Do you go to church on a regular basis? If you answered “no” to this question, you are not alone, especially if you are a young adult. After high school, many individuals decide to “drop out” of church because of full schedules, the difficulties involved in finding a new church after moving, perceived judgment from other church members, or changes in personal beliefs. In reality though, young adults are not the only ones leaving the church. In fact, the majority of Americans today do not routinely attend church. For decades now, the number of people filling the pews on Sundays has been steadily declining, and it does not appear as if the trend will reverse itself anytime soon.
I understand that it is difficult to make it to church sometimes, and I am not trying to judge anyone for their lack of attendance. In our modern society, events are planned on the no-longer- sacred Sunday mornings, life can get extremely busy, finding the right church can be quite a challenge, and organized religion may seem unfavorable or like a thing of the past. However, I propose that despite these reasons, we need to make community with other Christians a priority in our lives. In fact, not only should we try to go to church regularly, but we should also try to be a part of small groups and have accountability partners. This may seem like a tall order, but it is very important for our relationship with God. Each type of community can help us immensely in our faith journeys.
The Benefits of Church Community
- The people in a church community provide you with a support system. If you are going through a difficult time, members of your church family are generally willing to help in any way possible. For example, when a lady at my church was diagnosed with stage 3 cancer, people from the congregation immediately volunteered to bring her family meals, clean her house, do her laundry, and pray for her. Whenever she came to church, they encouraged her and asked about how she was doing. I experienced this support system for myself when I was struggling with the transition to college. Fellow church members sent me inspirational letters, texted and called to check in on me, and gave me hope whenever I saw them. Having such a strong and caring group of people behind me showed me that God had not forsaken me in my time of trouble. He had given me a community of thoughtful, loving individuals, and I could see the Father’s light shining through their actions.
- Worshipping with such a large group of people helps you understand the unity of the Body of Christ. Often, when I look around at all of the people praising along with me at church, I feel like I have a deep connection with them, and I know that Jesus is at the root of this connection. I know that what I am witnessing is a glimpse of what Heaven will look like, when all people will join together as one to praise God.
- The church community provides you with organized activities that let you put your faith into action. In a society where we often feel too busy to practice our faith, this is a wonderful blessing and can bring so much joy to our lives (whether we are helping with children’s ministry, music, mission work, finance committee, or Bible studies).
- Being around so many other believers gives you motivation and energy each week in your walk with Christ.
The Benefits of Small Groups:
A small group is a community of about 3-20 individuals who get together to study and discuss God’s Word and their faith together.
- A small group gives you the opportunity to learn from the experiences and comments of others. In my small group this past summer, I was truly touched and encouraged by the reflective insight of the other group members. With their unique perspectives, they often made me think about the information in a way that I never would have otherwise. This helped me grow a great deal in my faith.
- Often, in small groups, people will make themselves vulnerable and open up about their struggles and shortcomings. This gives you the opportunity to understand, appreciate, and practice giving and receiving the unconditional love and acceptance that God blesses us with.
- A small group gives you peace and encouragement because you often find out that you are not alone and that others struggle with the same things as you.
- Being in a small group often gives you time and a safe place for reflecting on your life and faith in a world where there is too much noise to normally do so.
- In a small group, there is generally a time to lift up joys and concerns and to pray for one another. This is a very special experience and shows you the power of prayer. Personally, hearing other pray for me is very encouraging and touching, and praying for others gives me so much joy. It also makes me feel like I can make a difference. Ultimately, small groups have greatly helped my prayer life.
The Benefits of Accountability Partners:
An accountability partner is one person that you have decided to be completely honest with about your faith and life.
- Accountability partners will help you stay on track in your relationship with God. They will try to prevent you from straying off the right path, and they will make sure that you are dealing with sins and struggles in your life. They give much-needed encouragement, honesty, and advice in whatever you are going through.
- Having an accountability partner gives you the opportunity to practice the vulnerability that God genuinely wants in His relationship with you. If you are being completely honest and open with one person, you are more likely to be honest and open with God because you know how to tear down the walls that usually guard your heart.
As you can see, each type of Christian community has its own benefits, and thus, having all three in your life is the goal! However, I understand that joining a church, finding a small group, and getting an accountability partner all at once could be quite overwhelming, and therefore, I believe that it is perfectly fine to take smaller steps. Even just immersing yourself in one type of community is much better than isolating yourself and walking your faith journey alone! God created humanity for community. In the Garden of Eden, He gave Eve to Adam because, as He stated, “it is not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). Furthermore, He formed us in His own image, and thus, just as He is a community (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit), we are meant to be a community! It is imperative that we try living in community as God intended. If we do not, our faith can easily become stuck and unlively. Thus, I encourage you to make community a priority in your life today. You might be surprised at how much it enriches your faith.