Friday, May 15, 2009

Boring Church Meetings

You know those Sundays that seem to just drag on. The speaker is boring because they are reading their talk with their head down. The Gospel Doctrine teacher hasn't prepared well. And then in Relief Society/Elder's Quorum there is no class involvement. If you notice when reading these statements they are all focused on someone else and what they did or did not do. Well I have been thinking a little bit about my attitude towards Church meetings and my role in what I get out of them.

Does it Say More About the Teacher-or About You?

As I have been thinking I found this great quote: "Now I would ask you to think about...your own ability to have great spiritual experiences as you attend a class or a sacrament meeting on Sunday. What is your role in creating the environment in which the Spirit can teach you the things you need to know? If you find a Church class or a sacrament meeting boring, does that say more about the teacher—or about you?"

What great questions to ask ourselves. What a great way to check our attitudes and the roles we are taking in our meetings. They have me thinking.

“What do you do if you find yourself caught in a boring sacrament meeting?”

The quote continues, "Consider the response of President Spencer W. Kimball (1895–1985) when someone once asked him, “What do you do if you find yourself caught in a boring sacrament meeting?” President Kimball thought a moment, then replied, “I don’t know; I’ve never been in one.” With his long years of Church experience, President Kimball had undoubtedly been to many meetings where people had read their talks, spoken in a monotone, or given travelogues instead of teaching doctrine. But most likely, President Kimball was teaching that he did not go to sacrament meeting to be entertained; he went to worship the Lord, renew his covenants, and be taught from on high. If he attended with an open heart, a desire to be “nourished by the good word of God” (Moroni 6:4), and a prayer—rather than judgment—for the speakers, the Spirit would teach him what he needed to do to be a more effective and faithful disciple. President Kimball was teaching the principle of learning by the Spirit" (A. Roger Merrill, “To Be Edified and Rejoice Together,” Ensign, Jan 2007, 64–69).

I love the statement that sacrament meeting is not to entertain us but we attend Church to worship, renew covenants, and to be taught. So if we stop looking for the speaker or teacher to entertain and start listening to the Spirit then we will be taught and edified. The teacher/speaker still holds a role but we must do our part and so importantly we must pray for those who teach and not judge them. I loved that.

Losing our Lives in Service to Others

Finally I love this last quote and example given by Elder Oaks in General Conference, "Each of us should apply that principle (losing our lives in service to others) to our attitudes in attending church. Some say “I didn’t learn anything today” or “No one was friendly to me” or “I was offended” or “The Church is not filling my needs.” All those answers are self-centered, and all retard spiritual growth.

In contrast, a wise friend wrote:

“Years ago, I changed my attitude about going to church. No longer do I go to church for my sake, but to think of others. I make a point of saying hello to people who sit alone, to welcome visitors, . . . to volunteer for an assignment. . . .

“In short, I go to church each week with the intent of being active, not passive, and making a positive difference in people’s lives. Consequently, my attendance at Church meetings is so much more enjoyable and fulfilling.”

All of this illustrates the eternal principle that we are happier and more fulfilled when we act and serve for what we give, not for what we get."

Our Job is to Seek to Learn and to Serve

What a powerful example. I love that. I think so often we think "what's in it for me" or "I didn't get anything out of that." But if we were to change our attitudes and focus on our own role as learners and attend Church to be taught and uplifted by the Spirit we would be there for the right reasons; we would be there to worship the Lord.

So first thing I've determined is that we need to focus on our role as learners...so this is more about us and our experience. Then on the total flip side we need to think of others as we attend Church. We need to actively seek out and serve others while we attend. Notice those that may be sitting by themselves, sign up to help out with something that maybe you normally wouldn't, or say hello and smile at someone in the hall. Simple things can make a big difference, a big spiritual difference in our own and other's Church going experience.

It Begins Before Sunday

I often do not prepare myself adequately for this day and consequently we are running around on Sunday mornings and rushing in just a few minutes before the meeting starts. I often feel frazzled and much less than Spirit-filled before the meetings begin. This makes me think of this wonderful primary song:

Saturday is a special day.
It’s the day we get ready for Sunday:
We clean the house, and we shop at the store,
So we won’t have to work until Monday.
We brush our clothes, and we shine our shoes,
And we call it our get-the-work-done day.
Then we trim our nails, and we shampoo our hair,
So we can be ready for Sunday!

If we prepare ourselves and get ready for Sunday our meetings will be far more spiritual and no where close to boring. If we do our part, we may not be entertained socially but we will be entertained spiritually. Let us go to Church as prepared learners and students. Let us go to Church to uplift and to serve others. Let us prepare ourselves for the special and sacred sabbath day.

4 comments:

Mel said...

This subject reminds me of a story shared by President Eyring, which I LOVE.

Elder Henry B. Eyring told of a time when he atended church with his father and listened to what for young Henry had been a "dull talk." As they walked home, he was trying to think of a way to ask his father why he had been "beaming" during the boring meeting.

"I finally got up enough courage to ask him what he thought of the meeting. He said it was wonderful... Like all good fathers, he must have read my mind, because I started to laugh. He said: 'Hal, let me tell you something. Since I was a very young man, I have taught myself to do something in a church meeting. When the speaker begins, I listen carefully and ask myself what it is he is trying to say. Then, once I think I know what he is trying to accomplish, I give myself a sermon on that subject.' He let that sink in for a moment as we walked along. Then with that special self-depreciating chuckle of his, he said, 'Hal, since then I have never been to a bad meeting'" (To Draw Closer to God [Desert Book: Salt Lake City, 1997], 23)

I think this principal can be applied to lessons, as well as talks.

Oh, and I found your blog as a recommendation from Lori Burrows. :)

Becoming LDS said...

Thanks for stopping by Mel. I always love comments and I really like the story you added to the post. What a great idea to give ourselves a sermon. I definitely can do better at how I participate in meetings. Thanks for sharing and drop by anytime.

Bored each Sunday said...

As a youth growing up in the church, I was extremely bothered by the lack of preparation and enthusiasm from my youth instructors. Many times I tried to identify if the problem of boredom lied within myself or within the teacher/speaker. Indeed, I found that personal attitude can be a key identifier here. However, I found that personal attitude can only go so far. When I try to honestly approach the subject with objectiveness, I see a great lack of passion, enthusiasm, and energy when it comes to sacrament meetings and auxiliary classes. Feeling the spirit in a meeting is a two way street. When I look around sacrament meeting or Elder's Quorum and see the majority of people nodding off, or not paying attention, I can't but help think, "Is the meeting boring? Or perhaps is it that all in attendance are ill prepared spiritually?" I think the problem lies in that people have been fed "milk" almost their entire church lives. Repetition and lack of depth are killing the spirit and vibrancy of our meetings. Kind of like being stuck in the third grade your whole life. Sure it's good to know the basics, but never moving above them gets stale really fast. That's why our meetings are so dull.

Anonymous said...

I am a recent convert, so much of the talks are new to me and so not so boring. But after growing up with worshipful upbeat music in services, I have to say I find it hard to be inspired with LDS hymns. The song I asked to have sung was deemed inappropriate at my baptism even though it was about finding God in prayer, likewise the song of the covert after me was not permitted in the chapel part of the meetinghouse, but they did allowed it after a meal following the service in a side room --- it was the most moving thing I had ever heard.