Thursday, May 8, 2014
Let's not beat around the bush today. No fancy intro, no funny story. Not out of anger or frustration, but out of importance.
Get your kids to church.
Get your kids to church functions.
Everything here I say in love. I am willing to come out saying this because it is important. It is not meant to be mean-spirited or uncaring. It comes from a place of love. If I did not say it, if I kept quiet about the importance of your and my children being involved with God even if it means excluding other things, that would be the unloving thing to do.
If you do not force the importance of it, it is unlikely they will ever learn it. They will learn something, but it will not be what you think it is. Words mean very little without action, but action even without words speaks volumes.
There are some rationalizations (read: excuses) that we need to break down so that we can see what it behind it. Sometimes they are done with good intentions, even. But intentions do not make right, and it is time we step up to the plate and put them back where they belong: away where they will not be used. The main excuses to not do this seem to be the following:
1) I don't want to force my kid to go to church. I want them to want to go, not feel like they have to go.
This is probably the least effective reason. The fact is, sometimes I don't want to go, and sometimes neither do you, if you're honest. But we do. God has told us to meet with each other, be with each other, encourage and learn together, and grow as a body. Wanting to is good, but if the excuse is "I don't want to, so I don't have to," your child will never be there to learn how and why they want to go. Sometimes we have to get through the hard days so we can get to the good ones. So get there.
There are several variations of this: the coach won't let my kid play if he's not there for every practice. All the kids who are not in sports (in "regular" gym class) are bad influences. My little Johnny is on the way to be a star player. It's really good for their health and self-esteem. Etc.
Please...please...do not allow sports to overtake who and what God calls your child to be. If that means they don't play anything, then let them throw that energy into church and serving instead. If you think they're going to be a star, what is the point if they do not have Christ? There are many, many ways a child can grow and develop. If sports can fit in between church and being with the body of Christ, great! But if it cannot, perhaps it is time to take a deeper look at what your true priorities are.
Now I realize that many kids have a lot to do for school. But are they doing too much? Are they part of football, mock UN, theater, academic decathlon, and yearbook team? Sometimes our kids need us to say "no". When the amount of school/work overtakes worship, we say that God is less important than it. If you need to stay on top of homework and projects so that they aren't having to do them during church activities, do so. If on a job application you need to make sure your kid marks that they cannot work Sundays/Wednesdays/etc then do so. Make sure though, that no matter what, God comes first. Always.
One thing that blew my mind was the first time I heard a parent say "Little Jane can't go to that. She's grounded/being punished/etc."
If there is anything you do, please do not make going to church activities where they will be built up and encouraged in God a source of punishment. Now yes, if it is just going bowling or to a movie with the youth kids, by all means don't let them go. But if it is something like Bible Bowl, or camp, or a similar place where the goal is learning, growing in Christ, and/or being involved and serving others, it comes awfully close to teaching our kids that God only wants our involvement if we are good enough. God wants us always, and cherishes us even when we have done something wrong. Let us teach our kids that lesson instead.
There are many other reasons, to be sure. My family has made the decision, even with our kids at only 2 and 5 years old, that God and being with His people and being involved with His work will always come first. We are certainly not the first parents to do so. I pray, though, that if you have not made this decision, that you will.
I have seen people not want to rock the boat with attendance and commitment, afraid that they might alienate people or make them feel bad. I have even heard of people actually leaving because the subject was brought up. It is a difficult and sad situation when we fear people getting upset and leaving because we want to help them. This is especially true when parents do not make their children come to church/class/events/etc, or do not come themselves.
There are, of course, some caveats to this. The parents who have to work to make ends meet (even when they are not wasting money) and literally cannot get there must do what they do. But when the excuses are extracurricular activities, sports, school functions, sleep-overs, oversleeping, forgetting, too tired (all the time), to busy, etc, there is a problem that needs to be brought up in love and fixed. But if all we do is talk about the importance of Christ and His church and being an active part of His plan, we have completely missed the point.
And our children are watching.
They will take their cues as to what is most important about life from how we act. Words come a distant, distant second (if even that). If our children do not become followers of Christ, it will not matter where they went to college or what kind of career they have. The only thing that matters in the end is whether or not they were a follower of Christ. It is the older generation's duty to lead by example in this, because it is by this measure that we, too, will be judged.
Let us make sure that everything we have is serving the Lord. Our lives, or work, our families, our children. It is not a mistake we can afford to make. We love our families and our children too much to fail in this.