My Husband Doesn’t Want to Go to Church: How Should I Respond?
I Was Unsure What To Do
As my parents’ Ford Ranger rumbled down the dirt driveway – with me at the steering wheel – I struggled within myself about whether or not I was doing the right thing. I was 13 years old and not supposed to be driving on any public roads. This would definitely count as “against the law” – but my mom had told me to do it. I was instructed to drive to the nearby gas station to pick up something she needed. I could have ridden my bike there, but I guess she was in a hurry.
What should I do? Obey my mom, or obey the law? I prayed for God to help me.
Turned out, the solution was waiting for me at the bottom of the driveway. As I began to turn into the street, the truck’s motor suddenly died. Now, this truck had not given us any problems before this that I know of. It had started just fine – then stopped at this precise moment. Was this God’s answer? I don’t know for sure, but it felt like it at the time. It was like He had miraculously rescued me from my dilemma.
But not everything in life works out so neatly.
For example, if you want to go to church but your husband either doesn’t want you to go or doesn’t want to go with you, how should you respond?
And if you are a woman who believes that God has commanded women to wear a head covering during the public gathering of believers for worship, how can you obey His Word to do so if you aren’t even going to church yourself? Is there a solution for getting your husband to church? Should you go by yourself? Should you just wear your covering at home?
I feel I can answer these questions partly from my own experience.
Should I Go To Church, or Not?
Very early in our relationship, many years ago, my husband (we weren’t married at the time, but since he is now my husband, I will refer to him in the article this way) was not a Christian. But I was one, though I had temporarily strayed from the faith of my childhood. I didn’t stay away for long, however. I soon realized my grievous error and made a recommitment of my faith. Naturally, this tension eventually led to some issues. Not fights; just issues.
He showed no intention of going to church, and I felt embarrassed, after all my horrible mistakes, to show my face in one again. I was plagued with uncertainties. Would I be accepted? Would people ask questions? If they knew the truth about my past, would they reject me? But aside from those questions of a personal nature was another of a more relational sort: If I went to church without my husband, would he view that as my trying to lead our family without him?
I really wanted him to be the first one to take the step of going to church, both for our relationship’s sake and for his own sake. I desperately wanted him to encounter Christ, but I didn’t want to seem to force him into it. If I was too forceful, I was worried he might “accept” Christ for my sake and for the sake of our relationship, but not for the right reason. Or, he might resist church even more strongly than before.
So what did I do?
Initially, I had tentatively broached the topic of the Person of Christ with him. After several brief conversations, this didn’t seem to lead to anything. Then I tried another tactic.
I prayed. And in my ladies’ Bible study group (which he had no objection to), I asked the other ladies to pray. I remember unintentionally breaking down in front of them all one day, sobbing brokenheartedly over how spiritually lost my husband was. Then, something interesting happened.
We had these pesky neighbors. They kept asking us if we wanted to go to their church, and we kept making excuses. I did, because I wasn’t sure I wanted to go without my husband. He did, because … I’m not sure why. Then, after something like five tries, the unexpected occurred: he gave in and said, “Yes”! I asked him why, and he responded that it wouldn’t hurt to try. Okay, I thought with some hesitation, we’ll see how this goes …
Incredibly, his first time at church became the life-changing moment when he surrendered to God and accepted Christ as his Savior. The first time! Isn’t God’s way of doing things amazing? You wait and you wait and you wait (and maybe start to wonder if something will ever happen), and then when the right time comes – bang!
My husband has never been the same since. Does he have flaws? Sure, he does. He’s still growing, just like I’m still growing (I’d hate for you to see a list of all my flaws, but let’s be real). Yet, I know he’s different because I can still see the change, even after all these years.
This was an incredible answer to prayer!
Do I Recommend This Approach?
I waited for my husband to be ready to go to church before I went. Do I recommend this way of doing things? Yes and no. Let’s first start with the “No.”
God says that we need to be in fellowship with other believers (Hebrews 10:25). We don’t need the permission of our husbands to obey this command. Besides the directive to gather with other believers for fellowship, we are also instructed to observe the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:23-26), follow the direction of spiritual shepherds/pastors (Hebrews 13:17), and to use our spiritual gifts in the local body of Christ (Romans 12:4-8). All of these things are impossible or at least hard to do one-on-one or in a women’s Bible study.
