parachuting with your kids in matters of faith

My friend Matthew McNutt had a great post in response to the topic of different approaches churches take it their services around Christmas. He had this gem of a quote toward the end that I want to highlight:
Children ultimately emulate the faith of their parents.  As a youth pastor, it’s always tragic to me when a parent voices the frustration that their child, now in college, doesn’t seem interested in church. 

I have to bite my tongue because often times I want to ask how they can be surprised.  For eighteen years they taught them that church is at the bottom of the priority list; skipping for vacation, bad weather, good weather, sports, concerts, work… everything comes ahead of it.  When a teen is allowed to miss church for a job that is for spending money… they’ve learned that the pursuit of possessions, entertainment, social activities – all of those are more important than church.
There are different schools of thought among all of us on the "best way" to bring kids up in the faith, but many are often rooted in negative reactions. Here are top ones I've heard:
  • "I don't want to shove God down my kids throat, so I'll let them bring it up."
  • "I don't make my kids go to church like I was forced to and bored out of their minds." 
  • "I don't think you need to go to church to be a Christian, so it's just not big on the family priority list."
  • "I don't want to miss out on the time I have with them, so we do other things on Sunday."
Obviously, we can debate these... but instead, let's look at how each sentence begins. Notice the phrase, "I don't..." - which simply reveals something you may be overlooking... a large part of what you may presume in your kids is more an issue of yours than theirs.

Think about it - how much of your presumably neutral offense is more of a defense that is rooted in your past?

We all know that no church is perfect, even though God is. You may have been hurt by a congregation or clergy member in the past, or pushed out instead of pulled in. Trust me, I have as well... so much so that I have the emotional scars to prove it.

But I'd like to offer you that you may not be as objective on this as you think. And you may, in fact, be rejecting an experience of church that you've applied to all churches. Perhaps what you grew up with actually was quite "shoved down your throat" or "boring." Maybe this has made you more argumentative against church being "necessary" or "something that competes with other fun things you want to do."

Again, I'm not debating your experience... I'm attempting to point out that you may be letting your past impact your kid's present, future, and possibly their eternity.

I'd also offer you that there are people like myself who understand this and are working hard to help the churches we're a part of get back to the heart of what God wants for our lives. Religion is an empty human exercise to find a connection with God; Christianity, on the other hand, is a passionate endeavor by God to develop a connection with us.  It's a big difference, and even within my own family we spend a lot of time thinking through more than the concept of "Just believe," but "Is there credibility to what we put our lives into?"

What if this was the year that you owned up to the journey you're on and the way it may be affecting your family? If you don't have a church home, find one... go on that journey. And do it with your family - I'll even help you if you want.

You won't find a church that has all the answers, but you can find many who will more effectively reveal the Answer to you in ways you've never dreamed.

But you have to do more than put it off until next week, or Easter, or Christmas. If and when your kids bring up the big questions about God, will you only want them to taste your bitterness or will you give them a fresh opportunity to be consistently around teaching and a community that can complement your efforts?

After all, saying you have a belief in God is like saying that you believe a parachute works. It's a whole other thing to jump out of a plane and pull the ripcord, isn't it?

"These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children." (Deuteronomy 6:6-7)

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