Latter-day Saint Life

What should I do if I love the gospel but don’t always enjoy church?

Families walking into a chapel for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
God wants us to experience all the blessings of attending church, so He will guide us as we navigate any challenges.
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Attending church on Sundays is a spiritually vital activity. It allows us to worship God and the Savior, partake of the sacrament, build community, and learn from each other’s strengths and weaknesses. While sacrament meetings and Sunday School lessons should ideally be uplifting and enlightening experiences, there may be days or even seasons when we don’t receive the solace, connection, answers, or insights we’re seeking.

These Sundays can feel discouraging, especially if we don’t seem to be getting anything out of going to our wards week after week.

Challenges That Can Impact Church Experiences

It can be comforting to recognize that less-than-perfect church experiences are normal. This reality doesn’t mean spiritually disappointing Sundays should be the norm, but it’s useful to consider what might be affecting your experience and establish reasonable expectations as you explore solutions.

Life circumstances often impact our capacity to feel the Spirit and fully participate in meetings. Whether you’re a student during finals season, a parent to a newborn, or an on-call doctor, events outside your control can sometimes make it challenging to feel awake and alert at church.

Callings can also shape our Sunday experiences as we manage multiple meetings and leadership responsibilities, serve in capacities outside our comfort zones, or grapple with emotions around wishing for a more engaging calling (or even any calling).

We also serve and worship together with imperfect people. As a church of volunteers, we aren’t always eloquent, sensitive to diverse challenges, or in tune with the Spirit. “Except in the case of His only perfect Begotten Son, imperfect people are all God has ever had to work with,” President Holland taught in his April 2013 general conference talk. “[When] you see imperfection, remember that the limitation is not in the divinity of the work.”

And finally, sometimes attending church can be hard when we’re feeling burned out. We may be emotionally exhausted from trying to give to others from an empty cup. So, how do we approach church meetings in a way that fills our cup, not empties it?

First, let’s remind ourselves of a few of the divine, beautiful reasons the Lord asks us to go to church.

1. To Find Healing Through the Sacrament

One main purpose of attending church is to partake of the sacrament. The Savior Himself commanded us to observe this ordinance (see Matthew 26:26–28, 3 Nephi 18:1–11, and Doctrine and Covenants 59:9), and we can find peace, forgiveness, and spiritual strength through renewing our baptismal covenants each week and experiencing His enabling grace.

Elder Kevin S. Hamilton has taught:

“The Church is not just a social club, although we certainly enjoy being together. And it is also not just a humanitarian organization, although we also do plenty of that kind of service.

“The Church of Jesus Christ is how we come to Christ. It is His Church. It teaches His doctrine. It provides His ordinances and covenants.”

Some misunderstand this focus on ordinances to mean that other aspects of going to church are unnecessary for our spiritual renewal. During difficult seasons, it can be easy to justify leaving church early after sacrament meetings; however, avoiding second-hour lessons can prevent us from building spiritually sustaining relationships and growing together.

2. To Become Better through Being with Others

Unlike many churches, we don’t have paid pastors or preachers who spend years attending divinity school or delving into the complexities of Biblical translations. Our speakers are often members of the congregation who share their various experiences and testimonies, giving us the privilege to strengthen and support one another on our shared journeys.

We have the opportunity to worship along with our fellow Saints, a word that interestingly has connotations of being holy and “free from blemish.” As Christ helps us to strive toward this ideal, we will make mistakes along the way. But He has organized His Church with imperfect mortals, allowing us to develop as disciples together.

To put it simply, we need each other. We each have spiritual gifts and strengths that make us stronger as a congregation than studying or worshipping on our own. President Oaks has taught:

“In church we associate with wonderful people striving to serve God. This reminds us that we are not alone in our religious activities. We all need associations with others, and church associations are some of the best we can experience, for us and our companions and children.”