As I’ve thought back over my decision to not go to church unless my husband made the first move, I’ve wondered if I cheated myself out of the Christian fellowship, teaching, and support that could have helped me get through that hard phase of my life.
Yes, it was a sweet time of getting to know God’s Word again as I read it by myself in the privacy of our home (though I hadn’t started head covering yet – that didn’t come until later). It was a time of being close to God in a way I’d never been – because now I had nothing else to lean on. And yet, it was also a scary, lonely time. A time of many insecurities, doubts, and fears. I could have really benefited from fellowship with other Christians!
So, I don’t totally recommend this approach since I believe I made myself weaker spiritually because of my distance from other believers. I did attend that ladies’ Bible study I mentioned earlier, but only for a short time. I began to feel guilty about leaving my husband at home by himself (it was in the evening), so I eventually stopped attending.
At that point, I wasn’t fellowshipping with other Christians in any way, shape, or form – and that, I feel, was my big mistake. I don’t regret waiting for my husband to be ready for church before going to the main church service; I still feel that I would not have wanted to go by myself with our kids. I think that for my situation, allowing him to lead us in the matter of going to the main church service was the right step. That is the only part of this approach I can recommend, though with caution: seek a way to allow your husband to step in and be the leader. If he isn’t leading in this particular area right now, you may want to wait for it to happen in God’s timing. However, if you feel led to attend the main church service without your husband, I will talk more about how to do this below.
Hindsight is a great teacher, and I think I’ve learned some better ways of approaching this sort of dilemma. Now, I’m going to present some possible options.
When Your Husband Doesn’t Go To Church: Ideas To Try
- Go to a ladies’ Bible study.
This is what I started doing before I quit. I think I could have greatly benefited from this if I had continued, since I could have found understanding and compassionate support during this challenging time in my life. My problem was that I went to a study in the evening, causing me to feel like I was neglecting my husband at home. It would have been better to have gone to a study in the morning while he was at work, especially if there was one with childcare. I have since found out that there are churches that have both a morning and an evening study to accommodate ladies with different schedules, and these often provide childcare.
- Don’t go to church or Bible study, but find Christian fellowship.
If you feel that going to church or Bible study would make your husband antagonistic, perhaps another approach would work. Find some strong Christian friends (or even just one) who would agree to meet with you once a week. You could meet at a park, coffee shop, indoor playground, library, or someone’s home. This would be a very informal get-together, but with a plan. You would spend some time reading the Bible together, discussing it, and praying with each other. At the very least, plan a phone call instead of meeting in person. This is not what we usually think of as “church,” but it is a gathering of two or more in Jesus’ name (Matthew 18:20).
- Attend church without him.
If this is the route you choose, it may be wise to go at a time when he doesn’t need you to do anything for him. For example, you could go early in the morning to the first service and be back in time to make him breakfast. That way, he won’t feel neglected. A man who feels neglected may begin to feel jealous of the place God has taken in your life. And, while that is something he needs to deal with, if it can be lessened or avoided, so much the better.
Another important thing to consider is this: will your husband feel embarrassed when you go to church and he doesn’t? Will he worry about what all the other church-going folks might think of him? Will he secretly fear that you talk poorly of him behind his back? Is there a way you could lessen the likelihood of this happening? This is a concern no matter what way you are fellowshipping with other believers – whether through a ladies’ Bible study, small Christian meetings (in person or on the phone), or going to the main church service. It is so important to not give your husband any legitimate reason to believe that you are destroying his reputation! He may not care enough about a godly reputation to go to church, but he cares enough about his reputation as a man to get angry with his wife if she makes him look like a loser to her friends. He will surely not want to go to church with you if you make this mistake.
However, if your attitude is loving and respectful toward your husband, your involvement in the church could be a good influence in his life. He may see the positive impact it is making in your own life and decide to investigate. Or, maybe another man from the local church will be introduced to your husband (perhaps through a couple you meet) and have a beneficial influence on him.
- Ask him if he wants to go.
Can you believe it? I never even thought of doing this! Apart from the fact that I myself was afraid to go, I didn’t want my husband to feel pushed into it. However, this may be a good option to try. Maybe your husband doesn’t think you want to go to church, so he’s never suggested it. Perhaps, with a gentle invitation, he would be open to it? You could ask him where he thinks he wants to go. Talk about it. Try something new together. It could turn out to be one of your greatest adventures as a couple!
