One of the great pleasures about being at the same church for a long time is that you get to see children grow up from infants into young adults.
As a member of the same church for seventeen years, many of which I originally served as the Senior Minister, I baptised many babies who grew to become leaders of the children’s and youth ministries. I saw a church with hardly any kids in Sunday School and youth group grow into a Christian community with hundreds of young people.
How did the church grow? Well, under God’s grace and sovereignty, Christian parents did the most important thing they could ever do - they led their children in Christ.
Yet in these seventeen years at St George North Anglican, I have also seen some children drop out of church. This sad outcome happens for many reasons, both theological and practical.
But of these reasons, two stand out, which I will explore in more detail below.
1. Kids stop going when their parents are slack in their church attendance
When mum and dad stop going to church, they teach their children that church isn’t really that important.
Whether we like it or not, children learn as much from what we do as what we say. When we easily skip church for weak excuses, we teach our kids that gathering together with others around God’s word is really not as important as the many other temptations upon our time and attention.
The sad reality is that many parents choose for their kids to be football players rather than Christians. When Sunday morning sport is on, they push their kids there, rather than take them to church, and then wonder when they reach adulthood, why their kids no longer have any interest in Christianity.
They make other things a priority for their kids other than church, and then wonder why their children are binge drinking or on drugs or pregnant and hanging around with people that have destructive influence upon them!
Some people have great difficulty coming to church more than twice a month because of endless family gatherings. My wife, Sheree, and I took two years to break in our families … two years of saying, “no we can’t come at that time because we go to church then, but we can come at these other times…”
But it’s not just social gatherings. Christian people all over Australia make other things a priority for their kids on Sundays, rather than church, and then wonder why their kids have gone completely off the rails.
Come to church every week, with your children. Be consistent in this. Model what’s important in life.
2. Kids stop coming when their parents don’t pastor their own children
Children stopped coming to church when their parents delegated the upbringing of their kids to the church.
Don’t leave it to the Kids' Club or Sunday School teachers to do it – it’s your job! It’s the primary job of Christian parents to raise their children into missional disciples for the Lord. The Sunday School teachers are there only to supplement what you are already teaching your kids abut Jesus at home.
How sad it is to see some church-going parents treat their young children as little unbelievers that will need to be converted one day, when they get old enough to understand everything and make up their own minds what is right and wrong. Don’t be like them! Raise your children as Christians, from day one!
In families where the parents didn’t pray and read the Bible with their kids, the children didn’t value the Scriptures, and therefore the voices of others have taken them away from the voice of God.
You want your children to spend eternity in heaven, don’t you? Therefore, show them you love them by showing them Jesus Christ in the Bible every day. Read and discuss the Bible with them. Pray with them. Love them.
When should you start praying with your child, reading the Scriptures with them and taking them to church? Soon after coming home with them from the hospital!
It is simply never too early to raise children as Christians, in a Christian environment with Christian habits and values.
I give thanks to God that children still grow up to become mature Christian adults, even when their parents miss the mark in many ways. I am eternally thankful to my heavenly Father for helping my own adult and nearly-adult children grow up as believers, despite the times I failed to be the perfect Christian father.
Yet, by making church our number-one priority, and by taking the time to pray and read the Bible with my family, God was pleased to have my girls grow into keen Christians, by his power, for his glory.
And remember that the same grace that grows our kids is the same grace that God shows us, as parents. There’s still time to create new habits for your family … today is the first day of the rest of your family life! Make a bold move, for the sake of your kids, and for the glory of God.
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