Do You Desire To Bring Your Child Into The Kingdom?

It's hard enough to be a Christian parent in this world. How do we combat the forces of evil while at the same time raise our children to desire to walk in God's light? By seeking His face, His Word and inspiration from each other as we stumble through this parenting process together. You will find all the instruction, encouragement and resources you need right here at The Greatest Mission Trip You'll Ever Take to help you be the most effective witness to your child that God would have you be. Look around and come back often. Let's learn together.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Problem Of The Week - Weekly Church Attendance

photo by subcircle

Parenting is not an easy process. Christian parenting is fraught with even more challenges. Not only do we strive to protect our children from the evils of the world, we try to teach and exemplify what it means to have a saving relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ. We don’t want our children just to believe, we want them to follow Christ, not out of obligation or a sense of religious duty, but because they love the Lord with all their heart, mind, soul and strength.

So how do we overcome all the obstacles, trials and hurdles we face in helping our children “get it?” When the rubber meets the road, how do we come up with the right answers?

Let’s learn together. Each week I’ll pose a question, a problem that any typical Christian parent might face that makes teaching a child about God and His truths a challenge. How would you answer that parent? What advice would you give? Are you struggling with the same issue? What does the Bible say about it?

Here’s this week’s problem:

You have a child who is arguing about going to church each week. She says that plenty of Christians only go to church once in awhile, and they seem all right. Sunday morning is the only chance she has for sleeping in, and besides, where in the Bible does it say you have to go to church to be a Christian?

How do you respond?


Andrea said...

While the Bible does not specifically say that we have to gather "every Sunday", this issue is addressed indirectly in several places. Hebrews 10:24-25 says, "24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: 25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching." Part of our responsibility as Christians is to encourage other Christians. The obvious flip side is that by "assembling together", we are also encouraged and challenged in our Christian walk. Several of Paul's letters address worship and church, as do many Old Testament passages (See 1 Corinthians 14:26-40, Hebrews 13:7, 1 Corinthians 29:3, Psalm 26:8, Psalm 27:4, Psalm 100, just to name a few.) The implication is that God does expect us to be in corporate worship--not going about our lives as individual Christians, but being a part of the larger body of Christ.

The classic illustration goes like this: A preacher was visiting a man in his church who had not been to church for a while. As they sat by the fire, the old man told the preacher that he didn't need church to be a good Christian. He was doing just fine without it. The preacher listened to the man talk, but as he did, he quietly reached forward and grabbed the fire tongs next to the fireplace. He pulled one red hot ember from the fire, where it had been burning fiercely with the rest of the wood, and set it aside, alone on the hearth. The ember slowly cooled off and turned black. It was no longer fulfilling its purpose as part of the fire. The old man looked at the cold, lifeless lump and agreed that he would be in church the following Sunday.

Yes, we can be saved and not go to church. But are we as effective? Are we fulfilling our role in the body of Christ to encourage others? Do we get the teaching we need to feed our growing faith when we are alone? Do we have the accountability each Christian needs to continue walking the narrow road? The issue is not whether we "seem all right". The issue is whether we are living our lives giving FULL glory to God. Church is for us....and when we do not avail ourselves of the benefits of church (worship, teaching, encouragement, etc.) we are missing a huge opportunity to add to our growth as Christians, not to mention the opportunity to give our full attention for a brief time to the worship of our most magnificent Creator and Redeemer. Sunday morning church attendancet is an easy way to glorify God. (And your teenager can take a nice long nap on Sunday afternoon!)


Andrea said...

One more thought that you may not want to post: We have always made church mandatory for any children living at home. Once they move out, they can do as they wish, but living in our home means you go to church.


Laheela Hargest said...

I, personally, have never had a problem with going to church, but as a teen, I think I may know some reasons why other teens really don't like it.
I go to worship God, but I'm not gonna lie: I also like to see my friends, because nearly ALL of my friends are from that church. If a kid goes to public school, likely he's gonna have a lot of friends that don't go to church and, wanting to be admired by his friends, there's no reason why he should have to go too. They're not gonna be there. Why bother?
Saturday is also a famous day to stay up late doing whatever (oftentimes partying, unfortunately), so Sunday is their last free day. They want to sleep. They don't want to go to some "religious thing" where it's a sin to fall asleep during church. Besides, whenever you hear the word "pastor", it means "boring sermon."

Of course, if all parents made their teens come to church with them, then I bet a teen wouldn't have so much of an issue, because his friends are there. I really think you should just make them go (and now they will all hate me for this, but it's just my opinion). On my mission trip, we explained 3 ways a Christian can grow: praying, reading the Bible, and going to church. A teen can listen to the sermon and try to listen for one thing God wants him/her to do that week. Church is a way a Christian can grow. There's a song recorded by Sanctus Real called "We Need Each Other." Basically, people need people. And in order to grow spiritually, you need spiritual people - who you're bound to find in church.
A good youth group/sunday school always helps with church, but I think parents should just make church a mandatory thing. That's just who we are. Period.

Deb Burton said...

