“Mommy, what are all the guys doing?”
My son’s question surprised me in the middle of worship on Sunday morning. We’d been visiting a new church and it was one of the first times we had brought him into the service with us. We were surrounded by mostly college age and young adults, many sporting hipster fashion that instantly ranked them as “cool” in my kids’ eyes. My only son has a knack for spotting men in a crowd, shaking hands along side his dad, modeling his little self after what the “guys do” and taking pride in his unique status among three sisters.Our pastor led us in corporate prayers and songs of thanksgiving, adoration and then confession. As the church knelt together, my son was honed in, as usual, on the men around him.
“What are they doing mommy, why are all those guys on their knees?” As I explained to him that everyone in the congregation was taking time to ask God for forgiveness, and to repent of choosing our own way before the Lord’s, his eyes grew wide.
“All those guys are saying sorry to Jesus, mom?”
“Yes, all of them”
And with that, his little legs hit the deck and he announced he had some things he wanted to ask God to forgive in his heart too.
Almost instantly, this morning with my son seemed to matter. It was a lesson unfolding in me for months afterward, about community, worship, discipleship, living life alongside our babes, and the future generation of Christians that will become the new guard of the church within our own lifetime.
How are we inviting these young ones into our community, into our traditions? How are we modeling our faith before them each day? I recently read and shared an article on Facebook that sparked some wild discussions about children and youth in today’s churches. It cited the current statistics and they are staggering:
Nearly 70% of children raised in the church leave upon entering adult hood. Less than half ever return.
I’m sure each of us could contribute our own ideas about why this is happening and how this is happening. I’m sure we could spar about theology, or simply hold one another tight and weep together about our Prodigals. For those of us that believe in the church of the Bible, that hold that the church is not just a sweet place for moral teaching or social networking, or even a catalyst for our own personal growth, but rather, that the church is the actual Bride of Christ, we must absolutely grieve that these young people, whom we cared for when they were small, in our homes, and in our Sunday schools are counted among the Lost.
We could easily ignore this, decide not to have the hard conversations about how to tie hearts together, about what isn’t working and where we need to repent. Or conversely, we could become bound in fear, slaves to a method, concerned with how to “do it right” and begin to manage our children in a way that starts to bind them up too. Both options would be rational responses in our grief. But, all I can think about as I ponder my response to the exodus of the 70 % is my small son, drawn into confession by the model of those around him that he esteemed, tied to the greater community, inheriting a faith that transforms, that is relational and true, that ties him to something bigger, someone bigger.
And although his story is in its early chapters, I don’t know what dangerous course he will travel yet, what he will need to be courageous to face, as his mama, I will fight with all I have, right now to tie him to the Body of Christ. I will do whatever I can to make this eternal family real and tangible so that he knows he will never be alone in his journey of faithfulness.
As you prepare your young ones for a life in the church, I’d love to pass on some resources to you, to spur your relationships, your discussions about faith and theology, and some basics about what life looks like in the family of God. We use each of these in our home, and they have been a gift and a blessing. It is so beautiful to share with our children that these are creeds and prayers that have been a part of the church over the centuries and that they are a part of this great legacy.
The Lord’s Prayer – We pray this together at bedtime, sometimes at breakfast or another meal, and the children light up when we pray it in a worship service. They love that they can participate fully!
The Doxology– We sing this at the start of our homeschool day as a call to begin our studies and in our worship tradition at church, it serves as a call to begin worship as well.
Don’t hesitate to ask the staff at your church about where you can get copies of the music from corporate worship times, so you can sing them at home with your kids, or play them in the background throughout your days.
Our favorites for family devotions:
Praying for you as you teach and train your own young ones in the faith. Don’t lose heart, sweet moms and dads,