Worshipping in a community often means holding space for others’ limitations and loving our neighbors as we’re all learning. As one of my mission companions used to say when drivers would get impatient with us as missionaries following the speed limit, we give each other opportunities to receive “the gift of patience.”

▶You may also like: What we can learn from going to church when it isn’t easy

3. To Build Our Faith

The Spirit is the true teacher, so we can trust that He will help us get what we need out of meetings—even if teaching or speaking isn’t someone’s strength. At times, we may need to sit in faith during a meeting, waiting for a single sentence or phrase that the Spirit can use to teach us that day.

Even when we’re open to the Holy Ghost’s influence, we may not always experience the respite or spiritual uplift we’re seeking on Sundays. This can be especially difficult during periods of exhaustion or burnout.

As spiritual and physical beings, we need to take care of our bodies, aiming to get enough rest and stay sufficiently nourished and hydrated. Our emotions also play a key role, and sometimes we can’t fully reap the benefits of church without first addressing mental health challenges through the support of therapy, medication, and other resources.

We shouldn’t always measure what we get out of church with what we feel or can easily notice. Sometimes, when other factors limit our ability to feel the Spirit, church attendance will need to be an act of faith in and love for God. Even when we don’t recognize or understand all the reasons why, we can trust that He has given us this commandment for our good.

Ideas for Improving Our Church Experiences

God wants us to experience all the blessings of attending church, so He will guide us as we navigate our challenges. While we can’t influence every aspect of our wards and church meetings, we can focus on our internal approach and responses. As President Russell M. Nelson has taught, “… the Lord loves effort, because effort brings rewards that can’t come without it.”

Here are a few helpful mindset shifts and tools that can lead to more rewarding church experiences:

  • Prepare physically by sleeping well, hydrating, and eating a nutritious meal before church.
  • Prepare spiritually by praying for the Spirit, reading the scriptures, and studying Come Follow Me materials.
  • Create less stressful and rushed Sundays by planning ahead and getting to the chapel early to pause, reflect, and listen to the prelude music. (As someone who chronically runs late to 9:00 a.m. church, I realize this is sometimes much easier said than done.)
  • Look for ways to engage and participate more actively in meetings and lessons. You might try praying or pondering a question during the administration of the sacrament, looking up the scriptures beneath the selected hymns, taking notes, and contributing to lessons or small group discussions.
  • Aim to be curious when talks or lessons aren’t resonating or if someone is unkind or says something offensive. Ask yourself, What can I learn from this situation? How might their actions be more about them than me? How can I practice a Christlike attribute or share my strengths in this situation?
  • Make a goal to brighten at least one person’s day. Some ideas include sharing a genuine compliment, thanking people for sharing testimonies in lessons or talks, sitting by someone new, and asking your ministering sisters or brothers about their weeks.
  • Reach out to someone when you’re struggling and need support. If it’s difficult for you to stay for the second hour of church, confide in a friend, minister, or leader and ask them to sit with you.
  • Consider contacting your bishop for counsel or asking for a priesthood blessing.

No matter your current life circumstances, attending church can help you find answers, connection, and spiritual growth.

What we get out of church will look different in different seasons—and that’s okay. A beautiful truth about the gospel is that we’re not alone on our journeys, and God will help us. This support may sometimes look like encouragement from our ward families and leaders or even increased faith to keep showing up when we can’t see the fruits of our efforts. As we trust in Him, He will guide us to know how to improve our experiences.

We shouldn’t give up on finding ways to enjoy church more—because the outcomes of church attendance far outweigh any obstacles. As Elder Dean M. Davies taught,

“Through sincere and heartfelt worship, we blossom and mature in hope, faith, and charity. And through that process, we gather heavenly light into our souls that infuses our lives with divine meaning, abiding peace, and everlasting joy.”

Even during days or seasons when it’s hard, going to church can fill our cups by providing spiritual healing and renewal, opportunities to learn from and with others, and a stronger relationship with the Lord.

And in a world of pervasive loneliness, confusion, and isolation, we all need these God-given blessings.

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