A View from the Pew: Resetting Your Defaults


During a recent commute home from a work, a friend called to check in. Our typically wide-ranging conversations landed on church, and he asked me directly why I feel such an obligation to attend every week.

I pointed out that I did miss a Sunday in July when the family went on vacation, but otherwise my family is there every time the door opens. It’s not something I’ve given a lot of thought. I like church. When they have something, I plan to be there. It is my default setting.

Default settings require no thought, no planning, no analysis. They just are. Occasionally you may rethink some of your default settings, but in life, as in your use of technology, the default prevents you from losing time by rethinking all of your options on a frequent basis. I think it’s useful.

In writing about church from the layperson’s perspective, I find that attendance is a theme that continually arises no matter what angle I take. I take great care not to be too preachy, but when I outline a piece on a topic, inevitably one of the primary points is “show up.”

As I’ve written in the past, September is a time when many churches try to re-install the attendance default setting. I don’t know if it works anymore.

Our church started having these “Welcome Back” events four or five years ago to get people to attend Sunday morning Bible study. Now, I really think it has become more about getting people back to church at all, much less to Sunday school.

So my apologies for being repetitive, but I feel compelled to say that being a part of a church means being there. And with a promise to not bring this up again for at least the rest of the calendar year, let me offer three ways to reset your family’s default setting to be in church each week:

1. Make an appointment. A trick I learned from Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is to plan your week, not your day. Put on your calendar all of the activities that are most important to you, then drop in the required events such as work, and finally sprinkle discretionary activities around the priorities and requirements. Put all of it in your calendar, whether on paper or digitally. Do this each week, and you’ll not only see your productivity increase, you’ll notice that your life better reflects your true priorities. The key is to treat church attendance as a priority, placing it on your calendar first rather than as one of the discretionary activities. You’ll find that you miss church a lot less frequently when it’s an appointment.

2. Give yourself accountability. There is a point in your life when the source of your accountability shifts from your parents to your children. If you want to make sure you stick to a habit, whether it’s diet, fitness, or church attendance, tell your kids about it. They will help you acknowledge your commitment, even if they don’t particularly want to go. In fact, they will definitely hold you accountable if they don’t like going to church. If they see your commitment flagging, they may view it as a weakness to exploit. When your teenager says, “See, you don’t want to go. Why do you make me when you don’t even want to?” there’s your accountability. That should set off an alarm in your brain that signals you to follow through regardless of your feelings. Hopefully they have positive feelings about church and insist the family goes because they want to be there, but either way, the accountability still works.

3. Volunteer. If you’re responsible for something at church, no matter how small, you will take more ownership of the activity and make more of an effort to be there. Church is one of those multi-faceted activities that gives greater returns the more you invest. If you know that you have to rock babies once every five or six weeks, you are more likely to show up every Sunday because you don’t want to be the person who only shows up when it’s your turn to rock the babies. It may take some getting used to, and I’m not suggesting you sign up to teach middle school Sunday school (unless you are called by the Lord and have the patience of Job), but giving yourself more reasons to be there than to not be there helps establish a healthy pattern.

All of this assumes that you really want to be a part of your family of faith—a pretty safe assumption if you’re reading a blog named “A View from the Pew.” And if you’re having trouble resetting your defaults, call your pastor for tech support.

Lance Wallace_for_webLance Wallace is a Baptist layperson and member of Parkway Baptist Church in Johns Creek, GA, does media relations and issues management at his day job, and blogs at newsouthessays.com.

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  1. Jan Mitchell says

    Great thoughts!!!!!! Thanks!