This is an updated version of one of my very first posts, written in May, 2010 under the name Top 10 reasons to belong to a faith community.
Here are the top benefits I have enjoyed as a part of my progressive Christian congregation.
10. Critical thinking
We don’t want to tell you what to think—honest. We say, “Let’s share ideas so we explore this mystery together.” Churches, mosques, synagogues and temples provide places for you to sit and listen and ponder so you can figure out what you believe, or not.
9. A community of support
When life brings you to your knees (and it will) a faith community helps you through. The connections forged at deep levels in these groups help people to rebuild lives after tragic events like the loss of a child, the early death of a spouse, or a house fire.
8. Lifelong learning
“I am still learning,” Michelangelo said. An insatiable curiosity drives happiness, and faith communities come with an endless supply of brain teasers.
Our popular culture provides so few opportunities for belting out a tune. If you want to sing, play the guitar, or bang a drum, we have the place for you. Best of all, when you sing in these venues, even a solo, you don’t have to be perfect. The audiences are very forgiving.
6. Child education
What does the wisdom of Solomon mean? Under what circumstances might one require the patience of Job? What is a David and Goliath situation? How many prodigal sons, or daughters, do you know? Have you ever been the Good Samaritan? Our societies, our art and our literature contain religious references which would be meaningless without adequate education about our heritages.
Humans crave rituals, and we create them every day. It is what we do. Jumping into, or out of, any particular activity without some form of ritual just feels wrong. At a hockey game we introduce the players and sing the national anthem. At graduation ceremonies we wear gowns, deliver moving speeches, and have a group celebration. Faith communities provide grounding rituals for the most pivotal moments in our lives. Sometimes the comfort of ritual is all that gets someone through the night.
When I returned to church as an adult, I did it for my daughter. I was shocked to discover there was something for cynical old me there too. (I was atheist a the time.) I had a young baby, I worked full time and we had just moved to a new house—I was a little stressed. When I went to church each week, I left my baby in the care of the nursery workers and sat in the pew. I expected to sit and roll my eyes at everything the minister said. Instead each week he said something that made me think. Each week he said things that surprised me, challenged me. Each week, at some point, I had tears in my eyes. That hour of peace each week fulfilled a need in me that I didn’t even know I had.
3. Helping others
Faith communities pick up where social agencies drop off. The charitable donations and volunteer activities of members of all kinds of faith communities keep many aspects of our society afloat. Used clothing donations, homework programs, soup kitchens, food banks, emergency assistance, global outreach. The charitable deeds amount to millions of volunteer hours and billions of dollars.
2. Creativity and growth
One of my minister’s favourite statements is, “Do it, and you’ll grow.” This simple statement has encouraged many to take on tasks that initially made their fingertips tingle with fear. Involvement with faith communities pushes us to do work that stretches us past our comfort zone. Every time we climb over our fear and break through that barrier, we grow. We learn to get past fear. Are you brave enough to deliver a Christmas basket to a family in need and share the experience in their home? Would you teach Sunday School? Preach a sermon? Do it, and you’ll grow.
And the number 1 reason to belong to a faith community . . .
So many of the activities in faith communities are just plain fun!