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When you’re newly married, and all is sweetness and light, it seems easy to overlook differences of preference—which restaurant to go to, what TV show to watch, where to go on summer vacation—in order to please your spouse. This time of agreement often extends to your choice of what church to attend.
As you settle into your relationship, however, feelings about some preferences gain importance.
For many couples, the birth of their first child seems to trigger a closer look at the church or faith tradition in which they want their children to be reared. Differences of opinion about what church to attend become more intense when the debate centers not just on varying worship styles but also on differences in deeply held doctrines and worldviews—even if those differences never had seemed all that serious before.
Frequently spouses discover a desire to return to the traditions in which they were raised. Or they want just the opposite—avoiding reminders of unhappy religious experiences in their own childhoods, against which they rebelled.
Principles for Selecting a Church
Here are a few principles you might want to consider—especially if you and your spouse are having trouble in this area.
- Husbands have a spiritual leadership role—within limits. Generally, the biblical standard is that the husband has a responsibility to lead spiritually at home. Whenever possible, the wife is to respect and follow that leadership rather than openly rebelling against it or passively undercutting his efforts. The husband also is to love his wife “as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). He has a sacred duty not to trample on or ignore his wife’s needs, preferences, and feelings. If a husband is “leading” his wife and family into churches or practices that are heretical or cultic, of course, the wife has to put her spiritual foot down and refuse to participate. Her first allegiance is to God and His truth. Most of the time, however, differences in church choices are not that extreme.
- Give your relationship priority. God doesn’t want a dispute over church choice to tear your marriage apart. Try to compromise in a way that both of you can live with. Perhaps you’ve considered only a few churches, and there are more you can visit. Keep looking for a place of worship that provides for the spiritual growth of both spouses—and your children, if you have any. Expect that if you’re both seeking what God wants, have a spirit of unselfishness, and genuinely wish to serve the needs of your spouse rather than your own needs first, God will lead you to a good solution.
- Try creative alternatives. For example, you might try the “mix and match” approach. Many churches provide both “traditional” and “contemporary” services. Some couples attend a Saturday night “contemporary” meeting but also occasionally a Sunday morning “traditional” service at the same church. Some spouses attend completely different churches. This is rarely a positive, long-term solution, however; it separates partners rather than engaging them together in a marriage-enriching, spiritual experience.
Some husbands and wives decide to “solve” the problem by skipping church altogether. Clearly this is not a decision God would want for them; Scripture states that Christians are not to abandon fellowship with other believers (Hebrews 10:25).
If you’re at an impasse on this issue, don’t despair. Keep praying with each other that God will give you a solution. Examine your own motives, asking yourself why you find it so hard to accommodate your spouse. You may discover that this argument is a symptom of deeper problems in your relationship—control needs, conflict management, or plain old selfishness. Address these issues—in Christian marriage counseling, if necessary.
Most couples, if they’re seeking to please God and not just themselves, do eventually find a church where both spouses are satisfied. You can, too.
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