An article a mom from church posted on Facebook provoked some thoughts of mine…
Disclaimer: I don’t have kids; this is mainly my perspective as an (outside) observer from within church.
1. It was never a decision point. We never entertained, discussed, or thought about not going or allowing our kids not to go (to church)…
What I hear is “church is mandatory under all conditions and in all circumstances.” What I fear is that this precludes the possibility of having quiet time (or other spiritual disciplines) in lieu of church attendance. Yes, I know that Hebrews 10:25 says to not give up meeting together, but how we do church now is not how is was done in the apostles’ time. Besides, I can hang out with other believers and still not give up meeting together. Also, it’s possible to have ministry time during church hours but outside the building…
2. Each one has their own personal relationship with Jesus. Jesus did this one. They have encountered His reality at a young age for themselves. So they go to church because they love to worship Him.
This is absolutely mandatory. If you do not have your own personal relationship with God — and also encourage your children to have one, too — then they won’t. What happens then is that church attendance (see #1) becomes an exercise in routine instead of a way to connect deeply with other believers.
3. We talk about real issues, even the tough ones. I find this young generation wants help with the tough issues that are hot buttons. So at our house ….and our church….we talk about the tough stuff. Not just the religious stuff.
I would love to see this one become true in every building that proclaims the name of Jesus. Alas, however, it shall not be so. I’ve heard pastors say from the pulpit that they have no tolerance for people who struggle, and I can imagine someone who struggles a lot saying, “Fine. You don’t tolerate my struggle, then I won’t bother you with it.” I would love for what I referred to as “postmodern Christianity" to become the norm, but until you make room for such questions, they will not surface beyond anyone’s hearts (least of all the kids’).
4. They serve with their own jobs at church. Our kids carry significant responsibilities of servant leadership from a young age. They are not just hanging around. It matters to them… and to others… when they show up.
This is not just about accomplishing things, but also about the relationships you build with people while you’re serving together.
5. It’s an adventure for our family. Passion is contagious. Doug and I find serving Jesus to be the most exciting real life drama ever imaginable!! Kids and teens love adventure. Authentic Kingdom of God participation is exciting, daring, risky, joyful, and challenging. And we love it!
This is a biggie — you have to recover the daring nature of the gospel. God will ask you to do things that seem out of the ordinary or out of your comfort zone. Part of this accomplishes his plans on the Earth, part of it accomplishes his workings in your heart. Never forget, though, that relationship with God always trumps busyness for him.
6. The Bible is a part of our daily life. We have family devotions at least four times a week. Prayer and Bible reading are daily habits for us all. So why wouldn’t we want to be with the other believers on Sunday morning?
This seems like a plug for #1, but I gotta quote Eldredge on this one.
Speaking of the idea that heaven is “the eternal church service in the sky,” John notes that the (accepted) final verse of Amazing Grace alludes to the fact that we will be singing for 10,000 years.
"Church is okay, but a weekend in Maui beats it hands down."
So does watching Braveheart, Gladiator, The Matrix, Fight Club, The Avengers, or any other movie full of adventure. Why? Because it holds more excitement than sitting and listening to someone rehash the same old thing (again).
But if you can find a way to make the Word come alive and relate the absolute truth in it to my life, show me how to apply it and how it leads me to a deeper relationship to Jesus (John 5:39, and not just SOAP — remember, relationship > busyness!), then I’m all in.
Don’t treat it like a rulebook of tips & techniques for “your best life now” because the “good life” is found in a relationship with God — and nowhere else.
7. Our church is not big into entertainment. We don’t tickle ears or entertain. We study hard, play hard, cry hard, and laugh hard. Everyone knows we live in an over-entertained culture. So we don’t even try to “compete” as entertainment.
Entertainment is one thing, but what about cutting loose and just having fun every now and then?
I know people to whom church is everything, and they come across as one-dimensional. I mean, is there anything else that you care about?!
Don’t get me wrong, because Jesus is important, but God didn’t create us to be robots. What are you passionate about? What gets you fired up?
She says she studies, plays, cries, and laughs hard.
Where’s the light-heartedness? Does everything have to be at 100% intensity, or does God want us to shoot for 1st, 2nd, or 3rd gear sometimes instead of 4th, 5th, and 6th?
8. Our relationships are strong. This one is tough but real. Because we have healthy relationships at home, no one is wanting to rebel against us by the one way they know could hurt us the worst. Forsaking God.
I feel as if #8 and #9 are connected. Open, loving relationships (#8) will breed honesty (#9) about tough questions (#3).
And this one is incredibly tough to fake (if that’s even possible). Your words will speak volumes about your actions, especially if the two don’t mesh. I’ve heard of kids struggling with something and not telling their parents for over a year.
If you preach relationships but your family doesn’t have that kind of honesty, what does that say about how you live?
9. We are honest about the dry moments. Doug and I are transparent about our spiritual ups ….and our spiritual downs. Everyone has valleys and mountains.
With either too much emphasis on breakthrough or difficulty, it can be tedious finding just the right balance for how much to focus on the subjective experiences versus the objective truths & realities that are not always so easy to perceive. But like I mentioned in comments to #3, when you have people in leadership telling laymen that there’s no tolerance for struggle — or pastors don’t admit that they have any struggles of their own — expect people to stagnate where they are and have difficulty getting up when they fall.
10. We don’t run church down with our mouths. People mess up sometimes. And sometimes people in our lives abandon us. Learning to handle the messy moments of spiritual warfare and relationship pain as a family is critical. We must help our children process the frailties of our brothers and sisters. But we best not find ourselves gossiping, complaining, backbiting or murmuring. Or why would our children want to come along??
I get to this point where “gossiping, complaining, backbiting, or murmuring” are discussed and I wonder how much of what I’ve done here falls into that category. There are lots of things I would love to see different about churches I’ve been a part of, but leaders have to be open to change (meaning they have to be willing).
This point definitely rings true in the sense of Proverbs 24:17 and Philippians 2:14-15, and in that, I agree.
But at the same time, my heart longs to express what I feel is unaccepted in certain circles, yet I wish to share my thoughts and longings with others (hence this post).
Perhaps someone will read what I have written and it will change how they see things — and if so, great.
But if not, at least I have clarified my thoughts to my diary, and I know that God hears my cries for something more…