A Fictional Story…with some Truth
8:35, Sunday Morning. Church starts in 90, no 85 minutes. “Hurry Up! Get a move on!” Cheerios crunch under my feet, while puddles of milk splatter the table. The cat jumps up to help himself….”Oh well, one less thing to clean up.” The daughter comes down with jeans and a crumpled shirt, and a pair of high-tops. “Really, you are wearing that to church? My mother would never have let me wear something like that, at least please go brush your hair.”
“Geeze mom, thanks a lot,” as the high tops tromp back up stairs for another look in the mirror.
“Do we have to go to church?” The younger son whines from the table. “I don’t want to! Its BORING.”
“Yes, we are going to church, we haven’t been in six weeks and we need to get back in the habit.”
“But, why! I could have gone to an extra practice.”
The teenager finds her way back down stairs, “Yeah, and I’m SO tired. It’s the one day a week I get to sleep in.”
“No. We are going to church. It will be fun. Maybe they will have donuts at Sunday school.”
“Can I bring my iphone?!”
“Can I bring my ipad?!”
“PLEASE! I promise to be good and not fall asleep!”
“Ok fine, just get in the car and act happy when we get there.”
The battles we choose to take with our children are daily and exhausting. From what they eat, to what they wear, to how they behave, to what activities they choose to do, we parents have a lot of minefields to navigate. Making the choice to take our kids to church is one of those choices that takes some determination.
And once we get there, there are even more choices. What are appropriate manners for worship? Is it o.k. for people to text during worship? Is it o.k. for kids to be on Minecraft or play video games?
Let’s face it, we are addicted to our devices and our kids model our behavior.
Maybe going to church is punishment enough, taking away the device just makes them hate church more.
At least they are in church, we argue. I mean, that’s half the battle. What difference does it make if they are on their device? Maybe they will get something out of the service by sitting there.
But here is my question: What are we teaching our children when we don’t expect much of them? If we don’t expect them to sit and listen, they won’t sit and listen. If we don’t expect them to have good manners, they won’t have good manners. Sometimes congregations feel annoyed when kids get up multiple times throughout the service, or when they talk or misbehave. But the truth is, some adults are just as bad.
We live in an ADD society. The belief is, if you can’t say it in 15 minutes, no 7 minutes, no 3 minutes or less, you will lose them. How insulting is that to the human mind?
I sometimes wonder what worship will be like in 20 years.
Certainly Sunday morning is no longer sacred. So churches are offering services on Saturday, and throughout the day on Sunday. Preachers use videos, power points and fog machines to captivate their audiences. Some churches offer worship in 20 minutes or less, even drive-by communion.
Let’s be honest, getting kids out of the house and into church on a Sunday morning is a ton of work, and at that point we haven’t even gotten them into the sanctuary.
So what’s the point? Is it worth the effort? Why should we make our kids come to church in the first place?
We want them to know that community matters. We want them to pray for and know other people whom they wouldn’t normally know. We want them to understand the value and the responsibility of being part of a community. Everyone needs a place to belong.
We want them to know that they matter. Unconditional love isn’t taught in many places. Children, even 45-year-old children, need to remember that in life and in death they belong to God. Everyone needs to remember that they belong to God.
We want them to know that prayer matters. We want them to learn to pray and be prayed for. Learning to pray and practicing prayer is the greatest gift you can give a child, and yourself. Everyone needs to know they are heard and that God is speaking.
We want them to know that worship matters. We all need to remember to put our trust in a Higher Power. The spiritual disciplines of gratitude, hospitality, confession, and service are all practices in which we put God and others before ourselves. If we don’t practice the gifts of the spirit, we easily practice the temptations of the flesh.
The question isn’t whether or not we should allow our kids to play video games during worship. The question is, why would we ever think that was o.k.?
What does that say about how we understand what we are doing in worship and why we are there? This is not about giving parents a guilt trip. God knows that is the last thing we need. I think parents are exhausted. I think we are over run by the calendar and the desire to give our children a perfect childhood. In the midst of remembering the homework, the shin guards, the music, the fundraiser, we have forgotten to sit down and be quiet.
In the desire to feel good, have a good time, get entertained and get our money’s worth, we have forgotten that everything has been given.
In a society where everything is a choice, we have chosen to make reverence an option.
I do not believe that God is dead, but I wonder if God has been forgotten.
And that makes me weep.