mistakes, fall into doubt, and find myself frustrated with my flaws and missed opportunities, but I always fall back on my identity as a child of God. I want my children to have that same self-confidence.
Knowing we are loved
In Church, I learned that God created me because he loves me. This is a lesson not to be taken for granted. Many people today don’t understand this simple fact because they’ve never heard it. I know that I sometimes struggle to love myself. I also know that I fail to love my wife and children the way they deserve to be loved. But everyone deserves to be loved. All the time. This is why God’s love is so vital. No one will flourish without the steady, kind, never-ceasing love that he provides, and that love is dispensed, without fail, at church.
The discipline of taking up a challenge
It’s in church that I’m challenged to grow. On my own, I would probably languish, too anxious and weary to attempt anything as audacious as self-improvement. It’s the positive encouragement I hear in church that gives me the daring to dream bigger. In church I hear that I might be able to become a saint. I even begin to believe it. This is a challenge that is difficult, for sure, but it has endowed my life with purpose.
Meeting diverse people
A final reason I appreciate church is that it places me into a close relationship with all sorts of diverse people from different social backgrounds, countries of origin, and age. This is a formative experience that draws me away from limiting my social interaction towards only a few like-minded peers. My life is richer for having met all the wonderful people in my parish. My children benefit from this as well and have had their perspective broadened as they learn to interact with different types of people.
I’m sure I could go on with listing reasons I find church attendance such a beneficial experience. All I really know is that I would be lost without it and our family would be worse off. There is not a Sunday that goes by that I would rather be anywhere else.