Your Kids in Church? 8 Practical Tips for Parents

Today’s churches are struggling to keep the younger generation. Their parents are in church. Their grandparents are in church. But, there are huge gaps. I see it every time I go back to the United States. I sit near the back of the auditorium of a church of around a thousand. I look around me. Probably half of the attendees have white hair. What does that tell me? We’re not keeping our kids. (You see, I have quite a few gray hairs myself, and my kids are grown and married. They are the next generation, so I know what I’m talking about.) There’s a whole generation of teens and young adults who simply aren’t there.

Why?

It’s happening in excellent churches with Bible preaching pastors and wonderful people making up the church body. These people care. They have good families. The preaching and singing glorify God.

So, what’s the problem? Why don’t kids—teens and young adults—go to church?

I believe there are two reasons.

  • Parental values. They say that values are taught and caught. I believe there’s a lot more to it, but it’s true that children—especially from age eleven upwards—acutely understand what’s going on at home. They have the best antennae in the world. They pick up on lifted eyebrows and nuances. They can hear through walls! Your young child knows more about your real values than you know yourself. He is watching you for leadership. So, what are you doing? Oh yes, you go to church—every time the door is open. You even do one good work. It might be ladies’ meeting or a special prayer effort, a children’s outreach, or a sports night. You do one thing besides services. You’re an active member. Yet, that’s about it. Junior has never seen you open your Bible on your own. You forget to pray before meals. You don’t have family devotions of any kind. You don’t pray together about family matters. You don’t ask God to meet needs. Yet, you go to church every service. Do you know what the antennae pick up? Static. Hypocrisy. Junior isn’t convinced that church attendance actually did you any good. He’s not sure your works are an outpouring of your heart. So, he throws it all away—lock, stock, and barrel. He wants something real.
  • Parental involvement. Time is everything. Quality time is everything. You need both in parenting! I believe that a parent who invests his life—sacrificing much of his own “free time” for the good of his children—will reap the rewards. So many parents have their children signed up for lots of worthy activities after school: gymnastics, soccer, music lessons, etc. Kids are whisked from school to the activity, they grab a bite to eat at the nearest fast food and go to the next thing. At ten p.m. they’re trying to finish up their homework—and tomorrow will be the same. Families don’t have family time. They have time in the car. Truthfully, that’s better than nothing. But, they aren’t together as a complete family in non-pressure time. Kids don’t feel connected with Mom and Dad because they’re not together much. Children don’t feel free to discuss things with their parents and confident they’re loved just as they are. They’re not secure.

These children get to their teen years, and they deal with challenges by clamming up at home, and texting and hanging out with friends. They don’t relate to Mom and Dad. Unless these teens are with other church families—doubtful—they quit going to church.

What can Christian parents do?

  1. Cut down on the extras—even good activities. Children need free time for playing. They need family time and enough sleep. They do better when after-school activities are limited. Be choosy. Less is more.
  2. Make family time a priority. What I mean is that, unless it’s extremely important and rare (which kids understand), you’ll be home with your kids at least three nights a week. You do something together—all the family—on Saturdays. It can be cleaning the garage or yard work and laundry, but you are together, doing things as a family unit. Hikes, bike rides, or a visit to a neighborhood park are great, refreshing get-aways for everyone. (By the way, all family time should be phone free for everyone.)
  3. Invest in each child. Doing things along with your child creates fabulous opportunities to talk. It’s not too confrontational, because all the time you’re both doing something. Kids need to be able to express their fears, news, and concerns. They need to know that Mom and Dad are non-judgmental and safe. Moms and dads shouldn’t go around sharing what their teen told them. This builds respect, and believe it or not, these stable relationships between children and their parents contribute to the furtherance of the church.
  4. Help your child have good, Christian friends. This was difficult for us, because our children were in the “between” age group in our small church. But there was one fine young man our son could befriend, and we tried to get them together often. Our daughter had it harder. We actually found her a friend in another country (about three hours from us), and a wonderful friendship developed. It meant traveling for us and the girl’s family, but it was more than worth the effort. Please understand: our kids had other friends, too, but their closest friends were Christians. In the teen years, these friendships are vital.
  5. Be faithful to church—and involved in a family ministry. Many church families only warm the pews once a week. When the whole family is faithful and involved, children get the message that church is important. What kind of a ministry can you do together with your kids? Give it some thought and volunteer. If you can’t think of anything, ask your pastor. Most children who were actually active in church all their lives continue to be active in church. When they were involved along with their parents, they usually stay in church.
  6. Be genuinely godly. Teens know your priorities. They feel genuineness and artificiality, as well. They sniff out hypocrisy better than anyone. The family that has a sweet atmosphere because both parents genuinely love the Lord and each other will help their kids desire to love God and family. The parents who share their own Christian walk in a transparent way help their children understand how to deal biblically with struggles, how to pray, and how to trust God. But, when there’s strife, selfishness, harshness, and contradiction between words and actions, children tend to trash their parents’ “values.” Sadly, that includes the church. When parents can’t forgive nasty people in their church, it’s no wonder kids blame the church for their hurts. Show them how to biblically resolve problems and show faithfulness in spite of hurt.
  7. Pray for each child. This begins before your baby is born and continues ever afterwards. Even when your children are adults, pray for them. God can turn around the most wayward child and break through to a hardened heart.
  8. Trust God. Many times, we can’t see what God is doing. Trust Him to do what’s best for your child.

