Is it better to be disengaged while sitting in church or just not to attend at all?
Recently, I’ve entered into a new season of life. A new job, a new house, new friends (more of them actually) and a new problem:
I don’t like church.
I’m actually incredibly thankful for the church community I have, because it’s served me well, and I know I could be worse off, but every Saturday morning I have this battle inside my brain as to whether I should get out of bed and go to church, or rest, watch a service online and then see what the rest of the day brings me.
A few months ago, the church service I was actively involved in, switched gears to focus more on young families than young adults. I was in charge of a team that surveyed the church and presented our findings to the pastoral staff, church board and both service planning teams. As time went on, things began to change.
I connect to God through music and it was clear to me that wasn’t a huge priority to the church for our service–that and/or everyone was just burned out. This summer, I stepped down from my leadership position, because I needed a break, but I also saw how my attitude wasn’t positive and I was growing more and more frustrated with planning a service that missed the mark for me.
My denomination is also at war with itself and it’s not looking too positive. Right now, the big debate is whether our global church denomination will allow for women to be ordained. It’s honestly a mess. There have been countless votes, articles for and against, all the while, people questioning what the hell is happening, pardon my French. It really makes me wonder where the church denomination is headed.
It’s not breaking news that churches around the nation are struggling to keep young adults engaged. On a weekly basis, I see articles about how to attract young adults to church or how to keep them there or why we’re not in church. It used to be that young adults would come back, so to speak, once they got married and started a family. But we’re not seeing those numbers anymore. People my age are finding community elsewhere. They still have a strong relationship with God, but they’re not buying into church communities for whatever their reasoning.
I’m not questioning my beliefs, I’m questioning how the Seventh-day Adventist Church defines and does church. As of late, I’m not convinced it’s working anymore. A few months ago, I looked forward to going to church every weekend, now I look forward to the weekend to just rest. Attending church isn’t really part of those plans.
My question still stands: Is it better to be disengaged while sitting in church or not to attend at all?
I don’t have an answer yet, but I feel like I’m in a good place because I’m wrestling with this instead of becoming complacent.
While I was on the leadership team, I fought feelings of obligation to attend the service every week. Church shouldn’t be an obligation, it should be a place where you can come as you are, with all your questions to just be, and rest.
I also know by not attending church, I’m missing out on community. I’ve felt that deeply—for example two weekends ago, I spent most of my Saturday in bed, upset about a conversation I had and not sleeping that night, which caused me to choose sleep over dragging myself out of bed to go to church. I missed out on a lot that day, and I felt it.
It’s a weird space to be in, because just months ago I was raving about the community that I’m part of. But this is my reality now—I’ve had multiple conversations with friends, including some of my pastors—I’m not walking away and I’m not totally disengaged, but I’m trying to find my place at this church, now that I’m just a church member.
In the last couple months, the young adults have created somewhat of another service, once a month on Friday nights. We call it Ascent. It’s held in a newly renovated area of the church, a comfortable and safe space for us to worship in the way we prefer. We focus on music, have snacks, and a relevant message where we take 20 minutes to discuss during the service. There is still a lot to plan for this service, but it feels promising.
In all honesty, I’m putting my heart and soul into this service because I need it.
I don’t think this service is the only answer for keeping me engaged, but I’m willing to see how it will impact my engagement. As I continue to wrestle with this new phenomenon, I’m curious if anyone else understands what I’m wrestling with. Have you come to a conclusion? Yes or no, let’s connect–I’d love to hear your thoughts.