Janis spends a lot of time offering up her talents and treasures at her church in Washington, DC where she serves as Outreach Co-chair.
Faith Community Icons: Madonna and Child
Church Attendance Increases During Specific Times of the Year
During holidays and specific times of the year, we see church attendance increase as individuals attend mass or worship services with immediate family, relatives, and friends. These services include Christmas, Hanukkah, Easter, Passover, Lent, and even New Year's Eve. Going back to church for special services is a common activity for many, bringing family back together for prayer and opportunities to increase faith.
Whether we are kept away by long distances or just the day-to-day busy routines of life, it's not easy for everyone to maintain a spiritual life that includes regular church attendance. Many people have left the church for various reasons including disillusionment, conflict, hypocrisy, traumatic experiences, or disagreement with the tenets and doctrines of religious institutions. Others have simply come to regard church membership with low priority, not having necessity in living out good and decent lives.
But there are practical reasons to consider why becoming part of a church or worship community may be a good idea, even if only a small percentage of the population are participating regularly.
Church Attendance According to Research
Unfortunately, it's hard to know which research to believe when it comes to data collection about church attendance in America. Church attendance or participation means different things to different people, depending on their religion.
It also depends on who's conducting the research and what their agendas are as it relates to denomination and organizational ties. Just as important is how the research questions are posed to and answered by the respondents and what "regular attendance," "active participation," and "membership" mean to them.
As it stands now, the general consensus is that less than 20% of Americans attend church every weekend or at least on a regular basis.
One fact most researchers agree upon is that there is a disconnect between what Americans say about their church attendance and what they actually do. In any case, the unanswered questions remain: "Why people seek membership, why they continue to go, and what they get out of it." These questions may be partially answered by examining the practical reasons people may join a church.
An Episcopal Church Building
A Common Sighting in Anglican and Roman Catholic Church Communities
Ten Practical Reasons to Join a Church Community
As a regular church goer since childhood, being a part of a church community is an integral part of my routine and existence. So I speak from life-long experience about what I deem as advantageous about belonging to a church community.
The following suggestions are not given from an ultra-religious viewpoint but from a practical one, without the intent to influence or convert anyone to any particular faith or denomination.
This article is about being a member of a community or "church family" where the unexpected amenities of membership come in the form of gifts and blessings.
Becoming active in a faith community or church group can enhance the life of a potential member in the following ways, outlined below.
- Having a regular place to anchor and replenish - a familiar church house, synagogue, masjid or mosque, Kingdom Hall, or temple gives a worshiper a place to call his spiritual home to which he can return anytime; a place of prayer fosters a sense of spiritual identity and belonging to something outside of self.
- Building close relationships with supportive people who understand you based on having similar spiritual journeys - making lasting friendships with church members you can call on socially or in a time of crisis is an invaluable advantage of having connections to a community.
- Getting involved in volunteer work and outreach ministries - there are always opportunities to engage in service to those in need as a team of church members; there are also opportunities for members to participate in support groups, classes, and retreats hosted by the church for expanded learning and spiritual growth.
- Having exposure to opportunities to participate in leadership activities - a church organization is a great place to build social, leadership, and team-building skills as you learn the programmatic side of how an organization runs.
Thom S. Rainer on Church Membership (Christian Faith)
5. Engaging in any tasks or ministry work as a member of a church gives you extra skills to place on a resume - work is work regardless of the setting; ministry work also tells potential employers something about your good character.
6. Being able to receive communion on a regular basis - for those who are Christian, having access to the gifts of the sacraments, becoming one with Christ, is a way to cleanse, heal, renew, and transform the body, soul, and spirit.
7. Having the ability to ask for financial help during a financial crisis - some churches keep a discretionary fund available for members of the church who may find themselves in a bind.
8. Having a place to baptize or christen a newborn - families and parents may go for months before making a decision about baptism because they feel badly about not belonging to a church home, afraid to ask for the privilege from a church they aren't affiliated with by attendance.
9. Having comfort in knowing you have a place out of which to bury a loved one or have your own funeral - everyone wants to honor the life of their loved one properly, without the added burden of figuring out where to have the funeral; often times, the benevolent or hospitality committee will handle the logistics and cooking of the repast, giving the family one less thing to worry about during a time of mourning.
10. Having a place to hold a wedding ceremony, blessed by God, in the presence of relatives, friends, and church family - with destination weddings and big production weddings away from one's home church becoming the standard, it's good to know options exist as an active member of a church community to have a church wedding and a minister to officiate.
A Masjid is Open for Daily Prayer
Rabbis Laura Baum and Robert Barr on Jewish Identity/Membership in Community
A Traditional Episcopal Service
Discerning Your Church Membership
Making a decision to become a member of a church community takes a great deal of thought and discernment. It is primarily a spiritual decision which takes into account one's religious experiences and upbringing, unresolved questions about faith, and an ongoing quest for truth, peace, and relationship with God. Only the individual can come to that spiritual clarity in deciding what faith community will work best to address those questions.
In the meantime, the purpose of this article was to present the practical advantages of being a member of a faith community. It's easy to become so lost within the quagmire of our inner conflicts that we lose sight of the positive side of having connections to other people through membership.
Take some time to contemplate the blessings within a spiritually-based, supportive environment offered by a faith community. Think about the ways in which it could be helpful to make connections through membership and participation. A feeling of belonging is a basic need we have as human beings, promoting our psychological health and sense of well-being.
Becoming a Member of a Faith Community
Source: Church Attendance in America
- 7 Startling Facts: An Up Close Look at Church Attendance in America - ChurchLeaders.com - Christian
7 Startling Facts: An Up Close Look at Church Attendance in America, Are people really attending church? What do the facts say? - ChurchLeaders.com
© 2013 Janis Leslie Evans