This is part 4 of the series: 7 Principles to Raising Kids Who Love Jesus.
It has been hard to write on this principle! Not because there isn’t a lot to say. There is plenty.
But, the topic of church can stir up lots of emotions for people (even for me). Why?
Because we all have ideals we are passionate about in regards to church and often than not, many feel disappointed by the church. As I approach this topic, I feel the weight, and my own need to grow both in my understanding of the church as well as my commitment and love for it.
Most people talk about church and kids from the angle of the importance of attending church regularly. But, more than this, our kids need to know why we are encouraged to invest in church.
In the Scripture, the one resounding truth is clear. Jesus loves the church. He paid the ultimate price for her.
Acts 20:28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.
Ephesians 5:25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.
It is clear that we are not to look at the church as an institution, organization, or social club. The church is the bride of Christ, for whom he laid down his life. He loves his church.
We often individualize the love of Jesus – Jesus, loves me. This is true, but we lose sight of the fact that he loves us corporately. He loves His church, and that means that the only way for us to have a Christ honoring relationship with the church is to love the church.
The church is Christ’s body, and if we are going to love Him, it means loving His body. Raising kids who love Jesus whole-heartedly means that we raise kids who love what Jesus loves – which means they love the church.
Clarify for our Kids What and Who is the Church
Be Explicit about Why We Engage in Church Activities (i.e. Sunday service, small groups)
“Mom, do we have to go to church today? It is boring.” The problem is, church isn’t fun all the time. My kids generally say they “love” things that are fun or taste really good. How do we teach them to love the church?
Our family went through a season when this question was asked every Sunday. It became fairly clear that we need to revisit why we do what we do. It is amazing how quickly we forget. (This blog post has been that for me again!)
If church is not a building, a social club, or even a fun program, then what is it? The church is a new community of people who have been called out by Jesus to live a new way of life that is radically different from the world’s. Our kids need to know that we are committed to these people. We go to church to worship God together with people who are joined together by Jesus. Jesus has created it in such a way that we need them and they need us.
It is not like a movie or a club, where you opt out if you feel like it. The church is people. It is family consisting of those who do the will of God, and we are to love his church.
Model for Your Children Your Love and Commitment to Your Local Church
We live in a society where so many things compete for our hearts. The regular practice of attending Sunday service together as a family is becoming more difficult to hold as our society offers many other alternative activities. Soccer games, basketball practices, birthday parties. and the list goes on and on. It is difficult to say, “No” to some of these things, but what we say, “Yes” and “No” to makes a lasting impact on our children. Nothing communicates more clearly what is important to you than where you spend your time.
It is About Relationships
When I look back at my early years of attending Sunday morning services with my parents, I can hardly remember anything that was taught in Sunday School. Seriously, almost nothing. (Believe me, it was not because it didn’t have a great program! It was considered to be excellent.) However, I can still see the faces of the teachers who taught me in Sunday School. I remember their kindness. And of course, I remember the snacks!
I remember my parents involvement in church. They modeled for me joy in serving and loving the body of Christ. I don’t remember the lessons taught, but I remember the people who invested in my spiritual growth week in and week out. I remember that time where I felt the Spirit of God as I was praying.
Our kids might not remember all the lessons that they learn in church, but they will remember your investment and commitment to your local church. They will remember how you served, your attitude toward church, and your expression of devotion and love toward the body of Christ.
If you grew up in the church, how many Sunday School lessons can you remember? Probably not many. But, I bet each one of you can remember a few teachers who made a lasting impression in your heart about what it looked like to love Jesus and love His church.
As parents, if your commitment and involvement in church is low, ask yourself why. This is the place your kids can have relationships with other adults of faith. And you need to be that person for other people’s kids. I encourage you to invest in your local body of Christ. It is one of the most valuable thing you can do as you seek to raise kids who love Jesus.
Show our Kids that They have a Place in the Body of Christ
Jesus loves children. When the adults try to keep the children away, Jesus rebukes them and tells them to let the little children come to me. (Matthew 19:14) One of the ways that we show them that they too have a place in the body of Christ is by just bringing them to the things that you are engaged in. Sometimes parents are so focused on creating programs for the kids (and there is time for that), but what the kids need to see is that they are welcome to come (even if they are not doing anything significant at the moment).
As kids get older, kids can be engaged in serving alongside the parents. Our kids generally love serving alongside us. Whether it is putting the chairs out, vacuuming the floors, cleaning up their classrooms, being part of a mission trip, or leading worship and prayers. The kids can use their skills to serve and bless the rest of the body. Hosting small group every week in our house for years has been a very practical way for our kids to practice hospitality.
The Imperfect Church
Will church be perfect? No. The Epistle letters deal with great deal of imperfect pastoral issues at church. But, the apostles never lose the sight and vision of what church is. Rather, they remind and show who we are and how as Jesus’ people, we are to conduct ourselves with one another and in our society.
I have often heard “I love Jesus, but I don’t go to church. The church has done so much wrong in our world. It’s just about Jesus and me.” Others participate in church, but really keep it at arms length – enjoying the things they like, complaining about things they don’t, but not jumping in to be a part of the solution.
The idea of loving Jesus feels so much easier than the actuality of loving him and his church. The Scripture is very clear. We can’t love Jesus without loving the church. We can’t be committed to Jesus and not be committed to his body, no matter how imperfect it is.
Jesus loves us, his church, and one day, the church (us) will be perfected and presented with no blemish. Until then, let’s continue to consider how to spur each other on toward love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, but encouraging one another. (Hebrews 10:24-25)
If you missed Principle 3, read Be Doers of the Word, Not Hearers Only.
What about you? How do you encourage yourself and your children to love the church? Share your thoughts.