Zelophehad’s Daughters

Give Me a Break

Posted by Apame

Have you ever felt the need or desire to “take a break” from church?

Why or why not?

If you did, and you acted on it, what were the consequences (good or bad)?

25 Responses to “Give Me a Break”

  1. 1.

    I was just lamenting to my husband about how I sometimes daydream about taking a 3-6 month hiatus from church. The reason why I won’t is because I have 5 children who watch my every move and I don’t want their lives complicated by any issues I have with church. It would be interesting what the outcome would be if I felt I was able to take a break; would I come back renewed, with a refreshed perspective? Or would I enjoy my time away from the perspectives that are hard for me to hear each week, tempting me to not want to come back for even longer? I guess for now, daydreaming will have to be enough. And perhaps developing better coping skills for the comments and perspectives that are harmful to my sensitivities.

  2. 2.

    I’ve needed a break from callings during times of great stress, but really, I’d rather stay home than do anything these days. I missed almost all of the six months Bill and I were separated in 2008 and frankly, it’s been a bitch getting my feet back under me in terms of activity. A lot of people moved in; I lost my rythm. It’s a lot easier not to go than to go. But they called me to lead the music about six months ago, and I’ve found myself staying all three hours most of the time. Probably God up to His old tricks.

  3. 3.

    right now! My Bishop saps my strength every time at Church. Ward council is more like ward conflict mtg. I want to quit my calling as do others. He doesn’t get that people have emotions or people aren’t like products. I know others in the ward council want to quit but he doesn’t have the relevant social skills to see when someone is upset, burned out or whatever. The thing that gets me is I have told him I want to quit and he ignored it. I don’t want this calling for ever. he just came in so I’ll be stuck with him for x amount of years. Even people complained to an Area Authority seventy about him and what’s happening in our ward and he said to release him but that would will never happen in a million years. How obvious do I have to be I don’t want my calling anymore! I have been on the ward council continuously since 2005, it’s time for a break.

  4. 4.

    I quit going to church regularly in 2008. It’s been awesome. I go occasionally still, but only very occasionally, when my husband or son have something going on I want to support.

    It’s difficult to maintain any kind of real spiritual life without the regular church participation and attendance, but the benefit to my mental health has been worth the trade-off.

  5. 5.

    We take mini-breaks. We cut at least one Sunday a month and often cut two. Any social activity we are invited to takes precedent over church (kid’s football games, BBQ with friends). I usually do not attend EQ more than once a month. Other weeks I join the hallway chats or walk down the road and read in the public library.

    The result: I like going to church a lot more now. I’m not as bored. I participate in class more. I like being there more. EQ is still mostly dreadful and Gospel Doctrine depends on the instructor and the direction the wind is blowing. It is much more tolerable than it used to be.

    We are so much happier and our weeks are so much better when we cut church out of Sunday, if we were to decide to take six months off we might find that it is a good seed, delicious unto us and we might not be back.

  6. 6.

    When my husband served as bishop, the winter holidays were brutal on our family because of tithing settlement and other issues that arose that time of year.

    So we always went away for the Martin Luther King holiday weekend that is celebrated in late January in the US. That holiday falls on a Monday, our kids were often off on Friday as well, giving us a 4-day weekend. We went on a short cruise, or camping. And thus took that Sunday off church.

    We did hold family scripture study, but didn’t dress up. For us, it was great to have a break and catch our breath and reconnect. It refueled us emotionally to go back and serve with balance restored and eagerness to jump back into the trenches.

  7. 7.

    I’m currently on a break from Mormon church. I decided to take a break last November (2012). The reason… Well, it’s a variety of reasons.

    But first of all, the timing–was really ideal. My husband and I just moved into our current ward around June of 2012, and it’s a large ward of young and elderly couples, no families (a function of the neighborhood demographic–all of the families with children in the stake go to one or two “family” wards). Because of our newness, and it’s large-ness, I’m hardly missed, and am feeling very few of the usual social consequences of suddenly disappearing.

