Monday, February 14, 2011

The Sabbath Experiment -- week 19

Driving to church yesterday morning, my husband and I engaged in a conversation about forcing kids to go to church. The question has been on my mind a lot lately, because there are two schools of thought:

1. While you're living in my house, you will go to church with us on Sundays. It's what we do.

2. It's not good to force the kids to go to church. I want them to decide for themselves. Then their faith will be genuine and not just something they never gave any thought to.


Bill and I talked about the people we knew who adhered to the first school of thought. For the most part, those kids are young adults now and are now raising their kids in the church. Then we discussed the second group. While the kids in this group were all active in the church in their younger years, by the time they became teenagers, they were no longer 'forced' to attend, so they didn't. Now they are young adults who, according to what I see of FB, claim to be agnostics or, at the very least, believers who are raising their kids without the benefit of a church family to help them along.

This makes me sad. Of course, I know some of you may fit into the latter category. Or you may not even be believers. So, excuse my rant. But this is something that is important to me. And, yes, I know how damaging a legalistic church can be to young minds. But I also know that these young minds are looking for something to believe in. If you, as parents, are not presenting a consistent picture of who Christ is, both in your homes and in the church you attend, then don't expect your kids to follow after Him. They will follow after the first thing that comes along that makes them feel good.

Interestingly enough, our minister, Bob Hartman, was preaching on Acts 16, which led us to the first chapter of II Timothy. Verse 5 jumped out at me:

"For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois, and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well."

See, it is a generational thing. And when a generation drops the ball, well...the results speak for themselves. Generally speaking, that is.

Bob went on to tell us about the great strides being made to present the Gospel to children in the UK (through the Open the Book program), as well as to children around the world. He talked about how important it is to reach these kids before other influences reach them -- because there truly are no "unreached" kids. There are just kids who haven't been reached with the story of a Savior who loves them and died for them.

We go to great effort to present the Gospel to kids around the world. We send Bibles. We support missionaries. We pray. And yet somehow, too many of us don't feel we have the "right" to impose our beliefs on our kids. It is not imposing, folks. It is presenting. And you, as parents, have every right, and in my opinion -- obligation, to insist your teenagers attend church with you. That is, if you believe that a life lived for Christ is a life worth pursuing.

My personal opinion is that there is no greater life than one lived for Christ and I thank God weekly when I look down the pew and see my daughters and grandchildren sitting there with me. Because, like I said, it is a generational thing.

But back to the conversation I was having with my husband on the way to church. We, sadly, had to admit our own failure. You see, his older two daughters weren't forced to go to church the way our younger daughters were. The oldest would fight us every week, until we finally just gave up. The younger of the two started living with her mom when she was 15 or so, and they no longer attended church. So, during those important years, neither one was a part of church family. And neither one attends church now.

On the other hand, the others rarely miss.

The difference? I believe it has to do with insisting the younger ones attend regularly; one of who seemingly hated every minute of it for a couple of years. As a young adult, I'm proud to say she's been to Mexico on a mission trip to help build a church, and has traveled to Kenya to work with the AIDS orphans. I guess imposing our faith on her didn't have such bad results.

Why am I sharing all of this with you? Because I believe kids need to be healthy, not only in a physical sense, but in a spiritual one as well. And I truly believe that involves church involvement. But I also believe it has to do with going to a church that celebrates freedom in Christ and does not bog down the kids with a long list of rules. Legalism rarely leads to joy, and a lack of joy rarely leads a young person to a lasting relationship with Christ.

And that's just my opinion on this Monday after a...gasp...failed attempt at honoring my own Sabbath experiment! Actually, it wasn't even an attempt. I had work that had to be done and opted to spend two days this past week with my beautiful granddaughter. Which meant I had to work on Sunday. But, since I am not about being legalistic, I guess that's okay. There's always next week.

Sharing my heart,



  1. I am a young adult (at least with a young child) and I am in the former camp. I was raised in the church and I loved it. I also have an issue currently with churches that exclude children from worship. I know many people find children and the noise they constantly produce :-) distracting but I have a hard time understanding how we are supposed to teach our children how to corporately worship when they are out of the main service until middle school. I know that for my part, I talk to my son daily about God's love and my husband and I talk about God daily in our house and in front of our child. I know he is young (22 months) but I believe you are never too young or old to meet the creator of the universe and know how great his love is for us all.

  2. Thank you for sharing, Jessica. In our church, the children stay with us throughout the song service and prayer time and then they go to children's church and wee worship during the sermon, offering and communion. We keep my 2-year-old granddaughter with us until then and she knows to fold her hands and bow her head during prayer. I can't imagine a time when she won't be there with us. Of course, when she's an adult, she'll be free to make her own decisions.

  3. agree with you hana. ill put it this way. it's the kids who don't get the discipline that end up undisciplined. most of the time. i wasn't and almost lost it all. whereas the kids i know who were taken to church and forced to stick with it, are growing up to be a loving Christ like person. :)

  4. I grew up in the church and as I grew to be an adult I made my own decisions for my choices in life. The choices I made may not have been ideal in Christ eyes but I continued to go to church during these times and was determined not to loss my faith. Now, married with a child, I continue to go to church and have never felt stronger in my faith. I give a lot of credit to my parents for raising or "forcing" me in the church and in a God filled home. And of course the most thanks go to God for His grace, love and forgiveness! I now pray that I can do my part in raising my daughter to have the same love for the Lord and she can make her own decisions on how she lives her life based on what I am able to teach her.

  5. That's a really interesting perspective. I will say, as a kid who grew up in the church but didn't have to be forced to go (I liked it), I did find it a little distracting/disconcerting to have other kids in our Sunday School classes and youth groups who were forced to be there and clearly hated it. While I decided that welcoming them into the group was part of my responsibility as a good Christian, I definitely didn't learn or get as much out of those meetings as I did the ones that were volunteer-based.

    We're now in the same position as Jessica, where we've been finding our three-year-old hasn't been welcome in our church service, but he would rather be with us than in the nursery. Since we have another baby on the way, we're actually looking for a more family-friendly church because of this.

    I haven't figured out what we'll do as our kids grow older, but I appreciate your observations. I hope participating in worship can be enjoyable and fulfilling in some way for our kids, but if not, I guess we'll have to decide what path to take.


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