The shooting last Friday at Carver High School reminds us that our neighborhoods, our schools, and our children face the same threats and difficulties we at times wrongly assume are seen only in other areas of the country but not here. That’s just not true.
What does it take to raise children safely and faithfully in the kind of environment our communities and our families experience in 2013? It of course takes a great deal of faith in God, prayer, patience and perseverance, among other things. While some have said it takes a village (true), and others it takes a family (also true), I want to add something every bit as significant.
It takes a church.
While we would all give a hearty amen to that statement, do we really know what that means? And are we willing to act in ways that are consistent with that belief?
For our parents, it means actually bringing your kids to church. Do you seriously think for a moment that if you don’t teach them the importance of church and church life while they are young that they will think church is important when they are older? The youngest years are the most impressionable. Bring your children to church. Have your children in Bible class from cradle roll through their teen years. Get your children to youth activities. There would be no excuses if we were talking about something related to their physical safety. How can we offer excuses for our actions that put their eternal souls in jeopardy?
For the rest of us, we must get off our judgmental high horse and offer prayers for and encouragement to our young parents. When we bemoan that our young families don’t attend like they should, and then offer thinly disguised criticism, contempt and gossip when they do, here’s what we are doing. We are on the side of those who tried to keep the children away from Jesus, instead of like our Lord who called them to Himself with all their immaturity and flaws. And we are telling our young parents, “Maybe it takes a church, but only if I’m not inconvenienced. If I’m inconvenienced or my worship is disturbed, then you’re on your own.”
Here’s an excerpt from a great article and message to parents of young children. We all need to read it, and live it, if we really believe that it takes a church. The whole article can be found at this web link: http://thecommunity.anglican.ca/children/7424/guest-post-dear-parents-with-young-children-in-church/
I know how hard it is to do what you’re doing, but I want you to know, it matters. It matters to me. It matters to my children to not be alone in the pew. It matters to the congregation to know that families care about faith, to see young people… and even on those weeks when you can’t see the little moments, it matters to your children. It matters that they learn that worship is what we do as a community of faith, that everyone is welcome, that their worship matters. When we teach children that their worship matters, we teach them that they are enough right here and right now as members of the church community. They don’t need to wait until they can believe, pray or worship a certain way to be welcome here, and I know adults who are still looking to be shown that. It matters that children learn that they are an integral part of this church, that their prayers, their songs, and even their badly (or perfectly timed depending on who you ask) cries and whines are a joyful noise because it means they are present.
Yes, please train your children in every way, including how to behave “in church.” But we’re here to help, not criticize and judge. Sometimes we don’t know how best to do that. But we commit to you that we are in this together. Because we believe that it takes a church.