Thanks Andrea, great Bible references and analogy! And I happen to be in agreement with your second comment. It may sound dictatorial, but we've never made a decision for our children that wasn't going to multiply the presence of God in their lives. It may be difficult for them to see it where ever they are in their faith walk, but that's why we couple it with loving encouragement and godly teaching.

Kelly said...

More than 80% of Americans profess to be Christians. Are they really "Jesus Followers?" Do they have a RELATIONSHIP with Jesus. Most "Christians" don't have a relationship with Jesus...they just prayed a prayer one time and they are "good." Praying a prayer does does not make you a "Christian." Hearing and believing are not enough. Read Luke 8:15..."Those who bear fruit for God and fulfill His purpose for their lives are those who first hear the Word, then believe it, then retain it, and then persevere in it." True knowledge of God is born out of obedience. So, all of that to say...I would not base MY Christian life on "PLENTY OF CHRISTIANS!" I would use the life of Jesus as my example.

Second, we should not go to church for what WE can get out of it. We should go to church to WORSHIP worship Him in spirit and in truth. We were created for HIS glory. We should go to church because Jesus died on the cross for our sins. We should go to church because God's love is so abundant and available that it calls for a celebration. We should go to church for others...for those who are hurting, for those who need discipling, for those who need to be served, for those who need to be loved, for those who need to see Jesus, for GOD to use US for HIS purpose! Christians should NEVER go to church because of what they can get out of it...that is worldly, selfish thinking. We "Jesus Followers" are the light of the world and we are to "let our light shine before men" (Matthew 5:16.) Go to church to be USED by Jesus.

Finally, parents PRAY for your children. PRAY daily, hourly, by the minute...and let God's plan for your child's life unfold before your eyes. Remember, our ways are not His and our children are not ours...they are His...he gave them to us for a specific period of time. Pray that He would use US to be the example, after Him, that our children need. Parents Pray!

Believing Him...

Megan said...

I'm a teen too, but when I was younger I didn't understand the concept of church because I went to a church that didn't really explain a whole lot and my parents didn't really get it. Now, I go to Nags Head Church on the Outer Banks, NC and I love it. I love to go to church because the whole point of church is to have fun and fellowship. Going to church because you like to see your friends is not wrong. God created the concept because He wanted us to be together. I serve my body of brothers and sisters by doing nursery and I'm not really a kid person, but God has given me an anointing to do this service and I love to help everyone. He wants us to be a community and help each other, Maybe if parents explained why you go to church and not have the attitude of" we do this because we have to", kids would enjoy church time better. And, you don't have to go to a church building to have "church". God specifically points out that the body of believers is the church, not the building. So, you could have dinner with another family of believers and be having church, which is pretty cool if you ask me. So, the problem isn't really church attendance, but rather why do you go to church in the first place, what's your motivation. God looks at the heart, not the outward actions, even though those do count. Thank you for allowing me to post my opinion. I love this topic!

Mike Hall said...

If that chaild is a dependent in any way, I think you have the right in addition to the duty to lovingly but firmly escort them to church. In any case such a parent should patiently and gently sit down and encourage this child from the scriptures why going to church is absolutely necessary.

jonica said...

In my work with youth ministry, this is the number one question I get from parents "What should I do about church" well, first, my children do not like sometimes to go to school..but I make them go, sometimes they don't like to eat their vegetables, but I make them. That is my role as their mother, doing what is right even if they don't want to. In regards to church, I desire them to want to go on their own to strengthen their relationship with God, but I would make them even if they didn't want to, because I know that it is in their best interest to go- and that is a rule in my house. Right now, my children love to go, they are all under the age of 8, so I have not had to "battle" my children. But I am resolved in knowing that this would be a "battle" I would choose. Church is not an option, like what color your hair is. Hair grows back, not being a servant of God's has damaging effects. Faith is not passive, it is active. Therefore, meeting with other believers, serving the Lord and being faithful in church is active..I have seen the affects of allowing your child to choose not to has not ever been good.

Tamara Thompson said...

Deb, this is a great “problem” for discussion! I think that this is a very common struggle within a lot of Christian families. My first quick answer, that I just can’t resist, is to ask the question “Where in the Bible does it say we need to or should sleep in?”

Nowhere in the Bible does it say that we HAVE to go to church to be a Christian, but there are many examples, as Andrea shared, that show that as a Christian, we SHOULD go to church. In the New Testament, we can see the expectation of an actual church body by the ordinances of Baptism and The Lord’s Supper, which the church is called to do. Also, we are given Spiritual gifts to be used within the body of Christ, which implies that we are to be working within a community of believers.

Assuming that the child arguing about going to church each week is a Christian, I would approach this conflict in two parts. First, like Mike said, “lovingly, but firmly escort them to church.” To start with, attending church regularly can be the obedience of a family rule. Along with this, I would ask the child to keep a notebook of sermon notes that can be discussed after. Secondly, I would attempt to get to the heart of the matter. Seek to find out what sin your child is struggling with that is keeping him or her from wanting to go to church. Find out what is taking their focus off of God. Specifically working on that heart issue will produce fruit that will last throughout their lifetime!

