Dear 100 Hour Board,
In need of help.
My husband and I are essentially inactive and we don't want to be. We love the Gospel, we've just found it hard to make it to the full church block every week. We usually make it to sacrament, as that is the last and latest meeting (our block is "backwards"). But we have trouble and honestly, lack the motivation to want to go to our other meetings. It's definitely unfortunate that we are very similar in our love of sleeping in.
Mostly it comes down to just forcing ourselves to get up. I always plan ahead--I go to bed at a decent hour and I set my alarm and everything, but I never get up. And if I don't, neither does my husband, who often deals with insomnia and doesn't even fall asleep til 3 a.m. anyway.
The thing is, we're both full-time students and employees and we go, go, go all week so that by the time Sunday morning rolls around, I know I in particular just don't have the energy to get out of bed early again and deal with the forced socializing and tons of people (we meet in a stake center with like 5 other wards and crowds drive us both bonkers). I guess I also had issues with teaching a class in which zero people participate and I leave wanting to cry every Sunday that I teach.
It's clear we don't like our ward, but we understand definitely that that is a personal problem and should have no bearing on our attendance. But we want to do better.
Mostly, I guess what I'm looking for is that someone has been there and some tips on how to make ourselves get out of bed in the morning. Mental guilt trips about how we can get up for class but not church have not worked. :(
Dear Aretha Franklin/ Carole King,
Once upon a time I had 8:30 church with a backwards block and an insomniac spouse. I didn't have much in common with the women in my ward, and often returned home from church feeling majorly bummed that the only person that seemed to care that I was there was me. I completely understand.
This is going to be an unsatisfying answer, but it really was the only thing that helped. I found two women in Relief Society that looked equally as friendless and awkward as I felt, and I became like their super-enthusiastic Laurel Adviser. I'd compliment their clothes, learn their professions, ask about their lives, and check back on things that they had mentioned the week before. I still wasn't a fan of the ward, but at least I felt like those two ladies cared if I showed up.
I'm not going to lie and say that after that I never slept through Relief Society again. But, when I was at least alert enough to remember what day it was when the alarm clock went off, those two women helped me summon up a little more motivation to get out of bed. After all, if I didn't show-up they probably would go home and feel just as bad as I did about no one in the ward caring if I lived or died. I could be the last person keeping them in the Church (...I perhaps have a tendency towards melodramatic thinking).
Because women are awesome, it will probably be a little easier to go to church for someone else's benefit than doing it for yourself. That sounds like a terrible way to live life long-term, but hey, I had to start somewhere. And you do too.
Also put your alarm clock on the windowsill in another room, preferably facing the morning sun.
In times where I've been in a similar situation, I've sometimes made a little progress by telling myself that I can't wimp out two times in a row. If I slept through church last time, I HAVE to go this time. If I snuck out before the third hour, I HAVE to sit all the way through this time. It doesn't always work, but it helps a little. I know it's guilt as motivation again, but it's got a little more direction, and it's about forgiving yourself improving from last time, not kicking yourself for your mistakes.
And when my ward drives me nuts (as it sometimes does,) I distract myself. I often pull out sudoku or something else that I can stop or start at any time during my meetings. I hope it doesn't come off as disrespectful or distracting, but it keeps me from stewing in my own annoyance or pain, and sometimes I listen better when I have something to keep my hands occupied, anyway. Knowing I have something that I can mentally escape into if I need it helps me face the prospect of my bishopric's well-intentioned but occasionally horrible remarks.
If the socializing is something you don't enjoy, try not doing it. Just go and sit by yourselves in your meetings. Sometimes I like to talk to people in my ward, but most days I'm out the side door before other classes have quite dismissed. I just don't feel at home there, and it's enough of a victory that I went, on days when I'm not feeling motivated.
You might also try other motivations to get up. Maybe prepare a crockpot breakfast the night before, so that when your alarm goes off there are wonderful smells in your house that help get you going. Go for a walk or something else you enjoy before church, so that you're not getting up for the church, you're getting up for whatever it is, and then to go to church or not to go is an easier choice. You could try carpooling with another couple. Go ahead and tell them it's because you want to save the environment, but it will also help you want to be on time to pick them up, or when they pick you up, so you don't let them down.
You've got the right desires, and congratulations on that! I understand it's hard to translate that into action, sometimes. But you are trying, and that's great. Go ahead and trick yourself into going anyway that works. The more you do it, the easier it gets.
Dear Natural (wo)man,
How are you (and your husband) doing spiritually aside from your church attendance? Are you reading your scriptures? Are you saying your prayers? Are you having Family Home Evening? Are you paying your tithes and offerings? Etc. It might be a good idea to do a "self-evaluation," so to speak, of your commitment to the Gospel right now. I could be way off base, but generally when you're doing everything you can/should outside of church, you're a lot more interested in going to church on Sunday even if you don't love, love your ward or the time or the crowds or whatever it may be. When you're not, it's easier to let little things become justification for not waking up on time. If you want to go (and it obviously sounds like you do) and you're not quite where you should be (again, this is completely personal), maybe it's worth starting with these things that can be done during the week to bring the Spirit into your life/home so that eventually Sunday is more of a priority.
What about callings? Do you and your husband have callings? That's something that makes me feel a lot more connected to my ward. And, if you have a Sunday calling, it's another reason to get up and go to church. My husband and I are Primary teachers right now and whether we want to go to church or not, we're "expected" to be there to teach in Primary. See what I mean? It's kind of like having a gym buddy. When someone else is expecting you and counting on you to be there, sometimes that's motivation enough. If you don't have a calling, go talk to your Bishop about it. I'm sure he'd be happy to find you something.
And my final suggestion--if you're really doing everything you can and it's really just not working out--is to move. I mean it. I know we should all just love our wards and our bishops and everything, but some people just fit better in certain wards. I mean, obviously you can't move everytime you don't like something about your ward, but if you really feel like it's something that's preventing you from embracing the gospel, I think you're better off moving than becoming inactive.
My other final suggestion is that you can come to the second and third hours of my ward and help us with our Primary class of TWELVE four year olds. ...No? Tell you what, I don't need an answer right now. Just think about it and get back to me.
I thoroughly endorse all of the advice above. I was homeless and highly mobile for eight months in 2011, and I failed to really develop a connection to any single ward, and that blew away my motivation to go to church, although I still (usually) made it.
Ineffable's advice about befriending someone in the RS is fantastic advice, and I would try that first. If that doesn't work out for you, I would go in the opposite direction. Pick a friend you and your spouse like, and go with them to church. Tell them about your situation; they'll understand, and they'll be delighted to help swing you back up into activity. At some point, I imagine you'll naturally gravitate back to your home ward, but there's no need to force it. Going to any ward is better than the alternative.