Several Sundays ago my kids were playing outside when we called them to get in the car for church. They stalled. They whined. They asked, "Why do we always have to go to church?" My responses became less patient and my words sharper, until I slammed my hand against the steering wheel and said through clenched teeth, "Going to church is what we do. Get used to it."

We all arrived at church grumpy—an unfortunately common state on Sunday mornings. The following Sunday, we used the fact that it was Youth Recognition Sunday (often a particularly long, dull service) as an excuse to skip church. Now that it's summer, we, like many families, will probably find more excuses over the next two months to not attend. We'll be away some weekends, the kids have no church school, and we relish breaks from getting everyone up and out the door by a certain time. Judging by the sparsely occupied pews in many churches during this season, we aren't the only family who skips church more often in the summer.

A few years ago, such a lax attitude toward church attendance was unthinkable to me. We were die-hard churchgoers, in the pews every Sunday barring illness or vacation. But being a die-hard means that you are given jobs, and when you do those jobs well, you are given more jobs. Sunday worship ceased to be a time of renewal; it was work. When we joined our current parish two years ago, I was determined to be more deliberate and cautious about volunteering. Being less involved makes Sunday mornings more enjoyable, but it also makes it easier to skip Sunday services altogether because we have fewer responsibilities.

Our kids are thrilled when we take a Sunday off. But our newly relaxed attitude toward church attendance raises important questions: ...

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