Q. My husband and I are having some disagreements about going to church. We have been married seven years and have two children. I believe joining to a church will strengthen our marriage and help us to be better parents. My husband believes in God but doesn’t see any need to join a church. What do you think? How can we solve this difference of opinion?
A. Joining a church will support and strengthen you and your marriage. Church attendance creates a regular, structured time to think about the meaning and purpose of life and to worship God. Though we can worship Him anywhere, we strengthen our faith and that of others through group worship. When couples worship together it strengthens their bond with each other and with God.
Church attendance keeps us honest with ourselves before God about the way in which we live our lives. It takes us out of our self-centered concentration on our own needs and encourages us to give to others and to serve others. It encourages our spiritual growth.
Marriage cannot meet all our needs. Scott Peck in his book, Further Along the Road Less Traveled says, one of the greatest problems is that “We look to our spouse or lover to meet all of our needs, to fulfill us, to bring us a lasting heaven on earth. And it never works.” Church attendance offers us community. The church is ideally an extended family. When you become actively involved in a church you form close bonds with others, seeing them week in and week out. The friendships, the feeling of belonging and support, lift our spirits and feed us so we have more to give to our marriage.
The church teaches us the traditions and suffering of those who kept our faith alive through the ages. This puts life in perspective and teaches us to take ourselves less seriously, an important lesson for most couples.
The church celebrates the special or holy days of our faith. We need symbols and rituals and a worshipping community to mark the passages of life: births, marriages and deaths. The worshipping community helps us keep our vows to each other and to God and helps us mourn our losses.
Life is difficult. We will all face some problems, struggles and even tragedies in our lives. The church provides support through these times.
The church teaches our values and beliefs to our children. If we want our children to know God and to know the great truths of the Christian faith we must be active in a church. Our culture does not provide this teaching elsewhere.
Most importantly the church teaches the Good News of Jesus Christ. As we grow in Christ we are transformed. Without the church we drift away from God.
The church has many flaws and is not perfect. Many have been scarred by a church that shamed or judged or frightened them. Perhaps your spouse had a bad experience in the past. If this is true for your spouse talk over your past experiences with church. Listen carefully and encourage him to tell you about this in detail. Then tell him about your positive church experiences and about the reasons you would like to go to church together.
If he remains unwilling to go to church, go alone. Don’t beg, push or preach at your husband about church. He may be willing to attend occasionally with you. In time, as he sees how a community of love and faith affects you, your partner may join also.
“A cord of three strands is not easily broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:12