If your grown child isn’t presently in church, pray for him and trust the Lord. God cares.

I have the weirdest superpower

When I read about other people’s superpowers, I usually crack up. But I have friends with serious superpowers, too: teaching, showing mercy, organizing, “keeping kids alive,” cooking, blitz cleaning, etc. I admire every one of these ladies!

And then, there are the more unique friends: One’s hand tendons roll. Another completely flops his tongue upside down. My family can raise one eyebrow very high. Superpowers tend to be quirky, silly, and frankly … who cares?

Mine is special.

And, it’s just as weird as other people’s.

I smell things.

You might smell things, too, but probably not like I do.

I actually smell things when I see a photo.

  • Bread? Yummm.
  • Lilacs? Sweet.
  • Gumbo? Smell the shrimp and spices.
  • Roses? Those, too.
  • Gas pumps. I smell the fumes.
  • Lemons or chocolate? Yes, quite a visceral reaction.

It’s really crazy when I browse Pinterest, since photographs trigger a genuine smell reaction.

Maybe the connection between my nose and my mind has rewired. I never heard of anyone else with my goofy gift. It’s true. And yes, sometime’s I think I’m bonkers.

Did you know that God recognizes smells, too?

The priests in the Old Testament burned special incense, a recipe mandated by God Himself. It was so special that it couldn’t be used for anything except worship. And the LORD said unto Moses, Take unto thee sweet spices, stacte, and onycha, and galbanum; these sweet spices with pure frankincense: of each shall there be a like weight: And thou shalt make it a perfume, a confection after the art of the apothecary, tempered together, pure and holy: And thou shalt beat some of it very small, and put of it before the testimony in the tabernacle of the congregation, where I will meet with thee: it shall be unto you most holy (Exodus 30:34-36).

The incense burned, and the smoke of it covered the mercy seat that is upon the testimony (Leviticus 16:12-13).

God was pleased with this perfumed smoke in the air.

It was a complete sensory experience for the high priest, too. The gold, silver, brass, beautifully embroidered curtains, colors, and blood and fire filled his vision. Little bells tinkled in his ears—the bells that let those outside know he was still alive and moving around in the Holy of Holies. The cloud of incense billowed over the Mercy Seat as he made the sprinkled blood offering to cover the sins of the people for another year.

David said, Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice (Psalm 141:2).

In the New Testament, the prayers of God’s people actually become perfume in heaven. What a concept! Our prayers smell sweet to God.

And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints (Revelation 5:8).

And another angel came and stood at the altar, having a golden censer; and there was given unto him much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, which came with the prayers of the saints, ascended up before God out of the angel’s hand (Revelation 8:3-4).

I wonder how many sweet puffs of perfume I sent up today.

How about you?

Easter memories and actualities

Christ the Lord is risen today! Alleluia!

The sanctuary is adorned with myriad pots of white Easter lillies wrapped in purple foil, and the organ plays. Our children’s choir, in two-piece robes with ridiculous, huge bows at our necks, walks down the center aisle, singing Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee to the tune of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy. When our choir gets into place up front, our minister floats across the platform in his white robe with the special purple and gold scarf and begins the invocation. “Jesus is risen. Let us rejoice.” And the adult choir begins the anthem.

One very early Easter morning when I was a teen, our family went to a park to hear another choir’s resurrection songs. I remember the trees were lacy with tiny chartreuse leaves, dogwoods were in bloom, and the beautiful voices sang out. Low in the grave He lay Up from the grave He arose! It was thrilling.

Between my participation in the children’s choir and the dewy Easter morning in the park, I was born again. I understood the significance of Easter. No tomb can hold Him. He is God. He is our Redeemer. He’s alive!

The resurrection is the crowning pinnacle of the gospel.

Jesus died on the cross. That’s a terrible and wonderful fact, since His death—the perfect Son of God willingly paying the price for my sins—made it so that I could decide to acknowledge that payment and be saved.

And, even though He died and was buried, He rose.

Jesus told his disciples what would happen. He told the Jewish leaders as well. But his disciples didn’t understand. The leaders did, but they said, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God (John 19:7b).

For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened (made alive) by the Spirit (1 Peter 3:18).

After Jesus’ death, the Jewish leaders paid hush money to those who guarded the tomb, so that the people wouldn’t know what happened (Matthew 28:11-15).

Many saw Him after the resurrection. He was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me (Paul) also, as of one born out of due time (1 Corinthians 15:5-8).

Well over five hundred people saw Jesus alive, walking on the earth, talking to them, even eating food. He stayed around for forty days.

Disciples and angels watched as He ascended into heaven, promising to come again.

Why is it so important that Jesus is alive? Wasn’t His death enough?

Many religions portray Jesus on the cross, in glass caskets, and lying down on slabs—dead. While it’s true He suffered on the cross and was buried in a cave tomb, the most miraculous part of the gospel is His resurrection.

