Keeping Kids in Church by: Glenn R. Embree
I sure don't profess by putting this article on my blog to have all the answers to raising kids in church and keeping them there. However, many points in this article by Glenn need to be seriously considered. Our homes are so IMPORTANT. I hope this helps some mother or father who may be weary in well-doing. Don't give up. Keep praying, fasting and providing spiritual guidance for your kids. And I might add, part of that guidance is having FUN with your kids. There should be a whole lot of laughter in the walls of our homes.
I met a family in the foyer of our church one morning after worship service. They had just moved to our city and had expressed interest in attending our church regularly. The parents were pleasant and eager to introduce me to their son Danny who was about to enter junior high school. Over the next couple of months Danny participated in every youth event that we had to offer: summer camp, fall youth retreat, Friday youth nights, and even our home Bible studies. He seemed to enjoy the youth group and fit in well with his peers. A few months later, I received a phone call from his mother. Danny's interest in church activities had declined dramatically, and every Sunday brought a major confrontation over his church attendance.
I recall another incident where a young girl was brought into my office by her parents. It was one of the most difficult counseling sessions I can remember. Her interest in church had hit an all-time low, so our conversation was awkward and strained.
Through the years I've received phone calls from parents who did not attend our church or, for that matter, any church. They call out of concern for a teenage son or daughter who is running with the wrong crowd, missing curfew, failing at school. A few years ago, a mother called and told me about the difficulty she was having controlling her son. Then she put him on the phone to "talk with the priest". Needless to say, it was a one-sided conversation.
Situations like these are sadly common among parents of teenagers who are no longer interested in church. Some of the stories are tragic. Others seem less serious, but they still upset the family equilibrium. Although their stories and circumstances may vary, the question they pose is always the same: "How do I keep my kids in church?"
It's Just a Stage
When discussing kids and church, some parents quote Proverbs 22:6 "Train a child the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it" and take a hands-off approach. Others believe when children challenge their family's Christian standards and various aspects of church life, "it's just a stage that all kids go through," and suggest parents allow it to run its course. Patience and time may be the answer in some cases, but I've seen the "stage" extend into adulthood, and many end up raising their own children outside of church.
The Bible talks about the training of children in relation to their spiritual development. In Hebrew society childhood lasted until adulthood. In contemporary Western culture, we've modified the transition from childhood to adulthood by inserting an indeterminate period of time called adolescence. So when can we consider the spiritual training of our children complete?
The training of a child is generally understood to continue until the individual is ready to take on the responsibilities of adult life. During the adolescent or teenage period, parents should not take a hands-off approach to spiritual matters. Nowhere in scripture are parents encouraged to stand back and observe from a distance. That would only produce disastrous, long-term results. Imagine raising your family on a twenty-six-foot boat. Undoubtedly, you would keep your children right beside you on deck. But, as you children reached their teen years and started pressing for their own space, you would probably let them sit in a small dinghy securely attached to the back of the boat. What would you do, however, if, half way across the Pacific, they started nagging you for more freedom? Would you cut them adrift, saying, "It's okay. They're heading in the right direction"? Of course not. In the same way, the spiritual line needs to remain attached.
Many churches today have youth groups with youth pastors, junior high pastors, and even a youth bus or two. They provide activities and outings for every age group, so how could a child lose interest in church? It's hard to understand, but it happens in every denomination and in every size church. so who is responsible or ensuring kids don't lose interest? During my first few years of youth ministry, I encountered many parents who thought I was responsible. They viewed me as part babysitter, part police officer. They believed a fun and exciting youth program would make their kids want to attend church, and, if their kids didn't want to come to youth activities, it meant there was something wrong with my program. I quickly learned the value of holding a parents' meeting at least once each year. Parents came with their questions, and together we went through our yearly program. I took time to share the vision I had for the youth group and what I hoped to accomplish in their lives. I always ended the meeting by renewing my commitment to support their ministry in the home and expressing my desire to assist them in any way possible. That way I reminded them where the primary responsibility lay. The The Bible tells us that parents are responsible for the spiritual development of their children. Churches and youth groups, established for corporate worship, training, and teaching, should reinforce and build on what is already happening in the home. Dean Merrill, in his book, "The Loving Leader: A Man's Role at Home", puts it this way: "When we begin to think about our households in the spiritual dimension it's a different story. There is no one to blame but us. There are no church boards or synods standing in the way of progress. If my home reflects the nature and love of Christ on ordinary Monday, Tuesday, Saturday, it's because my wife and I have determined to make it so. If the atmosphere at our household is no different from that of a non-Christian household, I cannot pass the buck to anyone else." At home we build the foundation for the spiritual lives of our children. It is the place where attitudes toward church,either positive or negative, are formed. Nothing can take the place of parental example for spiritual training in the home. (to be continued)