No matter which step you decide to take, don’t underestimate the power of two things: truth and love. When I initially approached my husband about Jesus, he didn’t seem very interested. However, it is possible that our short conversations were actually more of a factor in his subsequent coming to Christ than I had originally thought. God says His Word never returns to Him void (Isaiah 55:11). This means that even when we don’t immediately see the effect we had wanted in the other person, the Spirit of God may be busy working under the surface through the power of His Word. Why don’t you try inviting your husband to receive Jesus alone for his salvation? Your love and respect for your husband can also be a huge factor in drawing him toward the Savior (1 Peter 3:1-2).
A quick word about online church: I personally think that online church doesn’t really count as “church” – only as “teaching.” It cannot give you the fellowship you need and that God’s Word teaches us to observe. You may want to watch or listen to sermons online in order to receive instruction in correct Bible doctrine and in order to be encouraged in your Christian walk, but you will still need some kind of in-person connection to discuss your personal prayer needs. Hasn’t COVID taught us the truth of this?
What If Your Husband Tells You Not To Go?
Perhaps your husband tells you straight out that he doesn’t want you to go to church, or perhaps he merely makes it very clear that he personally feels against it but without actually telling you not to go. What then? This would be a difficult situation to be in. Admittedly, I haven’t ever been in this exact place, but may I guide you to two articles that I think may be of help?
How Can You Head Cover If You Don’t Go To Church?
As I said earlier, I hadn’t started head covering at the time I was facing this “should I go to church even without my husband?” challenge. Yet, it makes sense that if you aren’t going to church, but you do want to start covering your head, the situation may feel a bit tricky to you.
Let’s say that your husband doesn’t want to go to church and you have decided to stay home for now (perhaps going to a ladies’ Bible study, or meeting with a good friend for Christian fellowship instead – situations where it could certainly be applicable to wear your covering). After all, if your husband were going to church, you would simply cover when you got there.
Could you cover at home during your time of private Bible reading and prayer? Does that count? I think that it does.
- It functions as a reminder to you that God has created unique and beautiful roles for men and women – and for you and your husband. I think it could aid you in developing reverence for your husband’s role as leader, even if he isn’t leading according to Scripture’s teaching right now.
- It helps you to remember to humble yourself before God. As you cover your “glory” (your hair), you show God your willingness to make much of Him and less of yourself.
- It can make this time feel more set-apart and sacred, as you “meet” with God through prayer. You’re reminded how much you depend on Him as the “Head” above all other “heads” (speaking of hierarchy).
For more food for thought about when to wear a headcovering, I recommend the following article:
Remember how I opened this article with two stories, one from my childhood about driving a truck I shouldn’t have driven, and one from my adulthood about praying for my husband to become a Christian? Both of those stories have something in common.
In the truck story, I didn’t know what to do – obey my mom or obey the law? – and in acknowledging my lack of wisdom and after crying out to God for it, the answer came in the form of a motor failure. Not all answers from God come like that – with such immediacy. Sometimes, we have to spend time searching the Bible and seeking wise advice. However, God is always ready to help us in one way or another.
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” James 1:5
In the story about praying for my husband’s salvation, I likewise didn’t know how to help him to encounter Christ. I certainly didn’t feel qualified after straying from the faith myself earlier in life. I cried out to God in my helplessness, and He came through with an unexpected plan.
What do these stories have in common? It’s hope. We can always trust in God when things look bleak. So, what I want to say to you, dear sister, is that even if things seem hopeless with your husband who doesn’t want to go to church himself, or doesn’t want you to go (even by yourself), you can look to God for the solution. It may not come as you expect, and it may look different from what happened in my own life – but it will surely come.
I am not saying that your husband will change. Maybe he will, maybe he won’t. Though of course that is what you are hoping for, keep in mind that there is no formula you can follow that will guarantee a certain result. It may be helpful to set aside time for prayer and fasting; however, please don’t think of this as some sort of magic solution. No, this is more for the benefit of your relationship with God than for the sake of achieving a specific outcome for your husband. Trust God with this situation. Let Him answer your prayers in the way He sees fit, and be willing to accept that answer. God is growing your faith and leading you on a spiritual journey to know Him and His love better. No matter what happens with your husband, God will not waste your faith – it will lead to something. Just keep your mind centered on Him.
“You will keep him in perfect peace,
Whose mind is stayed on You,
Because he trusts in You.”