Please Come to Church With Your Kids

IMG_3513 (2) (2)I have been involved in youth and children’s ministry for about six years. As a leader, that is. In reality, as a life-long church-attendee I have been involved in those ministries since birth. While I was growing up, my parents prioritized church attendance and involvement above every other activity in life. They wanted us to know that putting Christ first meant putting other things second. My parents are certainly not perfect, and I know that they made mistakes while raising me and my siblings, but I think that they did us a great service by modeling that priority.

As a youth pastor, I am often perplexed by the priorities of the families that I serve. Many of the young people who have called me their youth pastor do not come from families who prioritize Christ and his church the way that my parents did. In fact, many of the kids that I have served (and presently serve) come to church without their parents. That fact certainly saddens me, but it is not what perplexes me.

I am perplexed by the way that many of the non-attending parents (sort of) prioritize church involvement for their kids. These are the parents who perhaps come to church a few times each year, but are very enthusiastic about their kids being at weekly Bible studies, attending activity events, and even going on mission trips during the summer.

I don’t want to over exaggerate the extent to which these parents desire church involvement for their kids. Church seems to be viewed like a positive hobby. That hobby, however, rarely takes precedent over things like family weekend trips, sports teams, or school. If one of the above is going to interfere with church, we are safe assuming that we will not see their child that week. This is also common with a lot of families whose parents actually do regularly attend church. There seems to be this paradox in which parents desire for their children to know the most important Being, but also do not see knowing the most important Being as the most important thing for their children. Perplexed? Me too.

Parents, I want to challenge your thinking on this. Consider what I am teaching your kids when you send them to church: There is an all-powerful God who has made the world and everything in it. The sins of the people God created have disrupted this world and communion with God, but in His love and mercy He has sent His Son to set things right and create a way for creation to be redeemed and restored. That, if true, is certainly the most important thing to teach your children. If untrue, then it is a lie that should be avoided entirely. What it cannot be is a mere hobby. It is either life-changing or it is not. If you believe it is the former, why would you behave as though you believe it is the latter?

To the parent who sends mixed signals about the value of a relationship with God, please reconsider your priorities. If you see church as the place where your kids can be equipped to grow closer to God, I get why you send them, but why don’t you come too? If it’s important for their lives, it is just as important for your life. And if you see it as the place where believers can be supported and encouraged to live the life that God has called them to live, why do you not make it more of a priority over things like sports or weekend getaways?

I am certainly no expert on parenting, but speaking as a youth pastor, believe me when I say that you are doing your children no favors by failing to prioritize their faith over other things. I have known too many kids who started out in my youth ministry with so much enthusiasm for their spiritual lives, only to fall out of church entirely because their parents directly or indirectly encouraged them to pursue other things. If God is real and Jesus is His Son, you better believe that you have a responsibility as parents to guide your kids to Him rather than away from Him. Please prayerfully get your priorities straight, for your kids’ sake, and for your own.

Does God Really Love Us?

god-is-love

I grew up in a Christian home. For as long as I can remember, I have been taught that God is love, and that he is all-powerful. He is the benevolent Lord over this world, and he is in control.

Generally speaking, I have no problem with these teachings. My observation of creation and all of its splendor easily aligns me with belief in an all-powerful God who made it all. I can look at my life and see all of the good (undeserved) things that I have enjoyed, and it is not hard for me to believe that this same God is benevolent.

But what about the ugly in life? One does not have to look far to see that things are not as they should be. Words like “evil” and “suffering” remind us of the horrible reality that ours is a broken world. Glance at the news for any amount of time and your optimistic beliefs will be challenged. Assumptions about a good and powerful God may even be replaced with questions: Is God truly love? Is God truly in control?

I don’t know what has happened in your life, but I can certainly say based on some life experiences of my own that suffering happens. Even more, based on things that I see on the news every single day, suffering happens much more often and much more horribly to people all over the world than I could ever imagine. So, where is God?

I will not try to completely answer that question in this short post. All I can say is that God is indeed good.

I know this because of what he has done.

I was once surprised to learn that the Bible does not actually give a direct answer about where evil itself originated. That fact was obnoxious to me. After all, inquisitive minds want to know. It seemed to me that Scripture sidesteps a pretty important detail. However, the more that I thought about it, the more I came to appreciate what Scripture does say about evil. We don’t get a straight answer about where it comes from, but we do have God’s answer to evil and suffering. And it is a pretty incredible answer.

Sin separates us from God. He requires that we be on the same level as he is in terms of holiness, something that no one can do, as we are all fallen. So, what did he do? Did he abandon us to suffer forever in this fallen world? Absolutely not. In the person of Jesus Christ, we see that God is indeed all-loving. When we were unable to live up to his righteousness, he came down to our level. Ours is not a God who distanced Himself from this evil world. Ours is a God who took this world on; and not as a mighty being, but as one of us. And while he was here, he endured the sinful world, was mocked, beaten, and then murdered. To paraphrase Tim Keller, he hates the evil and suffering in the world so much that he came and lived through it in order to overcome it. We can ask where God is in the midst of so much suffering, and the answer is that he is sympathizing with us, as he went through it too.

While we do not have an answer about the origin of evil, we know what God did about it. In a sense, he took responsibility for it. The responsibility that was ours was put on himself. In that act, we find not the answer to why we suffer, but the profound truth that God is not indifferent to our suffering. He cares.

Does suffering happen? You bet. Is God all-powerful? Our sensibilities tell us that he is. But is he all-loving?

The gospel of Christ tells me that he most certainly is.