Raising Children in Church

September 22, 2018 by  
Filed under Pastor's Corner

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It happened again recently. A woman told me that she never participated in church as a child because her parents had given her the choice. Since her parents didn’t go to worship, it’s not surprising that she also “chose” not to go. As a result, she knew nothing about the great promises of God to comfort and strengthen us in this life. Instead, at the time of her grandmother’s death, she was grasping at straws for what to make of it. She said she thought her grandmother visited her in a butterfly.

Now, if a cardinal, etc, reminds you of your loved one, I’m not bothered by that at all. But I do not believe that the deceased visit us as butterflies or any other animal. That’s not the kind of comfort I am seeking when I am grieving the death of the ones I love. I can’t settle for that, because I’ve been told the promises of Jesus, which assure me of the paradise of heaven beyond what we can imagine, even if a butterfly is quite beautiful. It’s not her fault she didn’t know about that. No one told her.

I am tired of people telling me that they want their kids to choose their own religion and beliefs. What happens is that the parents end up sharing nothing about faith at all with their children. That’s not a choice; that is abandoning their responsibility as a Christian, if they are Christian, and it’s being negligent as a parent on their child’s spiritual well-being.

Think about it this way. What if a parent said they were going to let their child choose whether or not to brush their teeth, because they didn’t want to pressure them with a certain brand of toothpaste? “I want them to choose whether they’ll use Crest or Colgate.” No! Parents start their children with something, and their child will find their way from there. Maybe they’ll end up using Oral B or Sensodyne. But if children aren’t ever brought to the sink and encouraged to brush, they likely never will.

The same goes for many lessons that parents teach their kids. I want my children to learn good manners, to share and take turns, to eat well, to have a good work ethic, and to use money wisely. While they are young I have a God-given opportunity and responsibility to train them. As they grow older, I slowly introduce more choice to them. Then, yes, they will learn further on their own. If they rebel against teeth-brushing, perhaps the cavities of life will bring them back to good dental hygiene. The same may be true for our faith; should they wander from God, they will have a foundation to which they can return. But only if we get them started.

Our children deserve to know the love of God and the promises of Jesus. Why wouldn’t we want our kids to know the love and strength that God provides? I’m not just talking about rigidly forcing our children to “go to church.” This is about helping our children discover their identity as a beloved child of God. It’s about helping them know their value and purpose in God’s world. It’s about helping them know how to love and value those around them as God does. It’s about helping them find their place in a caring community centered on Christ’s love. I want that for my children! For that matter, I want all this for you and me and everyone I care about. It is the church and our Christian faith that provides this.

To you with young children: yes, it is hard to come to worship with young ones. But our church will embrace you even when they’re loud and busy. (My kids are, too!) At worship and events, children are catching on to faith. It makes a difference. And if we, as their parents and grandparents and church family, don’t tell them about Jesus, who will? They won’t learn it in school or on TV.

When a child is baptized, the parents promise to support that child in the Christian faith and life, but so does the whole congregation! It takes a church to raise children in faith. So, dear church, reach out to the children around you. Shake their hand in worship. Ask their name; tell them yours. Look for them each week. Let’s support and encourage one another, so that together we might choose and grow into a life of worship and faith.

In Christ,

Pastor Matthew Poock

“Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve; but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
-Joshua 24:15

  • Brooke Fraser

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