The sermons on Sunday inspire. The music uplifts. The only thing missing at church is your boyfriend. You long to share your beloved community's prayers, songs and rituals. You know the experience will allow him to see into your heart more fully. Perhaps he will even come to accept your church as his own religious home. It's time to invite him to visit. This is an important milestone in your relationship.
Before You Ask, Listen
For many people, religious expression and spiritual beliefs constitute the core of their self image. Yet, this image is not cast in stone. According to Amin Maalouf, author of "In The Name of Identity: Violence and The Need to Belong," the religious component of human identity is malleable. True, we may be born into a faith tradition, but we have the freedom to reject or change it. Prompt him to talk about whether he was raised in a religious home, if he believes in a higher power and what he thinks about life after death. Listen compassionately as your boyfriend shares his unique approach to life's big questions.
Clarify Your Intentions
Investigate and clarify your intentions behind the desire to ask your boyfriend to church. Do you hope he will come to embrace your church as his own? Do you want him to experience the rituals you find meaningful -- even if he chooses to attend only one service? Consider if your intentions are reasonable or fair given his own religious background. Taking time away from your normal activities to contemplate is key to clarifying your true intention. Give yourself the space needed to meditate or pray for clarity. Consider talking with a trusted religious leader for additional guidance and insight.
Tell Your Own Story
It's wonderful to share your religious and spiritual journey with those you love. Before asking your boyfriend to join you at church, be sure you are at a point in your relationship where religious and spiritual topics flow easily. If you haven't discussed such topics before, now is the time. Tell him about your faith experiences. Explain why church matters to you. It's also important that he knows why his visit matters to you. The absence of clearly communicating about hopes, desires, fears and dreams creates significant problems in a couple's future, notes marriage therapist Bill Malone, MSW.
Remember, the reason you want your boyfriend to visit your church is rooted in love. You want him to know and care about this vital component of your identity. You want him to experience the positive energy you feel at church. After you've taken the time to learn about his religious past, clarified your intentions and shared your own journey, offer an invitation, "Are you free to join me for church next Sunday?" Be sure to prepare him for what to expect in terms of the service. After church, listen with an open mind as he shares his impressions.
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