However, the advantages of a singles ward's structure can also be its greatest flaw as well. I want to focus on the susceptibility for single men and women to approach church meetings as more of a social gathering with ample flirting opportunities, rather than a time for them to strengthen their testimony of Jesus Christ.
I realize that Sunday meetings are an incredibly conducive environment for catching up with friends whom we haven't seen throughout the week, as well as meeting and attracting the opposite gender. But if we lose perspective on why we go to church, we reduce our capacity for spiritual progression. And over a long period of time, we miss out on a weekly opportunity to prepare ourselves to be spiritual teachers for others, including our future children. So what do we do?
While I certainly do not propose eradicating the social culture associated with singles wards on Sundays, I think that our singles ward model may force us to work a little harder to ensure that we remember our purpose in attending church. I, for one, would be hypocritical if I did not admit to falling into the wrong mindset at times. While I think that my church experience is meaningful, I am trying to figure out ways that it can be more spiritually enlarging. I am interested in hearing other thoughts as to how other singles have tried to get more out of their church experience.
Here are my ideas so far:
1. Spiritually prepare yourself for church the same amount of time that you get ready on Sunday.
I don't know what men do in the morning, but ladies, let's be honest. We spend about an hour (if not longer) to look our best and (hopefully) catch that young man's attention. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this practice, but for the most part, I find that my spiritual preparation in comparison is sadly lacking. Have I actually read the Sunday school or Relief Society lesson during the week? Do I go to church with a prayer for my heart to be receptive to what the Spirit is trying to teach me? Do I have questions in mind, hoping that they will be answered? Maybe, but not often enough.
In adopting this lackadaisical behavior, I find myself in danger of maintaining an attitude that I already know the gospel, and I don't have to study it. I forget that no matter how long I have been a member of the church, understanding the gospel of Jesus Christ is a lifelong pursuit. For me, I think that balancing my spiritual and physical preparation can lead me to have a richer church experience. So, as of this week, I have made a resolve to study the Relief Society and Sunday School lesson for 45 minutes--the same amount of time that I get ready for church on Sunday morning. Hopefully, I can avoid these pitfalls that I have just described.
2. When getting ready for church, ask, "Am I wearing this to maintain a worshipful attitude? Or am I wearing it to attract attention?"
It's an interesting conundrum at times getting ready for church on Sundays. We are told to dress nicely in order to maintain a worshipful attitude. Yet that same environment also includes a myriad of attractive men as well--and it is so easy to dress beautifully for them, rather than God. Yet in doing so, we risk reducing ourselves to merely a body that is meant to attract men (you can read my post on modesty for my expanded thoughts on this). That's hardly empowering. A friend of mine told me that she asked herself the question posed above while getting ready for church, and I have tried to adopt this practice.
3. Before making a comment in Sunday School ask, "Am I making this comment to get noticed? Or am I saying it because the Spirit directed me to?"
A friend gave me this advice, and it has been really helpful for me when debating whether or not to raise my hand. Sunday School can be such an ideal platform for us to overtly display our knowledge, or our capacity to have rich spiritual experiences. I have found that the best Sunday School discussions are those where people go with the intent to learn from others and contribute to the conversation as the Spirit directs them.
4. When speaking to others in church, give them your full undivided attention.
A friend of mine told me that when speaking to people, she strives to listen to them like they are the most important person in the world at that moment. I have been trying to incorporate this perspective, as I am often guilty of having the "wandering eye" when I speak to others. I get so interested in trying to find those whom I visit-teach and catch up with other friends, that I can get distracted when speaking to another son or daughter of God. I think that the more we strive to treat everyone like someone of infinite worth with something important to say, we help create a more Zion-like environment.
These four points are all things I am trying to work on. What else can we do to have a more spiritual experience in singles wards on Sundays?
Photo credit by mbush_utah.