Everyone talks about leaving a better planet for the children. Why nobody tries to leave better children to the planet?
That’s one of my favorite quotes, and as a parent of two above average teenagers, it is one that I have taken to heart for the last 16 years.
We do an awful lot for the children in the church, don’t we? Many churches invest tens of thousands of dollars in staff, curriculum, markers and construction paper for children’s programs. VBS may be the biggest production of the year. To keep them safe we do background checks and cut windows into classroom doors.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m in favor of all of this stuff. It’s part of leaving a better church to our kids.
But the best way to raise a spoiled child is to meet his or her every desire without expecting them to do chores around the house and make some sacrifices for other members of the family.
The early ages are when kids learn to be humans, to behave to societal norms, use silverware, not make *those* noises at inappropriate times.
In the church what expectations do we have of our kids? Gone are the days when we expected an elementary school-aged child to put on Sunday best and sit perfectly well-behaved through an endless worship service. This is a good thing.
But what do we expect of them?
This is when we teach kids that spiritual disciples such as attendance, service and giving are all critical to spiritual formation and making church happen.
We need to make sure that kids are part of service days like spring clean up where we give them appropriate tasks, rather than just letting them play on the mulch pile. Most Sunday School programs have some kind of offering program, but does this continue when you discuss tithing in confirmation classes?
Look at the cycle of kids in your church. It’s likely to see lots of elementary-aged kids, and this number dwindles perhaps at the middle school level when we start to see more activities like soccer or swim meets encroaching on Sundays and this trend continues through high school and college.
So what are we waiting for? Why do we choose to reach just a fraction of these kids once they enter high school? When these kids come back in their 20s and 30s, those church participation habits will already be set. Let’s be sure we’ve raised them while we have the chance.