    But the timing was also ideal, because it really did require from me a certain amount of standing up to authority, and shucking off of a certain amount of judgmental judginess, both of which were really hard and good for me to do. I had quite recently been called as ward choir director, and had two other (smallish) Relief Society callings from which I had to specifically request to be released. Furthermore, the Bishop’s wife, who had complained to me before about people not living up to what she thought was their duty in the church, who had been the choir director before me, and who, it was decided, would fill the position until a permanent alternative was found (her idea, i have no doubt), was the one who got all frantically in my face about returning her key to the music library, so she could pick up where I (lazily, neglectfully) left off.

    All of that was kind of a people pleaser’s nightmare. But I did it. I did it because one day when I was sitting in Relief Society, I realized that I felt awful, for no apparent reason. I felt awful, depressed, alone, isolated, mad, bored… and the lesson was even about Jesus, my favorite topic. A topic I feel we too often neglect at church. Nothing offensive was said, and there was no reason that I shouldn’t have been feeling the spirit, and yet I felt horrible.You know, a familiar horrible, a sort of horrible that had been there festering for a long time, maybe as much as ten years, but which I had been ignoring for various reasons. So that was it. I finally stared the horrible in the face and decided it was telling me something–namely, that I should be in charge of my own spiritual journey, that I should listen to my own inner guide, become my own spiritual authority. And if the voice inside was telling me to get the hell out of Relief Society, then get the hell out I probably, finally, should. Enough people pleasing already.

    Since then I’ve really followed my muse, which has led me to the local Episcopal congregation. I’ve always been drawn to the ritual of high church. I may just take the year and follow the liturgical calendar, observe Lent, do all the ancient Christian tradition stuff.

    I think the main point is to change my relationship to the church, which has become unhealthy. I felt very squashed, very much a round peg in a square whole. And I think in order to be happy in Mormonism, I’ll need to be strong enough to tell the more restrictive aspects of the square whole to eff off. I don’t know, maybe I wont’ ever be that strong–maybe I’ll just find a more appropriate religious community. Not sure yet.

  8. 8.

    I’m currently on a sabbatical from church. (Jana Reiss has an excellent discussion on church sabbaticals on either a Mormon Matters or a Mormon Stories podcast.)

    My sabbatical has been a mostly positive experience. It has made me think about what I miss about church and what I really don’t miss. I have enjoyed having a break from authority figures at church and have spent time thinking about how I can better maintain a balance between my newfound sense of self and authority figures. I don’t want to get swallowed up again. I have spent time thinking about what I really believe and practice and what is actually dispensible. If/when I go back, my church activity will not look like it did before the sabbatical.

    The biggest drawback has been my family freaking out that I’ve become “less active.” It’s been good practice at drawing boundaries though.

  9. 9.

    I’ve taken many breaks. Two longer periods of not attending church (3 years in college, a year later on). Lots of short ones, like hpic described above. I never liked the term “inactive” because my beliefs never changed, I just found some times and situations where attending actual Sunday meetings cost way more energy than it gave back.

    That’s not to say I expect every Sunday to be a spa day focused on me. In college, the ward was difficult to actually get to without a car, the members weren’t terribly friendly, and despite being the only ward for miles they refused to budge from an 8:30 meeting time. Waking up at 7 am to catch a carpool that may or may not show up, all to go to an unwelcoming ward…a lot to ask of a college student. I lost the battle. Not sure that I was better for that break, but don’t think I could’ve handled more.

    Second break was in a tough urban ward. 25% activity rate, lots of challenges. That’s not what bugged me: it was the fact that the leadership, realizing we were active members, leapt on us and buried us with callings. Every EQ was a miserable exercise in home teaching guilt: each active elder had 11 families to teach. Of course nobody can keep up with that! After a while we’d had enough, and a short break turned into a long one. We started going back to church when we moved to another ward.

    Selfish? Immature? Perhaps. But that’s better than insanity and bitterness.

