Why I don’t make a big deal of whether my kids go to church

I love chatting with my older daughter.  I have the attention span of a fruit fly, and anyone who’s talked to teenagers know that an average conversation changes topics every 3.5 seconds.  Which is just fine by me.

Tonight at dinner Taylor and I were chatting about how to flirt (which will be the subject of another post), and 30 seconds later I spotted her typing a long text message on her phone.

“Sweetie, who are you texting?”

“I am asking a camp counselor a faith question.”

I became curious.

“You do realize that your father used to be a pastor, holds a doctorate from one of the most prestigious seminaries in the world, and has taught theology both here and in Asia, right?  Just sayin’ …”

Taylor looked up from her phone and smiled, “Oh right!  Well…it’s just that in church and at camp, we are told to pray, we are told to worship, we are told to study the Bible…but how do you know any of it is real?  I mean, how do you even know that God is real?  What if we are just being told to put our faith in something that doesn’t exist?”

Wow.

So we talked.  Between bites of food we talked about how different people experience God differently, in different circumstances, in different times in their lives.  We talked about if God is real, then we don’t need to be so uptight about “finding him”…He will find us, in his own way, in his own time.

In that little exchange, I was reminded again how I have always felt uncomfortable with the way we approach “Children’s Ministry” in the church.  We put them through Children’s Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, etc., with the idea that faith can be “schooled”.  We “teach” them at a young age that there is only one way to believe, one way to find God, one way to “believe in Jesus.”  But what if our children experience and encounter Jesus differently in their lives?  What if Jesus choose to make himself real to our kids through different people, different circumstances outside the church, and…even through different religions and faiths?   Rather than putting faith in a “box” for our kids and saying “This is how you find Jesus”, should we not instead help our kids develop a worldview and a view of God that is expandable, that will allow them the open mindedness to recognize Jesus when they encounter him later on in their lives?  Remember the indictment of a poor worldview that could not recognize God in John 1:11?

“…Though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him”

That’s why I don’t make it a big deal whether my girls go to church.  Don’t get me wrong, we attend church as a family regularly (although perhaps not “religiously” every Sunday) and my girls both enjoy themselves there.  But I don’t worry about whether they attend every Bible study, whether they want to go every Sunday, or even whether they have “accepted Christ” through the many Children’s programs that they have been a part of.   Like Taylor and I talked about tonight, when the time is right, they will experience Him.  It may not be in a church.  It may not happen within the context of institutional Christianity.  It may even happen through other religions and faith traditions of their choosing.  But if Jesus is real, and I believe He is, then I believe He will allow my girls to encounter Him.  In His own way, in His own time.

Just when I was going to ask Taylor more about what she thought about all this, I discovered that we were once again talking about flirting.

I love chatting with my girls 🙂

 

4 thoughts on “Why I don’t make a big deal of whether my kids go to church

  1. Your post gave me lots to think about, Alfred. I have to admit it saddened me a little…and challenged me. I totally agree that we want to instill in our kids a BIG idea of God. It’s such a human nature thing to try to make things explainable, understandable, tidy…and God is SO much bigger and more glorious than any “box” we try to imagine Him in. And I agree that, because churches are made up of very fallible humans, we can sometimes drift into “small God thinking”, especially when presenting Him to children. We constantly need to be challenged to see Him as BIG…for our faith to be BIG…to see Him in a much larger context than our small perspective. And I think that’s the challenge of children’s ministry…yes, it’s important to present God through His Word, but let’s do ALL we can to present in a way that helps kids see the BIG picture of God’s plan, of God’s love. Let’s help kids see and experience the joy of celebrating and communing with this big God…the excitement of being in relationship with the God of the universe. Kids learn MOST, not from simply “book learning”, but from the influence and example of their parents first…and then from other important people in their lives. And that leads to the incredible partnership that can exist between family and church — a larger community, a larger family for kids to see and learn from and experience as all of us adults live out our faith has authentically and as enthusiastically as we can. As WE develop and grow in faith as parents and as children’s leaders, kids will grow in THEIR faith. (Haha…sorry this is so long…needs to be a much longer discussion, actually. It really touches on my philosophy of kids’ ministry. Anyway…thanks for sharing your thoughts…and for allowing me to share mine!)

  2. Your post gave me lots to think about, Alfred. I have to admit it saddened me a little…and challenged me. I totally agree that we want to instill in our kids a BIG idea of God. It’s such a human nature thing to try to make things explainable, understandable, tidy…and God is SO much bigger and more glorious than any “box” we try to imagine Him in. And I agree that, because churches are made up of very fallible humans, we can sometimes drift into “small God thinking”, especially when presenting Him to children. We constantly need to be challenged to see Him as BIG…for our faith to be BIG…to see Him in a much larger context than our small perspective. And I think that’s the challenge of children’s ministry…yes, it’s important to present God through His Word, but let’s do ALL we can to present in a way that helps kids see the BIG picture of God’s plan, of God’s love. Let’s help kids see and experience the joy of celebrating and communing with this big God…the excitement of being in relationship with the God of the universe. Kids learn MOST, not from simply “book learning”, but from the influence and example of their parents first…and then from other important people in their lives. And that leads to the incredible partnership that can exist between family and church — a larger community, a larger family for kids to see and learn from and experience as all of us adults live out our faith has authentically and as enthusiastically as we can. As WE develop and grow in faith as parents and as children’s leaders, kids will grow in THEIR faith. (Haha…sorry this is so long…needs to be a much longer discussion, actually. It really touches on my philosophy of kids’ ministry. Anyway…thanks for sharing your thoughts…and for allowing me to share mine!)

    1. Thank you so much Pastor Ruth for taking the time to read and share your thoughts! 100%! ! I think one of the most unfortunate things that I have seen in many churches is that we compartmentalize “Children Ministry” and think it belongs only in the portfolio of the Children’s Pastor, existing on its own isolated from everything else in the church. But the truth is that the culture, ethos, philosophies that drive the church will also unavoidably drive what happens with our children. If the church has a culture of generosity and graciousness, if that is modeled from the pulpit and the leadership, then the children ministries cannot help but be influenced by that. If the church has a worldview that believes in a BIG God, then that will influence how our kids see the world and see God….and so on. I am so thankful that my two girls get to be a part of your ministry, and in the wider ministry context of our church, for these very reasons. Thank you again Pastor Ruth!!!

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