Joining a faith community is a great way to explore your beliefs and develop a deeper understanding of your religion. It can also have several other benefits too. As with any social group, your church can provide emotional support as well as a solid social network. While you can certainly believe in a higher power or practice your faith on your own, there are things that you get from being a part of a group that individual faith pursuits simply don't supply.
Most people recognize the benefit of having strong social support. They turn to their families or a close-knit group of friends when they need to talk through a problem or could use a helping hand. Your faith community can also function as an extended chosen family.
If this appeals to you, you will need to extend your involvement beyond worship services. Join one of the small groups at the church that piques your interest. It may be a scripture study class or an accountability group. If you are looking for a slower way to ease into personal discussions, you may prefer to join the book club or a volunteer project instead. You don't have to know everyone in the church to reap the benefit of support. You just need a few core friends.
It's no secret that having faith can be beneficial to your well-being. In fact, research indicates that frequent churchgoers tend to enjoy better overall health than those who abstain from meeting together. One reason for this may simply be the social support you receive from being part of a group, but there may also be things you do as a member of your faith community that promote both mental and physical health:
- Maintaining a community garden
- Walking or hiking
- Sharing healthy, home-cooked meals
Many churches may also have specific health initiatives. They may host blood drives, which often give free screenings to those who donate, or they may offer their property as a location for flu shots or other vaccines. While these events are likely to be open to the public, their members are often informed during services. Some faith communities also have parish nurses who help congregants start and maintain healthy habits.
One of the main reasons that people join churches is to give back to their communities. Faith organizations typically have a social service component. Taking care of the world around them is a value that is shared by many different religions, so there are often many programs and projects already in place when you join a particular faith group. In fact, you may have specifically chosen your church based on the good work it does in your city.
While you could simply choose a nonprofit and sign up to volunteer by yourself, doing so with your faith community can relieve some of the social strain that you may experience when venturing out alone. Many organizations rely on the churches in their area to organize supply drives and sign up for group volunteer times. If there is a charity you are particularly fond of or already work with, you can act as a liaison between your faith community and the nonprofit group. This arrangement is mutually beneficial for both, and it provides a way to give back that matches your own values.
There are more benefits to going to church than just the free donuts you get during coffee hour. When you become involved in your faith community, you open the door to better overall well-being, a caring support system and opportunities to give back to others around you.