But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive (1 Corinthians 15:20-22).

The resurrection of Jesus gives us the way to eternal life. The resurrection gives us hope.

Jesus said unto her (the woman at the well), I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live (John 11:25).

Christ the Lord is risen today! Alleluia!

Have a Happy Easter!

What on earth does “godly” mean?

What does it mean to be godly?

Have you ever met a person who exudes godliness? What was that person like?

  • I remember years ago meeting some elderly people who embodied peace and joy. Is that godliness?
  • I had the privilege to meet a Romanian woman who had been put in jail and had suffered for Christ in many ways. She was peaceful, calm, and God’s power was manifested in a frail body. Was that godliness?
  • I inwardly criticized someone for refusing to stand up to his critics, for seeming weak and being sweet. Later, I realized that he was Christ-like, not me. Is that godliness?
  • In the Bible, women are supposed to immitate those women who profess godliness in their dress, actions, and lifestyle (1 Timothy 2:9-10). What kind of women are they?

So, what’s godliness? What does it mean to be godly?

I found a definition that was basically conforming to God’s wishes and laws, but frankly, I think godliness means much more than that.

Godliness begins with belonging to the Lord. It also is about being set apart—actually living to please God. It’s a life purpose. But know that the LORD hath set apart him that is godly for himself: the LORD will hear when I call unto him (Psalm 4:3).

How can we achieve true godliness? Do we merely adjust our virtual haloes and soldier on? Do we fake it ’til we make it?

How does it happen?

It doesn’t happen overnight. Godliness is a result of the process of sanctification—what God does in our lives as we grow in Him. Most Christians take years to be conformed into the image of Christ.

Salvation begins to teach us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world (Titus 2:12). Notice that first we need to deny ungodliness and sinful desires. We put away the bad stuff and add the good: sober living, righteousness, godliness.

Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers has this to say about living soberly, righteously and godly: “In these three terms the blessed life our Lord would have His own to lead on earth is summed up—to ourselves, to our neighbour, and to our God. The first, “soberly,” to ourselves—wisely and temperately, keeping ever a mastery over our passions; the second, “righteously”—justly and honourably, having due regard to our duty towards our neighbour; the third, “godly”—piously, ever remembering to live as in the presence of the Eternal.”

Living in the consciousness of God’s presence takes practice, discipline, and Christian growth.

The Lord describes this process this way: According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue … And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity (2 Peter 1:3, 6-7).

The power to be godly comes from God. He has called us to holiness. We can add virtues to our lives, one of them being godly—through His power.

The Bible says we need to follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness (1 Timothy 6:11b).

One of the characteristics I’ve seen in godly people is a beautiful presence. It’s almost as if their faces radiate the Lord—reflecting Him. They smile. They’re calm, peaceful, and humble. They serve others. And, when they speak, wisdom speaks. They walk with God and know the Bible. It’s wonderful to be acquainted with people who are truly godly.

I want to be like that.

Follow after … godliness.

Women of the Bible 3: Who are we?

My grandfather was Hepher, the son of Gilead, of the family of Manasseh. My father had no sons, but I have plenty of sisters. I think my parents must have been hard up for girls’ names, since all of us got –ah at the end. I am Noah. Can you believe it? Just like the guy who built the ark and saved his family and the animals. My sisters’ names are even worse. But I’m being foolish.

My father was faithful to God, but Jehovah only gave him daughters.

When our father passed away, my sisters and I were single women. We had no brother to take care of us. Our father’s wealth would pass to no one if we couldn’t inherit. So, all five of us got our heads together and came upon a plan. It was bold, but we figured it never hurt to ask. The result would determine if we’d be destitute and the community would need to help us, or we would be able to inherit, just as if we were sons.

We presented ourselves to the leader, the priest, princes, and the congregation by the door of the tabernacle. My eldest sister spoke, “Our father died in the wilderness, and he was not in the company of them that gathered themselves together against the LORD in the company of Korah; but died in his own sin, and had no sons. Why should the name of our father be done away from among his family, because he hath no son? Give unto us therefore a possession among the brethren of our father.”

The leader turned his back on us and walked away. We later found out he’d taken our cause before the Lord.

After a half hour, he returned and told everyone that God had spoken to him, saying, “The daughters … speak right: thou shalt surely give them a possession of an inheritance among their father’s brethren; and thou shalt cause the inheritance of their father to pass unto them. And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a man die, and have no son, then ye shall cause his inheritance to pass unto his daughter.”

This ruling became a precedent. God said women could inherit if there were no brothers.

God said something else to our leader: we could only marry within our tribe. If we did not, we wouldn’t keep our inheritance. All of us ended up marrying our father’s brothers’ sons. Thus, we kept our wealth in the tribe of Manasseh.

Through my sisters and me, God showed the generations to come that He is fair and loving, and that He takes care of women left fatherless.

I am thankful for an older sister who was brave enough to speak up; for our leader, who went to God with our petition; and most of all, to God, for pleading our case—and providing for the rights of many young women which would follow.

Praise Jehovah, for He is good.

Who are we? You already know my name. Who are my sisters? And, who was our father?