“I’d be LIVID if someone prayed with/to/at my kids.” My heart leapt into my throat and then sank as I read these words from a Facebook group on parenting. The original post had asked for advice on what to do as a parent if you found out your mother had prayed with your children when they couldn’t sleep, even though you are agnostic/atheist and raising your children the same way. This was just one of the many comments expressing this sentiment that flooded the post.
I’ll be honest. I’ve been pretty sad lately about people leaving the faith. Deconstruction seems to be the word on the lips of half the people I know, and it feels like the other half doesn’t have the tools to face the reasons people deconstruct head on. And this is the world my daughter has been born into. A world where people who have been hurt in one way or another want nothing to do with the Church. What can we do?
My daughter is only nine months old, so we’re not quite to the point where she’ll start asking questions about why my parents and her aunts don’t attend church. But I believe my husband and I should start thinking about how we’ll respond when she does ask us those questions. And I’ve thought of a few places to start.
Prioritizing Church during the Time We Have
As parents, we have limited time with our children and unlimited potential for how we can spend that time. We want to give our children the whole universe and then some. I want to set my children up to be successful, well-adjusted adults. And I believe church should be a vital part of that.
Hebrews 10:24–25 states,
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
How we spend our time shows our children what we value and what is important. I strongly believe that parents should prioritize church attendance and involvement over other activities, especially when there is growing hostility and scrutiny toward the Christian faith. A commitment to the Church will show your children that life in Christ is done together. While your child will not always be thrilled to go to church on Sunday (like for me right now, when it appears that church will infringe upon nap time, leading to an overtired nine-month-old), we know God’s Word never returns void.
Finding Opportunities to Experience Jesus—without Us
Having peers who also attend church is important. But in today’s age, it’s not always a given that your children will have peers in church. Some research suggests that Gen Z is the least churched generation, and with the decline of church affiliation continuing, it’s safe to say we’re likely going to start hearing some of the same opinions I saw from parents in that Facebook group from our kids’ classmates’ parents. Inviting classmates to church events (such as VBS) is a fantastic idea to get kids involved in church. However, the Fourth Commandment, “Honor your father and your mother” (Small Catechism, Fourth Commandment), should always be at the front of mind. Make sure you can help these kids honor their parents’ wishes and be upfront with them about what will happen at church events (they will be told about Jesus while playing games, for instance).
Another way we can make sure kids experience faith with their peers is through participation in events such as summer camp, retreats, or the Youth Gathering. We know from LCMS research that one of our greatest measures of retention is participation in these events. I think this is because children get to explore faith with people their own age. When kids and their peers experience the same things you do, it allows them to take ownership of their beliefs.
Creating Opportunities to ExpressFrustrations
I know I am not alone when I say I experience frustrations as a Christian. My sinful nature often wants to make God more like me, agreeing with all of my opinions instead of following the holy God that the Word tells us He is. I’ve felt the sinful tug to leave and say God agrees with me. Our children need to know that we aren’t blind to this and recognize that it’s okay to feel uncomfortable and not have all the answers.
When I was dating my now-husband, I was thrilled with how his family did this. When they ate a meal together, the daily devotion from that quarter’s issue of My Devotions was read (appropriate for upper elementary kids and beyond) and a question was asked. Often, this leads to deeper discussion than the original one asked. “I’ve been meaning to ask you . . .” was a phrase said frequently.
Being in a routine where Scripture is read and faith is pondered is a practice with immense impact.
Small Catechism quotation is from Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation, copyright © 1986, 2017 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.
In this month’s Everyday Faith Calendar, you’ll walk through 1 John and find daily readings, questions, and activities to create a place where your children can express concerns, speak about complex parts of faith, and praise Jesus.