As a pastor’s daughter and a pastor’s wife, I grew up in church, and I am bringing my children up the same way. Our family attends church Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night. We often attend additional services throughout the week in our church and other churches. We are in church a LOT!
I do not share this to boast in any way. In fact, one of the things I learned growing up in church is that when you attend church a lot, you learn that church is not a perfect place, and it doesn’t contain perfect people. It’s easy to get weary, bored, disillusioned, even fed up.
I’m going to be very transparent here. As a pastor’s wife, Sunday is usually the hardest day of the week for me. I am very involved in the ministries of our church. My children are 4 and 5, and our Sunday schedule is very different from our normal schedule. We’re out the door early, and we get home late. Meals are on a different schedule. And there is no doubt that the devil fights extra hard on this day to see that things just don’t go as planned – the kids wake up sick, or someone loses their socks, or keys (that would be me), something breaks – you get the picture! And that list doesn’t even include some of the challenges that can happen at church on an ordinary Sunday. If I am not careful, I can very quickly get grouchy with my husband and children. I can also convey some really wrong attitudes about church to my children, often without even being conscious of it at the time.
I find it sad and frightening to see many young people who are raised in church choosing to leave church when they are grown. I know that there are a variety of reasons, but I pray even now that my children will not take this path. And I pray that the Lord will help my husband and me to instill some truths in them that will help them to desire to continue to be faithful to God’s house when we are no longer taking them to church.
With that in mind, here are some of the things I want to teach my children about church:
1. We go to church because we love the Lord.
I want to make sure my kids know that we don’t go to church just because we are the “preacher’s family”, or church members, or because we should. We don’t go because that’s where our friends are, although it’s a great place to find friends. We don’t go because it’s fun, and we don’t choose not to go when it’s not so fun. We go to church, and we love to go church because Jesus loves the church, and we want to love what He loves. (Eph. 5:25) We don’t have to go to church, we get to go to church. Which leads to my next point…
2. Going to church is a privilege.
I want them to understand that having a local church to attend is a blessing that many do not have. I want them to know that having the freedom to worship God is also a privilege unknown to many around the world.
3. Faithfulness and obedience are more important than talent.
It is easy to praise talent, and that is not necessarily wrong. God gives people abilities that are often amazing and beautiful, and if they are using that for Him, it is a good thing. But it is also a good thing, truly a better thing, to be faithful and obedient. I want to be careful to praise the right things in and before my children. (Lk. 16:10; I Cor. 4:2)
4. Serving in church is an honor, and we serve because we want to be like Jesus.
I want them to know that serving in church is serving Jesus. While some jobs may not be exciting or “fun”, anything we get to do for the King of Kings is an honor, and should be done willingly and well. (Ps. 84:10)
Jesus was a humble servant, and we should never think ourselves too good or too important to be a servant. (Phil. 2:7) (Gal. 5:13)
5. Our brothers and sisters in Christ are our family, and we love them as family.
Just as I am trying to teach my little boy and girl to love one another, to get along with one another, to be kind to one another, to forgive one another, and to serve and defend one another, so I want to teach them these things with their brothers and sisters in Christ. And just as our family is not perfect, neither is our church family perfect. But we are family! If we do not love one another, we are not right with God. (Eph. 4; I Jn. 2)
6. There is joy in serving Jesus! There is also frustration, heartache, and pain. But there is still joy.
I find this one of the most challenging and yet most important things to teach. There is no doubt that my children are going to see some of the disappointments and hurts that happen in churches, because EVERY church is filled with sinners, and sinners sin, even saved sinners! And sin brings pain, damage, and sorrow. But the Lord also has the answers for those problems.
It is a joy to serve Jesus! And when I am discouraged or sad, I pray that the Lord will help me to still demonstrate and communicate the joy of the Lord to my children. Even on my hardest days, I wouldn’t trade the privilege of serving Jesus for anything else in the world.
7. Jesus never changes.
I will fail my children. People we have confidence in may leave or change. But Jesus never fails, never forsakes, never leaves, and never changes. I serve HIM. He is the Rock. He is my purpose. He is my life. I do not live for people, but for a Person.
8. Love is a better motive than duty.
We should do what is right. I intend to teach and require my children to do what is right as long as I can. But I ultimately want them to learn to do right, not because they have to, but because they want to. Duty is a taskmaster that wearies us over time, and we often find that when it is our only motivation, we give up in despair. However, when we do something because of love, the tasks that duty requires are far sweeter, far easier, and far more joyful. (II Cor. 5:14)
I also find that it is not so much my love that motivates me to serve the Lord. My love is too often lacking. It is a realization of the love of Christ, of how much He loves me, that is my greatest motivator.
9. I should go to church if I am a Christian, but going to church does not make me a Christian.
People who profess to follow Christ should go to church. Jesus loves the church. He gave Himself for it. He commands us to go. However, going to church is not what makes me a Christian. It is so easy to fall into the trap of thinking, “I’m a good Christian because I go to church”, or “because I am the pastor’s daughter (or wife)”, or “because I sing in the choir.” NO!
I am a Christian first of all because I have personally trusted Christ to save me from my sin. And I am a faithful Christian, not just because I attend church regularly, but if I am seeking to faithfully follow and be like the Lord Jesus.
I want my children to realize their need of salvation, and to personally accept Christ. And then I want them to realize that will only be true disciples if they choose to love and obey Jesus Christ.
10. The church is to be the launch pad, not the landing pad, of the Christian life.
The church is not designed as a place to just sit and soak. It is designed as a place to stand and serve. It is not to be looked at as a place that exists solely to meet my needs (although I NEED the church). It is a place that equips me to be used by God to meet the needs of others – unsaved and saved. It is a place for giving more than for getting. (Acts 20:35)
11. Activity is not a substitute for spirituality.
That is not an original quote, and although I do not know the source, I know it is true. As much as I want to teach my children to have a servant’s spirit, I also want to teach them that just being busy in the church does not make you spiritual. Apart from a relationship and fellowship with the Lord, busyness can actually create a lot of frustration and bitterness (see Mary & Martha).
12. The church is the house of God, but my body is the temple of God.
There is no doubt that we have a responsibility to teach our children how they ought to “behave…in the house of God” (I Tim. 3:15), but it is even more important that they learn that living for God extends far beyond the doors of the church house. If they are children of God, their bodies are the temple of God, and as such, belong to God. (I Cor. 6:19-20; II Cor. 6:16) This is one of the main reasons we should take care how we live every day.
Just as I want them to respect the church, God’s house, I also want them to respect their bodies as God’s temple. That is why I want to teach them to live lives that are holy – to take care what they see and hear, where they go, what they do, how they dress, what they consume. I want them to know that we are striving to do ALL to the glory of God. (I Cor. 10:31)
My children are very young, and as I write this, I know that I have much to learn, much to live, and much to teach. When they are grown, they will have to choose what their role, if any, will be in the church. I am also acutely aware that many of the attitudes they will have about church will be formed, not by what I say, but by what I do. I pray that God will help me to implement these truths in my own heart so that I may live them before my children.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, and I am always looking for help as I train my children. What are you trying to teach your children about church? What are some ways you try to encourage your children to love and serve the Lord? I’d love to hear from you!