Church is community. Church is where life happens. Church is (fill in the blank).
But for many of us who have been going to church for 30 years church is something else.
Church is a habit.
Recently I realized that I had forgotten how powerful it was to get to listen to our wonderful pastor preach each and every week. Why do we do it? When I really think about it, the purpose of listening to a sermon is for those truths to sink in and change me. If I am not being consistently changed by them, why go? If those truths capture my attention for a mere 45 minutes and then fall out of my brain as soon as they entered, I feel like I’m kidding myself a bit.
So lately, I have been thinking about how to break out of the habit of church. I guess you could say, how do I stop making it a mindless auto-pilot habit and start being impacted by it again?
I’ve got seven tips and a #VMPhack that I hope will be helpful!
1. Pray before church with the attitude of a finishing school student.
You aren’t learning something to pass a test in next week. You are learning so that you can apply it to your life. We have to prepare our heart and mind to enter in with that mindset. It doesn’t just come naturally to us after weeks and weeks or years and years of attending church.
2. Bring your big Bible
I used to bring a travel-size Bible or use my Bible app but a few months ago, I started bringing my journaling Bible and highlighters. I have to bring it in a little bag now instead of just my purse but it has transformed how I listen. I love being able to jot things down in my Bible that may have otherwise been lost on some bulletin. And I’m not sure if this is true for everyone, but when I brought my travel-size Bible, it was as if I was literally just passing through. My quiet times were when I dug into the word, but Sundays were casual. I’m honestly surprised at how much this one change has made to how I listen in the service and get to retain the parts that jumped out most. And while you’re at it, bring a notebook instead of using the bulletins so you have a place to keep it all together.
3. Leave phone in car
Here’s the irony. I literally grabbed my phone to jot down this note WHILE in a church service. It is way too easy to get distracted by a text or even an idea. Our brains operate differently without the presence of a phone. I just read an article again this week on the topic and I wholeheartedly believe it. It also means you can’t watch the clock which should have you more engaged too! 🙂
4. Drop your kids off in Sunday School
I know a lot of you will rebut this one so if you can honestly comprehend sermons with your kids in your lap, go for it. That’s not me though and I know it’s not a lot of moms. We had to take Vivi and Vana with us to church one day recently and we walked out, after having to go into the hall several times during the service, with me saying “well, we can check church off our little Christian box.” That’s pretty much all we did. I couldn’t listen well, but I technically did my Christian duty. If you want more from your church experience each week, drop your kids off. I know this takes trust and I’d say if you don’t trust your children’s department, you may have bigger fish to fry. If you just aren’t very familiar with the children’s department, set up a time to talk with the head of the department or your child’s teacher.
5. Ask questions as you listen and write down your observations:
- what does this say about God that I typically forget?
- what circumstances do I need to remember this?
- what is this truth for?
- who do I know that needs to hear this? (ummm just kidding! 😉 )
Want to not actually forget these questions when you are in church? Since I’m assuming you don’t have your phone on you, I created a handy printable to tape in the inside cover of your notebook!
6. Think of your biggest takeaway before you leave church
Maybe even write it on a notecard and carry it with you throughout the week. Meditating longer than an hour is going to be key for making an idea stick.
7. Join or start a small group
Our church has small groups that follow the sermons so each week, we get to discuss the sermon and hear other people’s thoughts on it. I always feel like my brain had a workout after and love getting to hear what other’s took away that I may have missed. Maybe your church doesn’t do that for small groups but you can start one! If you’ve thought about starting a Bible study but coming up with what to discuss felt overwhelming, this would be perfect. Or just meet up with a friend for coffee or walking or a play-date and chat about the sermon.
#VMPHack – My sister and a few of my loquacious friends (I kid! 🙂 ) like to use the Conversations section of their Yearly Prayer Journal for sermon notes. They prefer to write out prayers in a bigger notebook and the Conversations section is perfect to write 1-2 pages for a year’s worth of sermons! If you feel reigned in by the 70 pages in the section and want to write longer prayers, I highly recommend using that section for sermon notes!!