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15 Ways to Be Bored in Church

By Samuel Keyes

1. Only go to services once a month or so. Frequent attendance is rumored to form patterns of thought that strengthen connections between image, story, text, and tune. (As a sample, observe the excessive tediousness of that last sentence.)

2. If you must go more often, by all means choose a flavor of Christian worship that has little flavor. Think Life Church or Core Calling — communities named St. John’s, St. Benedict’s, and the like are probably colored by historical experience and therefore too interesting for the casual believer. Avoid worship using physical senses beyond the basic audio-visual necessities.

3. Take advantage of any opportunity to critique the preacher, celebrant, or Episcopal-Hindu guru for failing to entertain you. This is about your private quest for meaning, after all.

4. If you need to throw something into an offering plate on occasion to assuage some vague cultural need to pay for services, do so discreetly, but avoid submitting to any commitments or pledges that make regular demands on your income. Such commitments can usually be tolerated without causing problematic church interest so long as they fall below the 1 percent threshold (of “disposable” income, obviously).

5. Never open a hymnal. If pressured by enthusiasts, claim complete ignorance of music. (Example: “I don’t listen to music.”) Ideally you should use hymn-singing time to peruse the bulletin announcements and ponder why it is that you normally would rather spend your time elsewhere.

6. Don’t bring children, spouses, grandmothers, or pets. These all lead to various forms of preoccupation that destroy the ability to concentrate on non-participation (viz., they give you an excuse). At worst, these things can make one appear to be some kind of medieval Catholic who doesn’t believe in antibiotics or America.

Flickr: “Bored,” Elisabeth Busani

7. If you made the mistake of going to a church that expects lay participation, pay such close attention to the bulletin, service book, missal, or mandala handout that you can avoid speaking (or being present) when the congregation is expected to say something.

8. Make a point of noticing the kinds of things discussed or said during the service so that you can more accurately bracket those items as religious and be sure to avoid mentioning them or discussing them elsewhere. Try to avoid forming any opinions or mental questions during the service other than the general observation that your time would be better spent elsewhere.

9. You should probably avoid reading Shakespeare, traveling, listening to classical music, and that sort of thing. (See #1 on the dangerous tendencies of broad experience to disrupt boredom.)

10. Live Tweeting is usually a good technique for distancing yourself from a major church event (diocesan convention Eucharists, revival assemblies, protest marches,). Or, if you’re not a Baby Boomer, just focus on maintaining that Snap streak.

11. A great way to be bored is to be there by some kind of necessity or requirement: being accompanied by a parent, guardian, or parole officer; going to required chapel as a student at a church school; or being a Southerner running for Congress.

12. Become a liturgist and go to Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, or Methodist churches with a critical eye to whether they follow the primitive ideal discovered in the 1960s. (This requires ignoring the latest historical scholarship — a small sacrifice for the sake of boredom.)

13. Become a “traddy” and visit megachurch coffeehouses with the aim of comparing them to the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite.

14. As an alternative to #1, attend church so frequently and with such passionate interest that your enthusiasm for detail can deter others from deeper engagement. Ideally, gain some position of political, ecclesiastical, or scholastic power to enforce this deterrent.

15. Refuse to entertain belief in any of it. Actual belief is the most difficult obstacle to casual Christianity.


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