Everybody knows the secret of successful blogging: to generate hits and attract attention nothing beats negativity. Frame something in a negative way and, especially if it’s controversial and current, you’ll get the visitors. At my old Yinkahdinay blog on Xanga, the most popular thing I’ve ever written was a post from this past March entitled “How to Help Your Children Leave the Church.” As of today, it’s been viewed over 2800 times. Strangely, most of the hits have been from Germany. I’m not sure why.
But I am sure that if I’d framed this post positively, it wouldn’t have garnered nearly the same amount of interest. I wanted to make a point (actually a series of points) and weighing the pros and cons, I gave in to the dark side and went with the negative. I don’t know if it was the right decision and sometimes such things are crap shoots.
Today, I want to revisit that post and frame it positively. Will it receive the same amount of interest? Probably not, especially since I’ve already dealt with this topic. But I do think it is worthwhile to reflect further on it.
Let me begin with a revised version of my disclaimer:
Some important disclaimers before we begin: I should say at the outset that I share these with you first of all because the gospel is at stake. I believe it’s important for our children to stay in the church because this is where the gospel of Christ is proclaimed in Word and sacrament. In an era of Christless Christianity, we cannot take this for granted. Second, I’m writing this to remind myself of how important it is to disciple my own children. I should also say that there is never any guarantee that your children will remain with the church, or that they will be responsive to the gospel promises. You can do everything right, but it is the Holy Spirit who must regenerate the heart, also the hearts of our children. It is all of grace. But, from a human perspective, if you do one, some or all of these things, you certainly improve the odds that your children will stay.
Ten Ways to Help Your Children Love and Stay with the Church
1. Be positive about the church and your relationship to it. Make sure that your children hear and see your positive attitude. Remember to pray regularly for the church and for the pastors, elders, and deacons.
2. Regularly attend worship services. Communicate to your children that you need the ministry of the Word and sacraments and they need it too. There is always room for growth. God’s call to worship applies to your family just as it does to everyone else.
3. Be committed to your local church. Have your children involved as much as possible in the activities of your local church.
4. Make church attendance mandatory for everyone in your home. If they don’t feel like going to church, they should be going anyway (unless they’re sick, of course).
5. Similarly, make catechism attendance mandatory. If they don’t feel like going, again you have to insist. Support the efforts of your pastor to catechize your children. Check to make sure they’re memorizing the catechism, check to see if they’re doing their homework, and make sure they’re prepared for class.
6. Sing from the Book of Praise in your home. Communicate to your children that you actually appreciate the Psalms and Hymns of the church. You want them to embrace these songs and value them. Teach your children the meaning of what they sing.
7. As much as possible, live close enough to the church so that you can be meaningfully involved in the life of the church. If you live further out, look for and take opportunities to move closer.
8. Teach your children about the importance of giving your first fruits to the Lord. Speak to your children about financial contributions to the church. Be sure to set them an example by faithfully giving yourself. Be a cheerful giver!
9. Send them to the Christian school the other children from the congregation attend. This will help them to develop friendships with peers in the church community.
10. Give helpful guidance with regards to their friends and potential marriage partners. Encourage them to have believing friends and to find marriage partners who not only love the Lord, but also love his church.
In short, do everything you can to communicate that the church is not some human organization or a club where you can come and go as you please. Make it clear that the church is your spiritual mother (Gal. 4:26), the body of Christ (Eph. 1:22-23), the bride for which Christ died and which he loves (Eph. 5:25), and the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Tim. 3:15).