My Post-Christian Church-goers

Recently I had a conversation with a parent of some elementary students in my church. The parent was complaining of how their children don't fit in at our church. In the midst of our conversation I could pick up on some obvious blame being cast out. It was some how my fault, the children's director's fault, Sunday school teacher's fault, and church's fault that their children didn't enjpy coming to church the way the parent did when they were a child and attended church.

To be honest I walked away beating myself up over their children falling through the cracks and trying to figure out what more I could have done to prevented it. I immediately started to dream of ways to get their children more connected and involved. Then it hit me. It really wasn't my job to impress kids enough to make them want to come to my church. It's really up to the parents.

Which got me thinking, "Why are parents so opposed to simply making their kids come to church?" and "What can the parents do to make that connecting easier for their child?"

Let's start with the second question first. A child will always want to be involved in the things they see their parents involved in. Case in point #1: I started playing soccer again a few years ago after a 17 year lay-off. Up to that point my kids never had any desire to play soccer. But after coming out a few times and seeing dad run up and down the soccer field all of a sudden both my kids wanted to play. So they did. All it took was seeing their dad doing it to spark an onterest in them. Case in point #2: I'm a pastor so it feels like I'm always at church. And most of the time my kids are there with me. It's the only life they have ever known. They love going to church and to them it's as natural as going to their house and sleeping in their own beds. This past weekend Jacob had a soccer game (he loves playing soccer) but we also had a children's event at church during the same time. I had already made up my mind that Jacob would attend the children's event but wanted to give him a choice to see which he would pick. Without hesitation Jacob chose the children's event. Which made me feel great as a dad since it meant I didn't have to enforce my will on him since his will was mine. (I wonder if this is how God feels?) As much as Jacob loves soccer he loves being at church more. Why? Because it has been part of his life longer and the roots there are deeper.

Now back to the parent with the kids who have no interest in attending church. I'm not sure but I would be willing to bet as a family they miss 30% of the Sundays in a year (basically they are there 36 out of 52 Sundays in a year). Other weekends are filled with vacations, sporting events, or other activities. Wednesday night is our flagship children's ministry event. Over 40 kids a week show up for "KidsTown". I looked through the "KidsTown" rolls and found these particular children have never attended "KidsTown" in it's 2 1/2 year existence. If you don't make Sunday church a priority and the children in question have never attended the main children's ministry weekly event, let alone any other special monthly children's ministry event outside of Sunday school, how can those kids ever get "connected"? When a child doesn't see their parents making church and spending time with a community of believers a priority, why should they?

Now on to question number 2: Yes! Yes! Yes! It's OK for a parent to make their kid come to church. As parents we make our kids do all kinds of things they don't want to. We make them wear seat belts, eat broccoli, do homework, clean their rooms, and wash their hands after playing outdoors. We do all of this because we know as parents it's what's best for them. Why then are we so adverse to making our kids go to church? The most quoted, and lamest, excuse I hear parents give is they don't want their kids to grow up hating church. Really? Do you worry about them hating seat belts, broccoli, homework, clean rooms, and washing hands too? No. By giving a young, immature, doesn't now any better kid a choice of attending church or not you're not only eliminating the possibility that they will hate church but also the possibility that they will love it.

I'm currently reading "Next Christians" by Gabe Lyons. I will end this blog with a quote from his chapter entitled "The New Normal".

"Life is no longer localized to a neighborhood. Now life happens in many places. A person may choose one neighborhood for his residence and commute to a completely different part of town for his work. That same person may choose a gym on one side of town but prefer a coffee shop on the other. Family activities, meanwhile, introduce entirely new layers of places to show up on weeknights and weekends. In the process, the church-being the least of these demands-becomes relegated to the margins of life and activity"

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