I recently read Josh Harris’ book, Stop Dating the Church: Fall In Love With The Family of God. I think that reading this book with the child would be a great way to disciple through Scripture’s teaching on the church. I would also recommend finding areas for the child to serve within the church. This will help them get connected and take away the child’s focus on self in relation to the church.

Deb Burton said...

Great thought-provoking comments here by everyone. I really appreciate the two teens contributing their perspective, especially. Tamara, your thoughts are very practical - that's what us parents need - help in putting feet to our faith as a Christian parent.

The name Christian implies we are to be followers of Christ. No one wants to be rule driven in their walk, but the 4th commandment says we're to honor the Sabbath. Jesus, as the example we're to run after, honored that commandment faithfully. If you read the gospels you'll find every Sabbath He was in the temple (church)worshipping, teaching, communing and fellowshipping.

I guess the question to ask is, how do we get our children to see Jesus as the example they're to emulate?

Anonymous said...

A few thoughts.

1. The church is Christ's Bride. Many today believe they can say "I love Christ but not the church". That is like saying Steve "I like you but Tina (my wife)is not all that great". Do you see the flaw in this thinking?

I would buy her John Harris's book Stop Dating the Church and has a parent I would read it with her.

2. Her comments about good Christians and the number of times they go is a true statement. I have friends that are great Christians who serve on the mission field that serve in Country's that do not have churches.

The greater concern really isn't about her church attendance but her heart. I would encourage the parents to consider the weight of this. J A James says

“Here fix your center; here direct your aim; here concentrate your efforts, your energies, and your prayers. Remember, their religious education is your business. Whatever aids you call in from ministers or teachers, you never must, you never can, you never should, delegate this work. God will hold you responsible for the religion of your children—so far as means go.”

“Recollect what a solemn thing it is to be a parent, and what a weighty responsibility attaches to those who have the immortal souls of their children committed to their care!”

“It is one of the deep mysteries of the Divine government, that is an affair of such man’s eternal happiness or torment should be in any way dependent on the conduct of another. But so it is, and nothing in the universe can be conceived more adapted to awaken our solicitude, and to stimulate our labor for the spiritual welfare of others, than the idea that it depends in some measure upon us, so far as instrumentality is concerned, whether they shall live forever in heaven or in hell. Parents, let the solemn and appalling thought make your blood almost curdle, that you may be the occasion of damnation to y our children; while, on the other hand, let the ecstatic idea kindle the fondest hopes, and excite to the most vigorous effort and prayer, that you may be blessed in lifting their souls to glory, immortality, and eternal life.”

3. Because eternity is at stake I would encourage the parents in two ways. Pray, fast, weep and ask God to do that work that only He can do. Run to the church for help. Ask how you can partner with them for the sake of this child's soul. I would encourage these parents to prioritize like never before their child's spiritual condition.

4. Church is not where we take children so their character and morals can be strengthened. We go to church to worship the one who has provided through His grace our hope of eternity through His son.


Anonymous said...

I agree that it is an heart issue. I believe we all come to a place in our lives where we question the things we do: Is this necessary? Does it really matter? What difference will it make? Are there other alternatives? What are the consequences if I don't do this?

As a parent, I think it is my responsibility to take my children to church even when they may not understand the purpose or have a desire to go. There is something about corporate worship that cannot be replaced. It may help if the parents could find a place where their teenager could serve (use their gifts and talents), so he/she would feel like he/she is contributing to the body of Christ.

My husband is a student pastor and we do not make our teenagers participate in every trip, activity , nor Bible study our student ministry offers. However, worship and Sunday School are not negotiable.

One last thought for parents: What do your children hear you say about church? What is your attitude on Sunday mornings? I pray that my children know that I love to go to church and see it as a privilege and not an obligation.

Norma said...

So far we haven't had the problem of our kids refusing to go to church. I can't fathom NOT being in fellowship with other believers. We went down that road early in our marriage as we transitioned from being college students plugged into a college ministry to being adults plugged into a church. It was a scary time and we are not without the scars to prove it.

In our family church isn't optional. It's just what we do. We're not manic about it. We try not to be like the Pharisees and get all self-righteous about it. We've even recently taken a couple of "staycations" where we've stayed home, but taken a week's break from all our commitments, including church. But we always return and it's always such a blessing to be back with our family of faith.

Church for us is more than duty. It's an opportunity to cultivate relationships with people we love. It's our chance to gather with like-minded believers who love Jesus and love us... to exalt our Lord, to encourage each other and to equip and be equipped to carry the gospel beyond the walls of our church.

It's such a blessing... why would anyone NOT want to go?

Deb Burton said...

Thanks Steve for adding another male voice to the group. I appreciate the lesson from JA James' book.

And Anonymous, your last thoughts are spot on. As discipling parents we have to make sure we're exemplifying the Christian walk, with a cheerful countenance and celebration in our speech. For a lot of families Sunday morning is the tensest time of the week. That should be a contradiction in terms!

Norma, you've had the good fortune of not dealing with this issue I suspect because you've made church attendance a loving expectation. It's not an obligation if mom and dad love going!

Thanks everybody for taking the time to contribute. Everyone has helped from a slightly different perspective which benefits us all.