  10. 10.

    I’ve often wanted a break–sometimes out of misery and desperation, far more often out of laziness and exhaustion–but since my mission I’ve never missed for more than a week or two. (I have, however, taken long breaks from VTing and callings.) Once I got pregnant I realized that the sometimes delicious fantasy of just walking away from church for a while was dead. Now that I have kids I often hate dragging us all to church with a passion, but I’m a strong believer in kids’ need for stability. They need a continuous experience of ritual and religious community. What they don’t need is to be jerked around by my religious ambivalences. So while I feel no qualms about arranging my participation in many church activities to suit my own needs (ignoring most Enrichment nights, avoiding my VTers when they can’t stop peddling their home business products at me) Sunday church is a family ritual that’s very important to me and I won’t tamper with it lightly.

    All that said, I look forward to General Conference Sundays with a great and spacious longing.

  11. 11.

    I’m taking a break right now. I couldn’t feel Him in mormonism and haven’t for a long time. Attending church and pretending to be someone I’m not led to mental anguish and shame and it was super unhealthy for myself and my family.

    I couldn’t quite imagine life without a church and I also wanted to be an example of a church goer to my children so I found a local non-denominational church that I’ve really liked so far. My criteria for church shopping (I used to make fun of people that church shopped. Karma.) were a spiritual message, community and opportunities for service. Some samples of the sermons I’ve heard have been moving forward in Christ and relational and sexual intimacy. Talk about refreshing!! We stand up and sing, there is a band that sounds great but isn’t too loud and people are super nice.

    We have discussed spiritual freedom and journeys with our children and I feel like we are being an example of the ability to explore where and how we feel God. And sometimes it’s outside of the church. Crazy, I know!

  12. 12.

    I quit going when I was 17. I thought I would be just taking a break, but I’m in my early twenties now and haven’t found much traction on the occasions that i have gone back.

    If I ever were to go back I think I would be a much more well rounded member then I would have been normally. Since leaving I’ve had the chance to look at my issues with the church through a different lens. For me, that perspective has been helpful in understanding my culture, my beliefs and myself.

  13. 13.

    Great question! Yes. Sometimes I’ve wanted a break. And it looks like I’m not the only woman who “does it for the children”. . . Although my children are all adults now, married and one of them with children of her own, when I was raising them (as a single mom) there were several times I wanted to take a break. I never did. They needed it. And most of the time, it turned out, so did I.

    Maybe that’s one of God’s “tricks” too- Get ‘em to give birth to those little creatures and motherly instincts will kick in to keep ‘em comin’ back.

    Truth is, lately I do pick and choose more than I did in the past. I don’t really want to take a complete break from all of it. I go to sacrament meeting and teach my sunday school class – fourteen-year-olds – and use the relief society hour as my break time sometimes. And sometimes not. This works well for me. If it makes me a cafeteria mormon, I’m okay with that. With age comes greater and greater ability to not care what anyone else thinks of me or my church-going habits. I like that a lot.

  14. 14.

    “Truth is, lately I do pick and choose more than I did in the past. I don’t really want to take a complete break from all of it. I go to sacrament meeting and teach my sunday school class – fourteen-year-olds – and use the relief society hour as my break time sometimes. And sometimes not. This works well for me. If it makes me a cafeteria mormon, I’m okay with that. With age comes greater and greater ability to not care what anyone else thinks of me or my church-going habits.” Amen, Melody, totally agree. Sometimes I see young mothers totally harried and stressed out and telling themselves they’re flawed for not doing it all and have a bit of deja vu. I tell them over and over to relax and cut themselves some slack.

  15. 15.

