Growing up as a pastor’s kid, I was taught to “put on my best” on Sunday mornings at church. I dressed in my best clothes. I took extra time on my hair. I even packed my bag/purse the night before so that I wouldn’t feel rushed. I sat up during service, and paid attention to every word uttered by my Sunday school teacher. I was on my best behavior, and wanted to make others feel comfortable and safe, too.
But in college, somehow I lost sight of that anticipation and desire for Sunday mornings. Whether you’ve been a Christian for a year or 50 years, you may have experienced a phase of dreading Sunday mornings.
If you’re finding yourself in that place in this season, or know someone who is going through it, consider these three ways to make the most of and redeem Sunday mornings.
1. Be expectant
What are your expectations of church on Sunday mornings? Are you expecting people to serve you and to make it worth your time? Or do you expect and hope to experience God? Do you expect to meet new people, and welcome them to your church family? Or do you expect to catch up with your “crew” and discuss the latest trends? In all that we do, which includes our attitude on Sunday mornings is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” which is the greatest commandment (Matthew 22:37-8). Only after we’ve given our all to God in worship, can we turn and love those in our church family which is the second commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39).
So what should we expect? We should expect on Sunday mornings to experience God, for God to grow our love for Him, for us to show our love to Him through praise and adoration, and to express that love to others. When we walk in with any other expectation that is dependent on people’s behavior or aspects of the worship service, we will be sorely disappointed.
2. Be on time
I grew up in a family where showing up “on time” was considered late. So I made sure that I was always 10-15 minutes early for wherever I needed to be. But not everyone is wired like I am. Some are very comfortable with showing up late. And others, no matter how hard they try, they just can’t be on time. Wherever you fall on the spectrum of showing up on time (or not), showing up on time, or early, to church should be a top priority. With that extra time on Sunday mornings, you don’t have to feel rushed to check in your kids to Sunday school. You don’t need to scramble to find a seat. You can even chat a little bit before service starts, and have time after service to greet others. You have time to settle down, pray, and calm your heart before service starts. You may catch a glimpse of all that goes on on a Sunday morning. You will catch the first few minutes of service where a certain tone is set with the “Call to Worship” or when the worship leader begins the first song.
This Sunday, make it a priority to arrive just five minutes early. Set an extra alarm. Talk to your kids about making Sunday mornings an important time. Prep your bags and clothes the night before. You’ll be surprised how much of a difference it can make to how you experience Sunday mornings before, during, and after church.
3. Be intentional
This point kind of goes along with #1, but being intentional is more active than being expectant. When we are intentional, we actively pursue it. So what should we be intentional about? If you’re serving on a ministry team, be intentional about serving and doing your “job” to the best of your ability. If during service, you feel God’s pulling to reach out to someone, or respond to the message in a practical way, make it a point to obey and act it out.
Too often we are passive at church, waiting on something to happen in our hearts. But our faith is meaningless and stagnant until we actually produce works (James 2:14-26). I was guilty of this just a few weeks ago when my husband pointed out some newcomers, and he urged us to go and talk to them. But I just wasn’t “feeling it”. You know what I’m talking about? The “blahhhh” feeling you have every once in a while? I just didn’t “feel” like welcoming them or the positive experience I could’ve made that day. You already know that I dread small talk, so pair that with my blah-ness… and you get a very un-intentional person.
Fortunately, they returned the following Sunday, and I was able to introduce myself to them. And they commented on how welcoming everyone has been during their few visits. I first felt guilt for not acting on my husband’s urging the first time around. But I also felt thankful that God still used other people to show these newcomers His love, even when I failed to obey Him at that moment.
There will be times when you just aren’t in a place to lead others. But going back to Matthew 22, God calls us first to love Him, and then love others. Continue pursuing after Him, and He will give that heart for others to you.
When we expect to be in God’s presence, make it a priority to be on time, and intentionally act on our faith, our Sunday mornings will no longer be a drag or obligation, but the highlight of and refreshment for the week. I pray that this becomes true for you!