One of the most comprehensive studies ever done on faith and teens reveals that young people who take their faith seriously make wiser choices in life. The research study, called "The National Study of Youth and Religion,"* revealed that devout teens are more likely than others to do well in school; feel good about themselves; stay away from sex, drugs and alcohol; and care about the poor.
The study concluded that active faith in teens helped "foster healthier, more engaged adolescents who live more constructive and promising lives." And, of course, regular church attendance is one of the most effective ways to grow in faith in both teens and adults. There are good reasons why people go to church-and all you need is one!
Provides a time for meditation and reflection
Most of us live hectic lives and are driven by schedules filled with activities. Worship provides a welcome reprieve from that pace. When we attend church, we receive the luxury of a period of time in which we can be quiet and reflect on what is truly important.
Gives a happier marriage
Using data from Redbook magazine's survey of 100,000 women, researchers Carol Tavris and Susan Sadd found that the most religious women report the greatest happiness and satisfaction with marital sex-more so than either moderately religious or non-religious women. Clearly, religious commitment plays a role in improving, rather than hindering satisfaction in marriage.
Brings holistic healing
Some will be amazed to know that Chung-Chou Chu and colleagues at the Nebraska Psychiatric Institute in Omaha found lower rates of rehospitalisation among schizophrenics who attended church or were given supportive aftercare by religious homemakers and ministers. Worship is good for our mental health!
Steven Stack, a researcher at Wayne State University, has done extensive studies on the relation between religion and mental health. His research shows that non-churchgoers are four times more likely to kill themselves than are frequent churchgoers and that church attendance predicted suicide rates more effectively than any other factor, including unemployment.
Psychiatrist David B Larson studied the relationship between religious commitment and alcohol abuse. "I found that those who abuse alcohol rarely have a strong religious commitment," he said. "Indeed, when my colleagues and I surveyed a group of alcoholics, we found that almost 90 per cent had lost interest in religion during their teenage years."
The psalm writer raises this important question: "How can I repay the Lord for all his goodness to me?" (Psalm 116:12). In church we are reminded of God's outrageous goodness to us and that we should joyfully respond by sharing our material wealth with others.
So much of this world's mischief and misconduct revolves around money. That is why Paul, writing to Timothy, his associate in ministry, advised, "Command them [other Christians] to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share" (1 Timothy 6:18).
During worship, we are frequently reminded that all we have was originally given to us by God. And we are given weekly opportunities to contribute so that our money can be used to help others.
Encourages musical appreciation
Through the hymns, choir presentations and other vocal performances, we are informed, inspired and touched by both the beauty of the music and the words.
One young woman continued attending church even though her life and workplace had become a battlefield. Deeply discouraged and thinking about suicide, she was in church when the congregation sang Joseph Scriven's great hymn, What a Friend We Have in Jesus. The familiar words took on new meaning for her as she sang. "In an instant, I felt incredibly hopeful again, something I had not felt for months. As I sang and listened to that hymn, I realised that I had tried to fight all my terrible battles alone. I had not taken everything to God in prayer."
Teaches Bible truths
Apparently, even New Testament Christian communities had members who did not attend church regularly because, in Hebrews, we read this command: "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another- and all the more as you see the Day approaching" (Hebrews 10:25)
Distinctions, which are sometimes overly important in the world at large, have no place in church. Scripture is clear that in the eyes of God, we are all created in God's image. We are all His beloved children, regardless of our status or birth. "Since you are precious and honoured in my sight, and because I love you," is the word of the Lord declared through the prophet (Isaiah 43:4).
The poets of the church have captured this theme, and it is reflected in many hymns. For example, Cecil F. Alexander wrote, "All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small, all things wise and wonderful, the Lord God made them all."
Provides opportunities to serve and be served
When Paul was imprisoned, he joyfully wrote to his supporters, declaring, "I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent" (Philippians 4:18). It is within the church that we are routinely reminded of needs, local and worldwide, and are motivated to respond. We are given opportunities to do something for others without personal reward other than the satisfaction of knowing that we did a good deed.
Trials, troubles and traumas strike all of us at one time or another. In such times of difficulty, the church becomes a large, extended family, offering us their prayers, their words of comfort and their acts of encouragement.
The church is a place of worship and fellowship. To be sure, some people just walk in, stay for worship, and then walk out. But there is friendship available for those who want it. And those friendships usually deepen quickly, remaining lifelong because they are based on mutual values, perspectives and a common faith.
Changes you for the better
"Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things," the Bible suggests (Colossians 3:2). Through worship, we gain insights into living and contemplate our way of life. We are encouraged to view our living not only in terms of today and tomorrow but in terms of how our lives will be ultimately judged.
The church is one of the few places where we leave better than when we entered. Through the sermon, Scripture readings, hymns and prayers, we are gently nudged to make an honest assessment of ourselves and encouraged to make appropriate changes in our attitudes and behaviours.
So if you've never been to church or have given up on it by choice, consider these reasons for attending as a starting point to a new, fuller, fulfilled life.