Last week I was feeling irritable. I was busy. I had a lot of things to do and places to be and I didn’t like it. My soul wanted to rest.
You know that feeling? When you realize you crammed a few too many things onto your calendar for the week and you feel the pull? The pull between being committed to things and not wanting to do them at all?
I don’t have scientific evidence to support this, but I would hypothesize that church people tend to feel this pull more than non-church people, because church people tend to pack their calendars stupid full.
I am a church person. I do church, and I do it well. This happens when you’re a preacher’s kid and when you generally like church and always have. I like church. I like being involved. I like church activities and church people—and I’m so thankful for that because I know that’s often not the case for those raised in the church.
But lately, I’ve sensed I may be a bit over-involved in the church department.
For the past few weeks, the majority of my calendar has been consumed with church-related activities or events. I’m involved in the youth group, I’m part of a new church plant and I’ve had planning meetings for a mission trip to Peru with our student ministry. These are all good things. All wonderful things, really. But lately all my church things have not left me feeling very, well, Christian.
Instead, I have felt busy, tired and sort of overwhelmed.
And I’m beginning to wonder: If all of my church involvement is not allowing for a Sabbath day or a Sabbath week, am I really being Christ-like? If most of my nights are consumed with spending time at church and with church people, am I really being Christ to others in my community?
Could church be the culprit for my hustling these days? Could it be the culprit for my faint evangelistic heart these days?
I truly believe that sometimes, being less involved in church could be better for us spiritually. We wouldn’t resent our calendars so much. We would be more rested. We would be “in the world” a little more. Out there, God can be so much more real. In my rest, God can be so much more audible.
I think we could all serve better if we did church less. But the key, as it always is, is balance.
Because I believe being in church community is absolutely essential for your faith and its growth. Scripture tells us to not neglect to meet together (Hebrews 10:24-25). But if your involvement in church is leading to resentment, burnout or complacency, you may be over-involved. And is this is the case, it’s time to look at your calendar.
Seriously, pull out your calendar. What do you see? Do you spend most nights in your week at a scheduled church activity? Between Bible studies, youth group events, small group meetings and young adult services, it’s easy to spend every night of your week at church. And it’s easy to talk yourself into this being an OK way to spend your life. But being at church every night of the week leaves out two crucial things the Bible also talks about: rest (Mark 2:27) and spending time with non-believers (Mark 16:15).
I had a wake-up call a few weeks ago because I was feeling mad at my own church for making me so busy, and I was feeling shame at the reality that I spend most of my time with Christians, and most of those Christians go to my church.
The truth is, church is not forcing me to be busy. I signed up for those activities and I can step down from them at any time. If resentment, complacency or burnout are a big part of your church experience right now, it may be time for you to start saying no or to even step down from a couple of church responsibilities you’ve signed up for.
Saying no and backing out are frowned upon in our culture, I know. But ultimately, you know what’s healthy for you. You know what your heart needs. Making space by reducing your church activities could be better for your spiritual health in the long run, better than doing that Monday night Bible study everyone seems to be a part of.
For this coming year, I’ve decided my church involvement will be based around one word: focus. I’m going to focus on the church plant I’m involved in and that’s it. This will include being a part of one small group and volunteering once a month as a greeter.
I’m not going to be a volunteer in the youth group anymore. I’m not going to be a part of a women’s study. And unless God says otherwise, a mission trip is not in the works for next year. These are just things I won’t do, and I’m going to remind myself of that when the call for volunteers comes and the email about all of the great classes that are being offered arrives in my inbox.
I know what my spiritual life needs: space and margin. I’m guessing a lot of you need the same.
I have this dream. It’s far-fetched and fanatical, but it is a beautiful dream. In it, I show up at church on a Sunday and opening the bulletin. In the bulletin, instead of the typical “Volunteers Needed” and “Events Coming Up This Week,” one simple statement is written on a blank page: “Hey church, nothing’s going on this week. Get some rest. Spend time with your people. Spend time with God.”