The Advantages of Being Part of a Church

It’s easy to take people for granted. When people are present in our lives, it’s easy for us to miss the contribution they make, the support they give, and the comfort they provide.

The church is like that, too. It’s easy to miss its significant contribution to our lives.

An outside perspective can help us appreciate the things we take for granted. Dr. Roberta Gilbert is a psychiatrist and family therapist who has written a number of books on family relationships. She sought to apply these insights to the clergy in a series of seminars done at the request of several church leaders. You can read the substance of what she taught in her book Extraordinary Leadership.

In one of the chapters, she explains the benefits of being part of a congregation, and I found it very helpful and encouraging to me as a pastor.

Here’s what she says.

First, the congregation provides a unique support system. Family is probably our most important support system, but it has its limits. A congregation can provide an additional support system through the ups and downs of life. It can be a life line for anyone who is in times of great distress.

Second, in times of high stress and key turning points in our lives (she calls them “nodal events”) such as births, weddings, sickness, and funerals, the congregation and pastor provide a crucial calming influence and moral, social, spiritual, and even financial support.

I saw a good example of this support system when a former member’s spouse died a couple of years ago. This person had left our church, and so the funeral was held at another church in the area. Half the people there were from our church and the other half were from the new church. In this time of need, our congregations worked together to provide critical support in a difficult time in this person’s life.

Third, being part of a church helps establish a pattern of worship, lifting us out of our ordinary lives to the transcendent realities that give them meaning. Gilbert describes the surprising benefits of this practice: “Science, long disinterested in things religious, is accumulating evidence that going to church or synagogue is good for health (physical, mental/emotional, and social), for the strength of the family and marriage and for the rearing of children.” God is a fixed point that provides direction, health, and stability for our lives. Weekly worship takes the mundane realities of daily life and sanctifies them for a higher purpose.

Fourth, there is teaching. Of course, you can learn from books, articles, and audio sermons about God. However, in the church, you have the opportunity to learn face to face, to work through issues, and to listen to messages geared toward your specific life circumstances. These teaching times give us an opportunity to think through our lives in light of spiritual realities and basic principles.

Fifth, the church connects us to mission and service. Churches get involved in the community, communicate the love of God, and help meet needs. As Gilbert says it, “Giving is life-giving.” It’s hard sometimes to figure out what to do to help others, but the church organizes, mobilizes, and directs service to the world in a way that makes it easier for us to get involved and find meaningful service to the world.

Sixth, the church provides connections to the international community. The church is an international organization, and it gives us a window into the broader world. When we get involved with this aspect of the church, it can enrich our lives and bear fruit in all our relationships.

Our church, for example, supports a summer camp right here in Sevier County, TN, but we also support a camp in Spain that does similar things. This enables us to connect to real people and needs in a different part of the world. People in our church have connected with ministries and traveled to South Africa, Ukraine, Mongolia, Haiti, and elsewhere to connect with people face to face.

After reading Gilbert’s material, I went away encouraged in my work of ministry. I also came away thankful for the congregation of which God has made me a part. It’s a wonderful blessing, and I all too easily take it for granted.


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