    I am an active, temple-worthy member of a large suburban ward, but sometimes three hours of perceived lists of things to do and the guilt felt for not getting them all done can be too much for me. I will often read the Sunday School lesson during sacrament meeting if I start feeling tense and defensive. I love the Gospel Doctrine class, but then I have never felt comfortable in Relief Society since my divorce of many years ago, so I do more reading or talking in the halls. Now I am about to volunteer in another ward for that third hour, which will be super. I believe in taking mental health breaks for spiritual reasons as well as for other reasons. “The only person who will really take care of me is me,” I tell myself often. As I have gotten older, I have stopped being a Mormon mommy martyr and have become more of a whole person, staying active and centered in Christ, but not following unhelpful/unhealthy customs and preferences like I used to. Feels great finally!!

  16. 16.

    I started taking breaks from church when I ended up in a wealthy suburban ward that I really struggled to find my place in. Originally the breaks were initiated because I had that same horrible feeling that Sherah describes – loneliness, depression, anger, guilt, etc. But I think I know where those feelings were coming from – my shelf had started crashing down in the very TBM ward I ended up in.

    Once I started taking breaks, and realizing the stuff I missed (fellowship, a community, opportunities to serve, sacred music) could be found elsewhere, I ended up not going back. It’s been a wonderful change for my mental health, although my parents and siblings struggle with my inactivity.

    I haven’t requested my records be removed, but at this point (about 3 years from my last sacrament meeting) I don’t really consider myself Mormon anymore. Of course I still read the blogosphere, so I’m not sure what to make of that…

  17. 17.

    Have I ever wanted to take a break? I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to stop attending but there have been multiple eras in my life when attending has been more draining than it has been spiritual nurture.

    Taking control of my own spiritual life and making time for that spiritual growth in my daily life, as Maryland Muser refers to, rather than looking for that growth in a three hour block has been key for me.

    For me church attendance is work; good work. and conscious work and often hard work. Work at praying for people, getting outside my reticent comfort zone to fellowship, teaching rowdy kids and developing patience and forgiveness with adults, interacting with the children in the pew and standing for what I think is right in spite of what a teacher may say. I go to church expecting to work and sometimes to struggle..

    Once I was able to change my expectations from being spiritually fed by speakers and teachers (which I expected earlier in my life) to spending that time working, I now appreciate more the learning that comes from that work and from the occasional good nugget of light from a speaker or teacher. And I’m not bothered by the fact that I leave church more tired than when I entered because I know my most essential reservoir-filling activities (scriptures, conversation, prayer, meditation, reading) are undertaken at different times. If I’ve made time for those during the weekdays before Sunday I”m okay with the reservoir draining that will be involved in my church time on Sunday morning.

    Like some have mentioned, I do pick and choose when it comes to things outside the 3 hour block activity. I don’t do “foyer frolics” if I don’t need to. I don’t attend every ward dinner or every relief society weeknight meeting. If there is neither worthwhile work nor anticipated enlightenment for me in an activity I will choose to do something that does have those for me instead, as I believe that since we are not all cookie-cutter members no church extracurricular can meet all needs or need every person’s involvement., though we do need everyone’s graciousness and goodwill. And goodwill and graciousness can be expressed in ways other than by showing up at every event.

  18. 18.

    I don’t really consider myself Mormon anymore. Of course I still read the blogosphere, so I’m not sure what to make of that…

    I’m glad you’re still around, Enna. Maybe it’s because the bloggernacle is just too awesome to leave behind. ;) Seriously, though, I always appreciate your comments, so I am glad you’re here even if church doesn’t work for you anymore.

  19. 19.

    Thanks, Ziff! The ZDs are pretty awesome. All the other blogs are just filler for me until there’s a new post over here at the One True Blog :)

  20. 20.

    Cultural Mormon is as hard to shake as cultural Judaism no matter what you actually *believe*. Especially for those of us who were raised in the church.

    Flygirl, as someone who was raised by a mother who never talked about her inner thoughts or ever expressed any doubts, it put a lot of pressure on me because I felt if *I* ever had doubts there was something wrong with me.

    Please, PLEASE talk to your children and be honest with them about your spiritual issues, it will only help them.

  21. 21.

    I don’t know that I could take several months off of church. I believe in the idea of worshipping with a community and I don’t know that I’d be better for it.

