Blogging is a lot like preaching in many ways. You live life with your eyes and ears open because everything you see, hear, and experience can be God’s divine direction in your writing or preaching. I have to be honest and say that Social Media has opened the floodgate of ideas for both of these. This post is a great example.
Church shopping is a necessary activity when certain circumstances in life bring change. At the core, looking for a local church in which to participate is a GREAT thing. I speak to many many people on a regular basis who find themselves in this position. Their desire to engage with a church is wonderful. The thought process behind that journey is often where the land mines create the explosions of today and the continuing blasts for years to come.
This week I stumbled upon a Facebook thread in which the topic of conversation revolved around a group of people who were searching for a church home in our local community of Katy, TX. Here are some of the comments:
“We want our kids to have a Pine Cove like experience every week.”
“Since they (children) are 13, 12, and 9 the youth program is our bigger focus.”
“Youth is our number one focus.”
“Come check out “CHURCH” on Sunday. Really really great kids stuff! Opening with a group ‘concert-like’ atmosphere.”
Let’s be honest. These are parents who love their children. These are parents who want the best for their children. I want to strongly encourage the priority that these parents have for their children’s spiritual lives. At the same time, I would like to suggest there are some underlying assumptions leading to these conclusions which need to be reexamined.
Myth: The best thing for my child’s character development and spiritual development is to be involved in a local Children’s or Youth Ministry.
Maybe you are caught off guard by my indictment of this idea as a myth. The research studies are too numerous to site (ex. Barna) which have indicated that over 80% of the children who grow up in church end up leaving the church when they leave home.
This must at least cause us as parents to take a step back and question our motivations and assumptions. The primary reason this statistic is so dramatic can be seen as directly proportional to the changing paradigm of children/youth ministry over the past decade or more. As the entertainment culture exploded we saw many churches being inspired by that and creating ministries that mirrored those realities.
All of this resulted in grand ministry which, as mentioned above, created a Pine Cove like experience or a concert like atmosphere each and every week. The young people understandably love these settings and hunger to return to the fun. The parents, also very understandably, are relieved. However, the result of these has been generations who have not known, understood, and owned their faith. The moment they experience freedom (in college) or opposing views (that first philosophy professor) they are ready to walk into whatever ideas continue to feed into their method of learning which is all about pleasure and comfort.
The question then must be, “How do we raise children who own their understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ in a manner that changes the way they view their own life?” Hopefully you hear the ownership in that question.
The answer is literally thousands of years old. In Deuteronomy, Moses instructs the families that they are to be the ones who teach their children truth as they are walking through life. The Apostle Paul repeats this idea in Ephesians 6.
The greatest way that parents can love their children is to give their own lives to a local church where THE PARENTS are being challenged and growing deeper in their relationship with Jesus Christ. This is not a local church where the parents are growing deeper in the pastor’s wisdom… but rather where the pastor is sharing God’s wisdom through the Bible, week after week.
The smoke and mirrors of the concert-like experience will fade away quickly. Your children will then face the real circumstances of life where they need to be equipped with a faith given to them by their parents. They will own the faith which is exemplified and taught by their parents. Parents, do not miss the forest for the trees. They have just a few years in a ‘student ministry’ type experience. It will be helpful for them only as much as YOU are stepping into your role as their primary source of discipleship as one who is growing in the Lord.