Friday, March 25, 2016

How to Help Your Kids Love the Church

A friend of mine shared a disheartening story with me – a young boy walked into his small group and asked, “What are we going to do today?”  When his leader told him, he replied, “That’s boring,” and proceeded to pout and look … well, bored, during the entire lesson and activity.   Not long ago, a mother told me that her teen child no longer wanted to come to church because it was not interesting, and he didn’t like it. 

Most of us have heard alarming statistics about how our young people are leaving the church and about how our children feel entitled.  So how do we, as parents, help our children learn to love the church?

Why are we here?

First of all, we need to decide why WE are going to church.  Do we go to church out of duty?  Do we go to church to keep our kids out of trouble – to give them something to do – an outlet?  Do we hope that good behavior will rub off on our kids if we go to church?  Do we go to start our week off on a positive note?  Do we go to church to see our friends – or to get adult time away from the kids?  Do we go to church because that’s just the right thing to do? 

Why do we go to church?  I believe we should go to church for two reasons. 

1.  We go to church to worship. 

What is worship?  In the book, Parenting in the Pew, Robbie Castleman says, 

     “Worship is the exercise of our souls in blessing God.  In the Psalms we read or sing, ‘Bless the Lord, O my soul!’  However, our chief concern is usually ‘Bless my soul, O Lord!’
     Encountering the Lord.  Meeting Jesus.  Hearing his voice.  Knowing God.  These expectations of worship are met in hearts that are intent on his blessing.”

Simply put, we don’t go to church service for us.  It’s not about me.  It’s not about you.  It’s about God.   

However, there’s more to Church than Sunday morning worship service.

2.  We go to church to participate in the life of THE church.

What is THE church?

According to my resident PhD, Dr. Mullin (a.k.a. my husband, Miles), “The church has two meanings in the Scripture.  The first meaning references a gathered group of baptized believers covenanted together in order to worship the Lord, administer the ordinances, disciple its members, and bear testimony to Christ.  This is the predominant meaning found in the New Testament.  The second meaning refers to the universal Church which is made up of all believers throughout all ages and all times.  The New Testament depicts membership in the universal church as secured by faith in Jesus Christ and membership in a local church as normal for all believers”

Part of going to church is BEING THE church – a gathered group of believers who come together for encouragement, discipleship, and service.  Given that we go to church to worship and to participate in being the body of believers called the church, what are some ways to teach our children to love the church?

1.  Know why you are there.
Are you coming for the kids programs, the awesome music, or the entertaining pastor, or are you coming to worship the Lord?  Are you there because you want to make business connections or so you can grow in your relationship with the God of the universe?  As the parent, you need to check your own heart and make sure you are in church for the right reasons.

2.  Ask the right questions
A few years ago, I realized that I was asking my kids a toxic question.   When I picked them up from a church activity, I would ask, “Did you have fun?”  THIS is NOT why we go to church. (See above).  Asking such a dumb question was just reinforcing exactly what I didn’t want them to believe – that church is about having fun.  I realized I needed to ask the right questions.  Here are just some of the questions that I try to ask now.

What was your Bible study about tonight?
Did you learn anything new this morning?
Were there any visitors in your class?
Did you meet anyone new?
What was your favorite part of worship today?
What was your favorite song?
Did anything about the sermon stand out to you?
Are there any prayer requests we should pray about as a family?

3.  Watch your words
Think about how you talk about your church to others.  If you describe your church as being a great place because they’re so many fun things to do, children will get a wrong idea about church and its function.  If you get in the car and complain about the pastor going too long or the music being sort of “blah today” in front of your kids, you will send them a very clear message.  Be careful about how you talk about your church to your family and to your friends. 

4.  Serve
First of all, set an example by serving and then encourage your children to serve.  All children can serve in some way.  Be on the lookout for ways your child can serve. 

My youngest told me once that he didn’t particularly like a certain ministry we were doing.  So I said, “Oh dear.  I hate for you to not to LIKE something.  Let’s just quit.”  “OK, pray and ask God what other ministry you should be involved in then.” 

The Bible says that all believers in a body have a role to play.  I personally believe this also applies to children who have accepted Jesus as their Savior and Lord.   Romans 12:4-6 says “For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.  Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith.”

Young children can make shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child, visit shut-ins, or choose items for a food pantry.  Older children can help set up tables and chairs, clean pews, and participate in outreach ministries.  Teenagers can do practically anything an adult can do – mission trips, music ministry, nursery work, etc. 

When my oldest was four years old, we “adopted” a shut-in named Miss Ruby.  Miss Ruby had never married and was 93 years old.  She loved it when we would visit, and his cute little boy face brightened her day.  That is serving.

5.  Pray
Pray for your church, your pastor, your outreaches, your missionaries, and your church family members.  Pray with your children about your church often so they learn by example that the church is dear to us and should be lifted up to our Father.

There is no guarantee that your children will grow up and “stay in church,” but we as parents can help our children have a proper view of church and its function by first understanding it ourselves and then by asking the right questions, watching what we say about the church, serving in our church, and praying for our church.