A Wake-up Call to Parents

Dear Moms and Dads,

When your kids grow up, leave the church, and later on don’t take your grandchildren to church*, please do not blame the church. Instead, look in the mirror for part of the problem.

I’m 99.9% sure your son Jake is not going to become a professional athlete, but you let his teams occupy an inordinate amount of his time. I am, however, 99.9% sure he will have to live his life with or without the support and comfort faith and a church community can provide.

Kelly, I’m pretty sure your daughter Zoe will not be a Girl Scout when she is 30 or 50, -so I don’t understand why you let her choose the troop over the children’s fellowship. (I also held my tongue when you complained that she “doesn’t know the kids at church”).

Dan, I think it’s great that Jen got a job as a greeter at Applebees. But she’s also on Student Council and taking AP classes, and thus, missing a lot of Sunday School and youth group, -for what?  =Gas money=

Kris, I love family vacations too, but I don’t understand why you scheduled yours for the week of the church youth conference that we advertised 10 months in advance!  Kids come back CHANGED from that event. (Your Joe will come back with… sunburn?)

Maggie, I know you love being outdoors and spending time with family. Me too.  So how come you skipped the family retreat that you told us you wanted?  (Those who went said it was awesome.)

Ed and Nancy, I’m bummed that your James likes karate class better than our fellowship group. What 9 yr old wouldn’t?  Just don’t act surprised when he’s 14 and doesn’t want to come to church at all.

Dean, I’m mystified that when you grounded Amanda for talking back, that it also meant she couldn’t attend our trip to the food pantry that both of you had signed up for.

Mac and MaryAnna used to make me pick up my room, brush my teeth, take a shower, do my chores, go to school, and with some regularity, -go to to church. My parents understood that positioning me to find God (and do whatever else was good for me) was their decision, -not mine alone, and involved some UNPOPULAR CHOICES.

Going to church is no guarantee of faith. But I can guarantee that if your lifestyle, priorities, and calendar choices make church participation quite less than regular, then their future church participation will quite likely be ZERO.   (Time was when that wasn’t as true, but the statistics say times have changed.)

I know how difficult it is to shape young lives. Been working in youth ministry for 30+ years and raised 3 kids of my own. But it only gets harder when parents make promises and don’t keep them, and cave-in the pressures and schedules of the culture around them. I know that sounds harsh, but it’s the truth about parenting children towards faith.

Your church made a promise to you and your child to provide faith formation opportunities. If they aren’t what they should be, speak up!  And if you aren’t what YOU should be, have a serious talk with that person in the mirror.

Your friend,
Neil

*and don’t bring your grandchildren to church
This is a very real lament by many older member in the church. They are unhappy that their children “left the church” …but have an even deeper pain for their grandchildren who they see as being essentially raised as “atheists.”  Some have asked me, “what can we do?” And the sad answer is “what they should have done” 30 years ago.

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