    However, I am much choosier about church attendance now. I probably attend about two thirds of the time and I am much happier when I don’t feel obligated to show up. I feel more rested and the meetings I do attend I enjoy much more.

  22. 22.

    The only sacraments I have attended recently have been baby blessings and what not. I’m not “officially” part of any ward and haven’t been for nearly six months.

    It feels wonderful. I was sitting in sacrament six months ago and I realized something – I’ve never really liked going to church. I was always very active, but I never loved actually going to meetings. They are dull and unimaginative and nothing novel ever happens.

    I used to feel such guilt about that, and I would try my best – read all the lessons, keep a prayer in my heart, particiapte, etc. (I was a 100% TBM up to about a year ago.which made it easier) I always thought of that damn quote they always throw out about how Pres Kimball (I think???) said he’d never been to a “boring meeting” So there was one more thing I had to feel guilty about – I was bored because I wasn’t spiritual enough.

    So, one sacrament I was sitting there, playing on my phone, something I NEVER used to do and I realized it was all a sham. I was only coming because that’s what “good people” do – they go to church. I felt false and decided I was taking my life back.

    So I stopped going and I’m ridiculously happy. Sunday is now a wonderfully relaxing day and I discovered it’s also the BEST day to shop at Costco. Double win!

    I don’t see myself ever going back to church, besides to support friends and family in blessings, etc. And I don’t miss it. I feel much more comfortable with who I feel like I’m being true to myself. I believe that community is important, but the way Mormon church is run, it’s much less about community and more about following rules. My friends attend a local community church they love, it starts off with donuts and socializing and then a one hour meeting (and my friends always wear pants!). If I decide to attend any church, I will maybe start going with them.

  23. 23.

    I’ve been on a break since last February, and it’s been wonderful. I get two days to sleep in on the weekend instead of one, I pay my tithing to charity groups instead of anyone’s GA stipend fund, and I don’t spend Sundays in a black mood after a horrible three hours being reminded that I’m not really a person.

    I miss feeling like I have a church community to worship with, and it’s hard to make Sundays really Sabbath-like on purely my own initiative. But then, I haven’t actually had a place in any church community in a few years, and angry Sundays aren’t that Sabbath-like anyhow.

    I’m aiming to get active again for Lent this year (since I gave up Mormonism for Lent last year), and I’m optimistic that the ward I’ll be going to will work out better than the YSA branch I was in before did. Still, I’m planning to go on skipping, guilt-free, whenever I feel like it, and make more of a point of going to Episcopalian services regularly, and take books I actually want to read with me instead of manuals that I don’t. I think I little bit of inactivity in my activity is going to make it a lot more bearable.

  24. 24.

    I desperately need/want a sabbatical. I have only recently started into this faith “crisis” and feel confused, lonely, and angry at my own lack of spiritual development. I often wish the deeply engrained teachings of the church, in my childhood, were easy to shake off. A break right now would be very poorly timed (as if a faith “crisis” can be timed) for my oldest son recently left on his mission in November. Just thinking of taking an official break gives me anxiety. I think a missionary mom isn’t allowed to have doubts and if she is one should keep them to herself.

  25. 25.

    I took a break. Couldn’t handle the ineptness of my ward anymore, how some people were treated better than others, how the same people were given leadership positions time after time, how we were treated badly and then made to feel we deserved it, and tired of the culture, tired of the tiresome cliche’s of “you have to be the bigger person because members are not perfect” and “the church is true, not the members” and “you choose to be offended”. Tried hard to fit in and never accepted. So I now ignore everyone and go only to Sacrament, oops, “Worship Service”. I don’t accept callings that way I don’t have to deal with gossip, hypocrisy, back stabbing, fake niceness, etc. Still have to deal with corrupt Mormons who are in town and county politics. I attend Methodist church on occasion with a friend. I study on my own and have learned more in one month than in 10 years in church lessons and Gen. Conference talks.

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