Growing up, going to church was never an option in my household. When Sunday morning rolled around, we were expected to be ready by 10:15 a.m. to pile into the car and head across town to church.
At first, I loved going to church. I got to play with my friends, eat yummy snacks, and run around recklessly. As I grew up and became more infatuated with sleeping in on the weekends, my desire to go to church shifted.
My questions of “when are we leaving?” turned into “why do I have to go? I want to sleep,” and many other forms of trying to get out of going.
It’s not that I disliked church, or stopped believing in God — I just became a teenager who loved sleep, and didn’t think being part of a church body was important.
Years later, I can say I’m grateful that my parents pushed me to go to church every Sunday morning. The habit — well, requirement — of going instilled values of faithfulness and consistency that still mark my character today. It taught me the importance of the church body and being “plugged in,” as well as teaching me that sometimes it’s important for us to force ourselves to do things we don’t necessarily want to.
The lessons I learned from mandatory church attendance
1. Faithfulness & Consistency
I am being completely transparent when I say that by the time I hit the teenage years, I didn’t want to go to church on Sunday mornings anymore. I felt that the youth group I attended during the week was enough and that Sunday morning services were better for adults.
But what I didn’t know at the time was that my parents were preparing me for a life long habit of faithfulness. Over the past five years, I’ve moved seven times, and traveled frequently. Because of my parents’ dedication, and decision to require church on Sunday mornings, I have kept this habit myself.
One of the first things I do when in a new place or visiting a new city is to look into the local church bodies. It’s not because of legalism, or a childhood guilt, but because I genuinely know the important effect regular church attendance has on me.
Faithfulness is one of those rare traits that is hard to come by these days. We live in a time where the idea of having to commit to something every week (that we are not being paid for) is difficult to imagine. I struggle with staying faithful in many categories, but because of the church requirement my parents had, attending and desiring to go to church is ingrained.
2. Doing things you don’t want to do
I used to hate running. Even when it came to sports, I would get nervous about the 1-mile warmups. When I was a sophomore in college, I read a book on self-discipline and realized that if I wanted to make progress in other areas of life, I would have to conquer something that I disliked first. So, I became determined to make myself into a runner.
At first, it was harder than I thought. I was more of a cup of coffee and slow morning type of person, so waking up early and running was the opposite of ideal. But after a few short weeks, I started to notice a difference. I started looking forward to the runs, and even more, started challenging myself to hit lower times or go longer distances.
The same thing happened with my mandatory church attendance. Over the years, my feelings toward it ebbed and flowed, but once I reached adulthood, I got to a point where I wanted to go to church, and even looked forward to the mornings.
It’s hard to do things we don’t want to do. More times than not, we will choose to take the easy route and do as we please. But it is in the long term of doing things you don’t necessarily want to do that you will find life-long habits.
3. Importance of the church
Growing up, I didn’t realize the importance of being part of a church body. I thought it was a nice place to be with like-minded people and worship God together, but I did not know the biblical significance until I was a bit older.
In 1 Corinthians 12:12-30, Paul compares the church body to that of a human body, where every single member plays a role. Just like every single one of your body parts plays a significant role in your functionality and health, each member of a church plays a similar role. It’s not to be looked at like a requirement, but more as an opportunity to use your characteristics, gifts, and talents God has given you to help the body function at its best.
Not only is each member important in functionality, but in fellowship as well. Acts 2:42 tells us, “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”
We are called to be a people of a community, not a people of separation. Surrounding ourselves with community enriches our walks with God, increases our desire to be with the body, and can help us stay accountable in various aspects of our lives.
It might have taken years of looking back in hindsight to realize how important growing up with parents that held church as a requirement was for me, but I can now see tangibly how much it helped me.
My parents took Proverbs 22:6 seriously, and God has shown Himself faithful in my life with that exact promise. Parenting is a vast subject, and one that I am not familiar with personally, but I do know that what I didn’t realize at a young age, I now cherish as an adult.