Ten Things I Hate About Church—and Why I Go Anyway
This fall, I was sitting in the passenger seat of our family minivan while my husband cruised down the freeway on the fifteen-minute Sunday commute to church. It was hot—Los-Angeles-in-early-September hot—and I was tired and cranky. I began to list off to him all the things that were putting me in a bad mood that day—things that seriously annoy me about our church and about going to church in general.
1. Parking is an ordeal. Only newcomers and senior citizens can park in the actual church lot, so we have to find parking off campus and walk in. This adds at least ten minutes on each side of the process, sometimes requires walking in heels, and often results in me sweating in the hot sun with kids in tow.
2. Church gives me low blood sugar. I tend toward hypoglycemia, and no matter what time the service is, it always seems to cut into a mealtime.
3. Please don’t make me stand and “greet one another.” Small talk is an introvert’s worst nightmare.
4. I may or may not like the song choices today.
5. I hate going alone, but since I’m a pastor’s wife, many of my Sunday mornings are spent solo—either bringing the kids by myself or driving with my husband and then parting ways once we arrive.
6. Our church picnic is always on the hottest day of the year. I hate heat. And you have to bring your own food, so we’re really just eating packed lunches next to one another in the park on a hot day. Thanks, but I would rather save the trouble and sit at my air-conditioned dining table for lunch today.
Those are just the immature reasons I dislike church. I also have a set of serious disappointments that have happened and can happen at church.
7. Leaders let me down.
8. Sermons do not always challenge or interest me.
9. Sometimes I bring up something that I’m passionate or concerned about, and nothing changes.
10. Quite often I feel overlooked and misunderstood.
Even on the Grumpiest of Days
Not surprisingly, my list certainly did not make my husband feel like I was supporting him in his role as a pastor or helping to lead our family toward living out our commitment to the local church.
But, on your grumpiest days, don’t you have your own list? On your most sobering days, don’t you have your own disappointments? I bet you do.
So why do I go anyway?
On the surface, I go because I should, because I said I would, and because I want to model church attendance to my kids. But, if I can step outside my negativity and sense of drudgery, I remember that I go because I’m part of a family.
Awkward Family Dinners and the Ties That Bind
Choosing not to be involved in my local church would be like choosing not to go to Thanksgiving dinner.
In college, not going home for Thanksgiving was actually a little tempting, as the occasion was sometimes an awkward reentry into family life. When I had to explain my liberal arts degree or my decision to work for InterVarsity after finishing school, I often felt my business-oriented family members staring at me as if I had three eyeballs. Sometimes I felt judged.
But I still knew I came from these people and we belonged together. I realized that it’s not our similarities that bind us together. It’s the food and traditions we share, the people we love together, and the practice of coming together that speaks of our belonging.
And though I may not like everything being served at the dinner, I may not know what to chat about with distant relatives, and I certainly may prefer to sit at home in my pajamas and sleep off my aches and pains from the early morning Turkey Trot, there’s something good about being together.
The Goodness of Going—and Growing
This is why I go to church. It is because I am a part of my brothers and sisters in Christ and they are a part of me.
And when the sermon does not blow my mind, I am not missing a chance to grow, because my irritation at the person sitting two rows in front of me is just the right invitation to facilitate my growth and character building.
When I don’t feel like our church community is living up to our potential, I am challenged to offer my own gifts and humbled by remembering my own limitations. I’m also more aware of my need for prayer and partnership with others.
When my leaders fail me, it hurts, but it helps me pray that God would give them grace and wisdom to lead with courage in situations that put pressure on them and in the midst of demands that I cannot fully imagine.
The act of simply going to church pulls me out of my autonomous, self-centered orientation and reminds me that whether or not Sunday morning is a happy family moment, it is where I belong.