7 Tips for Preparing for Church

A long while ago, I wrote a post musing about how I’m usually not ready to be in church.

It is high time that I share the follow-up post (aka: this post).

Disclaimer: Part of what’s taken so long to share this post is that I’m still not ready to be in church most of the time, even though I know “what it takes.” It’s hard to get ready, hard to work past the times when I’m just not feeling it or when my brain is scattered like seeds on the wind. So please know that I don’t often take my own advice.

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For me, preparing for corporate worship has broken down neatly into three primary sections: during the week, Saturday night, and lastly Sunday morning itself.

Let’s get started.

Part One: During the Week

  1. Have daily devotions during the week.

You know how in the spring, you go down to the lake (or the river or the pool or the ocean) for your first swim and the water is chilly at first? When you jump in, it takes you a few minutes to adjust—a few minutes of movement before you’re really enjoying yourself.

It’s not about getting out of the water to warm up before you jump in again. It’s about staying in the water until it’s natural and you get used to it and can even enjoy it. And the jumping in is easier the next time.

Devotions during the week are like staying in the water; they make the next Sunday—the next time you jump in—come more readily and naturally.

  1. When you pray for your pastor and his sermon prep during the week, pray also that you and your church would have ready hearts.

(This could be a no-brainer, but I tend to forget it. So I’m including it.)

We can do all the things we’re “supposed” to be ready for Sunday, but we actually have very little power to do anything. If the Holy Spirit isn’t there cutting and moving and blessing and exhorting no amount of ready or not will make any difference.

He’s the one who does all the heavy-lifting when it comes to being ready, and we have to humbly recognize that. We do the best we can to be ready, and we invite Him to do what we cannot.

Part Two: Saturday Night

  1. Unplug an hour or so before bed.

Unplug from social media. Unplug from the news. Unplug from the movies and TV. Unplug from novels and self-help books. Unplug from YouTube. Unplug from your current project—be it home improvements, a wood-working project, a piece of art, whatever.

We are an increasingly distracted people, yet we are to come undistracted before our holy God.

In his book 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You, Tony Reinke says this: “God feels distant because we are distracted. Yet he seeks us; he seeks our undivided attention.”

Unplugging from all these diversions helps sweep away the mental clutter. Sleep should come more easily, and your mind will be clearer come morning.

Replace the distractors with things that help focus your mind and heart on God and cultivate an appetite for him.

  1. Read the text.

Read last week’s sermon text and maybe even review your notes so that you’re oriented to what’s happening, especially if your pastor is in the middle of a series.

If possible, read this week’s sermon text. I’m sure your pastor would be delighted to share it with you if you ask him for it. Just shoot a quick text or email over to him and get a jump-start on the message. This, too, will help shift your mind and heart and get your oriented.

  1. Go to bed a little earlier.

Little kids aren’t the only ones who are crabby when they’re tired. And I’m guessing everyone has fought the awful fight to stay awake in a church service.

Get a bit more sleep by not staying up as late; the more rested you are, the more stable and engaged you will be. You’ll have more patience with your family and roommates, and you’ll also have more mental focus.

Part Three: Sunday Morning.

  1. Wake up 15 minutes earlier than you need to.

Yes, I just told you to get more sleep, and now I’m telling you to get up earlier. But bear with me because it’s just a few minutes, and if used well, they are well worth it.

Use this extra time to have a prayer time and read a Psalm or something. Let the first thing you do set the mood for the rest of the day. And then go shower, eat breakfast, and all that jazz.

  1. Stay unplugged.

Resist the urge to check your email or the news or your social medias. Keep the TV off.

In fact, turn your phone on silent.

Set apart your Sunday mornings and don’t get caught up on everything until after lunch.

Let’s drop a bookend on this post.

Sunday mornings are a battleground. Church is about worshiping the living God with other believers. It’s about getting refreshed and prepped for the week to go out and spread the gospel. We cannot waste our Sunday mornings. We cannot autopilot through church. We cannot passively drift.

