If you keep up with trends in the church, you know that one of the major ones is the decline of regular attendance at Sunday morning worship times. Some studies indicate that a regularly attending family may only be in church once or twice a month.
Additionally, there is a rising recognition that the home is the primary place of spiritual formation and that the parents are the greatest influence of faith in their children and that message gets shared with parents on an increasing basis (just look at my last post).
When considering these facts, it can begin to feel as though the church is becoming…well, inconsequential. Pointless. I mean, if the time at church with the children is so minuscule and the influence so secondary, why do we even go to church?
Does going to church as a family even matter?
Yes. Yes. Yes! A thousand times…Yes!
You see, right from the start, God intended the faith community to be an integral part of the spiritual growth of children. When Moses shared with parents that they should talk about their faith when they sit at home and when they walk along the road, and when they rise and before they sleep, he did so in the presence of the entire Israelite community (Deut. 4:10). All of Israel was there.
All of Israel heard the commands. They all understood that the responsibility to nurture the following generations. They all understood that if things were going to go well for them and if they would increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey then THEY ALL needed to pass on their faith to their “children and their children after them” (Deut. 6:1).
The parents were never supposed to do it alone.
We were supposed to pass on our faith at home in the midst of a faith community who joined us in our discipleship and supported us in our work of faith formation.
That’s what the church is supposed to be doing today! As a faith community, the church is the place where parents find nurture, support, and equipping for the work they are called to do. And those who minister to families and children, whether paid or volunteer, have the unique privilege to be the hands and feet of that partnership.
And that’s why that hour or two, that short period of time each week, is so important.
In 1976, developmentalist John Westerhoff wrote a book entitled Will our Children have Faith? and concluded with this answer: “that depends on whether or not they are embraced and formed within a faith community.” In other words, yes, even though parents have the greatest influence, his studies found that how children are engaged in the church has profound effects on how their faith grows.
Children need the formative influence of the faith community. They need relationships with each other, with the youth in church and with the adults in church (Dr. Catherine Stonehouse, 2016).
What happens with that time is crucially important for the whole family.
It is worth the time, the effort, and the love necessary in regularly bringing our children to church.
What happens in that hour or two can create for a child a deep sense of belonging, purpose, and meaning within a community that coincides with the values and teachings of their parents and creates relationships that can last long into the future. As parents, taking our kids to church opens the door for us to…
- Seek for ways to nurture and support connections within the faith community.
- Create intentional space for intergenerational relationships
- Find times for children to join the faith community in worship, in serving, in sharing the story of faith.
- Find ways to engage the children in their legacy, the legacy of our faith.
My mom often told me in regard to parenting that the days are long but the years are short. When it comes to bringing our children to church, the hours spent there may feel short, but the legacy lasts long. Let’s make the discipleship of our children a both/and not an either/or and give them the riches found in the community of faith known as the body of Christ.
I originally wrote this post to encourage children, youth, and family pastors that their work in the church matters greatly. To read the original version, click here.
For more information about
- Kids in Worship
- Determining which Type of Family Ministry model works best for your church
- Discipleship in Intergenerational community
- Encouraging the continued conversation through Practical Discipleship at Home
- Seminars, Workshops, Coaching
About this Blog
Refocus Ministry was started by Christina Embree, wife to Pastor Luke, mom to three wonderful kids, and family minister at Nicholasville UMC. She is passionate about seeing churches partnering with families to encourage faith formation at home and equipping parents to disciple their kids in the faith. She recently graduated with a Masters of Arts in Ministry focusing on Family, Youth and Children’s Ministry at Wesley Seminary, she also blogs at www.refocusministry.org and is a contributing blogger at D6 Family and Seedbed