It has been six (Seven? Ten? Three hundred?) weeks since my family has rushed out the door on a Sunday morning, shoes in hand, yelling over our shoulders to hurry up for crying out loud.
I have had my ups and downs with the American church in my forty years: disenchantment, longing, anger and pouting, acceptance, disbelief and love. There was a time when I didn’t feel like I needed the church, or at least the organized version of it.
Perhaps you wonder too. Perhaps you are currently reevaluating your involvement with a local church. Perhaps you are thinking about rejoining one or taking a long break from one. Or perhaps COVID-19’s obligatory break from services has made your heart grow fonder of yours. Perhaps it’s becoming more apparent to you that church does not equal a formal morning meeting but is a group of people who chase Jesus together.
Did you know that almost 2/3 of church goers do so for the benefit of their kids? Wherever you are in this conversation about church – pro or against or unsure – I know you love your kids and want good things for them. I do too and here are my favorite perks of involving kids in a local church.
Four Ways Our Kids Benefit from Church:
Kids need a full-bodied community. School and extended family can be a great way for kids to make friends and get input from other adults but they both are often shy of the complete package. In a church setting, kids not only make connections with other kids their own age but have the opportunity to interact with elderly adults, parents of their friends, young adults, and other kids their senior and junior. They observe how other families respond to each other and (hopefully) enter their homes. Kids benefit from interactions with every age demographic and in a healthy environment, our churches include every generation, shade of the rainbow and variation of ability.
Kids need spiritual input from other adults. Yes, it is up to us parents to teach our kids about Jesus. But we need help. Different generations of believers from different backgrounds with different ways of engaging God and walking out their beliefs show our kids that God is wide and God is deep and God is for everyone. I don’t want my kids to merely learn about God from me and their dad, but also through the gentleman worshiping across the aisle and the lady sharing her story on stage and their Sunday teacher. God looks a thousand different shades of beautiful and kids benefit from exposure to a variety of role models.
Kids need spiritual input from other kids. Sometimes my kids feel like our family is in the spiritual minority and sometimes they are right. When our kids interact with their peers in church spaces and they lock eyes with other second graders as the teacher talks about Jesus, there is solidarity that happens. “Oh, you too? It’s not just me, it’s not just my family. That’s cool.” And it’s triple the impact when our kids see older (cooler) kids playing on the worship team and telling stories of their cross-culture trips. Our kids need to see other kids following Jesus.
Kids need healthy parents. We adults are healthier when we are doing life with people who encourage us, challenge our beliefs and habits, huddle around us in crisis and text us on crummy days. We are healthier when we have people who point us to Jesus, love us unconditionally and make us baked ziti when we have surgery. Seeing their parents lean into their church community in healthy, reciprocal relationships is very good for our kids.
One of the best gifts we can ever give our kids is our healthiest selves. Not all churches will bring about our health. Not every church frees every family to step up with their contributions of gifts and talents. Nor will all churches be a great fit for the spiritual input your kids currently need nor offer the community your family is looking for.
Don’t let that stop you.
Of course, no church is a perfect church, no leaders are perfect leaders and we are all goners but for the grace of God.
My kids have been a part of churches comprised of eight people, house churches of a dozen families and churches of a few hundred. All of these models are real church and my kids are richer because of them all.
Some of us adults feel like we don’t need church. And maybe we don’t.
But our kids do.
[Just to clarify, “church” can look a hundred different ways. From the very beginning the church was varied: they met in the local synagogues (Acts 9:2, Acts 22:19) and in local homes (Acts 2:46, Romans 16:5). Church get-togethers were celebrated on Saturdays, on Sundays and every day of the week (Luke 4:16, Acts 2:46, Acts 20:7). The meetings looked like sermons and meals and sharing (Acts 2:45, Acts 13:13-31, 1 Corinthians. 11:20-21,33). I don’t believe there is one right way to do church.
If you feel burned out on big church and are having a hard time finding one that works for your family, perhaps small church might be a good fit. I consider meeting with a few friends for Bible study, joining a house church or small group, church too. And in this season of sheltering in place, church has proven to be digital as well. We need each other.]
For more on how families benefit from the local church, check out Parenting Beyond Your Capacity, by Reggie Joiner and Carey Niuewhof.