Hopefully, this helps you as you try to go into Sunday morning ready for what God will do.

With love,


P.S. – Penprints posting days are officially moved from Mondays to Tuesdays, just so you know. Mondays have worked well for the past five years, but now I’m trying something different. Maybe I’ll tell you all about all the whys in a few months. :D

P.P.S. – my third publicationUnexpected—is out and about in the world!

Ready: a Sunday story

Typically, I wake like a dragon, slowly and with much groaning and growling and stretching. I mumble hate at my alarm clock; it offends my existence. At some point, I emerge from my pile of blankets and bliss, almost able to form a coherent sentence (but most likely not quite).


Oh, and look. I’m already running late.

So I’m off to the shower, grouchy if one of my parents has beaten me to our one bathroom (they usually do since they both wake like birds—early, quickly, and far too cheerfully). So then it’s back to my room to dig through the closet to pick out my clothes.

Wore that shirt last week.

I don’t even like that skirt.

Would it be bad to wear all black?

I wonder if I could wear a scarf with that.

These clothes are my favorite clothes. Bright colors. Ruffles. Flowy skirts. Boots and heels. Oh, and some even sparkle.

And I’m getting later by the second. I rip things off their hangers and out of their drawers before practically falling downstairs. It’s a quick shower, filled with mutterings, mental lists of all the things I have to do, and loud singing at random intervals. I only drop the soap on my toes twice before I’m out and wrapping my hair in a thick towel.

Fifteen minutes and counting before I’m supposed to be out the door. Two minutes for throwing some clothes on; five for some quick makeup; nine for looking for my black flats (I’ll probably end up in the nude heels again at this rate); three for dragging a brush through my wet tangles.

And there it is. I’m late. Again. As always.

So then I’m tripping out the door, remembering the notebook, pens, and Bible but probably forgetting something else. Hopefully, my earrings match, but let’s be real here, they probably don’t. My stomach and I grumble because we really wanted that marshmallow cereal for breakfast.

It’s a hasty drive and crooked parking job, but I don’t have time to fix it. Tumble out of the car. Hustle across the parking lot. Straighten skirt. My heels click scuff click on the blacktop as I scurry to the nearest entrance. When I finally plop down at a table, I finally slow down a little;, it’s a good class. I take notes and try to answer questions, relishing the learning, enjoying the existence of my classmates and my teacher, this group of us who come together every week at 9:00 am.  The class lets out ten minutes to 10:00 am, and my fellow students and I scatter, each ticking off all we have to do and all the people we need to talk to before the next hour begins.

It isn’t until I’m sliding into a pew with my parents and sister while we’re told to turn to Hymn #11 that I pause. I’ve known what this day is all about since before I woke. I’ve known what Sunday is about for as long as I can remember. Yet, we haven’t spoken at all today. Well, He might have said a few things, but I was too distracted to hear. And there’s this sudden sense that despite my favorite clothes and hymnal in hand, I am not ready to be in this place of worship. The tang of the organ and the smooth voice of my pastor fall into the background as I sigh.

Somehow, somewhere along the line, I’ve bought into the idea that getting ready for church is only about putting on nice clothes, bringing my Bible, and being on time. In all my angst, I never put thought into what I was doing to ready my soul.

This is the story of most of my Sundays.

The realization hits me at different times. Sometimes it’s as early as the shower. Sometimes it’s in Sunday school. Sometimes it’s during announcements while I’m flipping through my bulletin. It’s always the same, somewhat sinking, sense of regret and distance, and I don’t want it anymore. I don’t want to prepare for a social engagement; I want to get ready to worship.

So that’s all I got today, kids.

I hope you wonderful peeps don’t mind this post; it’s just been on my mind a lot for the last few months, and so I thought I’d share it. What about you? What does your Sunday morning look like? Church? No church? Nice clothes or sweatpants?

With love,