For many people attending church is just something you do because you always have. Perhaps your parents always took you to church, so you simply carried on the tradition without giving it much thought. Or perhaps you have never attended church and you feel that you’ve been okay so far without it, what’s the big deal? Church can be an important and enriching experience on many levels. It is important to reflect on why we attend church if we do. It is also important to understand what we might be missing out on if attending church has never seemed like an important part of life. So, what is so beneficial about attending church anyway?
Most people have a general idea that they “should” attend church, but now new scientific research shows that attending church might actually help us find better mental health. The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) at Trinity College Dublin found that of the 6,000 individuals interviewed, those who regularly attend religious services had fewer depressive episodes and symptoms than those who did not feel attending was important.
It has long been understood that as we age, feeling connected to a thriving community will contribute to ongoing mental health and happiness. A healthy church environment can greatly contribute to this connection long term.
In his groundbreaking research on longevity, research scientist Dan Buettner discovered that the longest living populations around the globe (groups living in what Buettner named Blue Zones) had several lifestyle traits in common. Among those traits was a common habit of stress relief through religious practices such as prayer and worship. Regardless of their location on the globe (Blue zones are found in Costa Rica, Italy, Japan, and other places) the longest living humans consistently had the habit of shedding daily stress through prayer practices and religious ceremonies.
Shedding stress is essential to calming the central nervous system. Without a regular practice of shedding stress, the nervous system can turn on in stressful situations and stay turned on for long periods of time. Remaining in this “fight or flight” mode for extended periods of time is detrimental to both your mental health as well as your physical health.
Spiritual practices such as prayer, worship, and fellowship are all ways you can shed the stress of your day or week contributing to better health and a longer happier life.
Although there are many ways an individual can give back to their community, the church offers an amazing opportunity to not only fellowship with others, but also to serve others as well. If you have been looking for ways to get involved with volunteer work check in with your local church to see if there is an outlet in which you can serve.
Participating in community volunteer work through church brings so many great aspects of healthy activism into your life.
You may also find that there are great ways to serve within the church as well. Youth ministries, nursery programs, food pantries, and volunteering with classes are just a few ways you may be able to get involved within your church.
Attending church regularly also gives you the opportunity to develop a support system of like-minded individuals. Having a support system in place not only gives you the chance to serve others, but if you and your family find yourself in need and support, this community can offer assistance to you as well.
In some cases, this may simply be the assurance of knowing that you have a group of people who understand what you are going through and will offer a listening ear. Other times it might mean more in-depth ways of helping. Church staff could offer counseling services during difficult times. Outreach programs might be able to assist during financial difficulties.
Many families find that just knowing there are understanding friends to call upon is a great help during times of difficulty.
Another huge benefit of church attendance is the involvement which the church offers to the younger members of your family. The childhood years and the teen years can be crucial days of development. It is of utmost importance that your kids and teens have positive influences and a positive place where they can spend time with other kids their age.
Attending church can be a positive, beneficial way for you and your family to spend time together, shed stress, get involved and make new friends.