Categories
Christian Living family

Helping our kids love church, again

The reason I hate church is that you pay attention to everyone else there but us.” ~ Megan, age 7

Those words rattled my soul. I’d rather have gotten cold-cocked by Mike Tyson in a bar fight than heard those words. That’s when I knew that things had to drastically change in how both how I related to my family and serving the church.

Every time I volunteered somewhere or went to a meeting it lead to fights with the kids. “You don’t love us you only love stuff at church!

Their anger lead to my tears.

Here’s what I wrote last October in a post, “When your kids hate church“:

Yesterday, I sat in the car with a child who refused to participate. Not all Sunday’s are like that. But sometimes the feet literally stop moving and the tears start flowing. It’s hard to look in your child’s eyes and see them tearfully say “please don’t make me go,” and then force them to go.

I can’t stomach it. That is, clearly, not the type of relational connection I want my children to have with Jesus.

Read the rest

That post lead to an impossible number of conversations with friends in ministry. By sharing my pain and acknowledging that one of my darkest fears had become my reality I connected with others who serve in full-time ministry and find themselves in similar situations.

Of all of those conversations I had a single phrase spoken stuck out to me. Paraphrasing what she said, I’ve probably added to it: (not accusing just thinking out loud)

“I wonder if you’ve laid your children on the alter of your own ideals and put them into impossible situations? They go to a school you have chosen for them which meets all of your ideals for living in the city, they go to a church you have chosen for them meeting the ideals for you living in the city. They walk a mile in your shoes every day and never get a break.”

Dear Jesus, this was true. It cut past the niceties right to the bone.

So we made some changes. Kristen and I have worked on it. And, on our road to recovery, we have seen some moments when our kids love Jesus and His church. Last night was one of those moments as Paul brought his Bible and a little devotional thing from church to do as a bedtime activity with mom. That totally made me cry!

Some other waypoints on this path have included…

  • Praying with and for our kids.
  • Inviting them in to freely sit in on stuff we are doing and to ask questions. Usually, this has been Megan.
  • Putting our family as the priority over our beloved community group when Jackson was born. (We’ll rejoin them this Fall)
  • Being joyful as we made a transition from one congregation to another, in part, based on their feedback.
  • Experiencing Lent together seemed like a turning point. (Kinesthetic learning is perfect for them)
  • Awana, as much as I’ve lamented about it for years as a leader, has been a gift to them as they’ve gotten more familiar with the Bible and how to use it. (A free date night each week for mom/dad has been good for our marriage as a bi-product!)
  • Moments with each kid when they said, “Daddy, remember when you were in charge of that stuff at church? I liked it when you did that. It would be fun for you to do that again. You were good at it. I miss that.
  • Eagerly signing up and bugging us about details of summer fun camp.

Like any hurt or injury it’s a long process. The quote above is from 2008– we’ve been at this for 1/3 of her life. We haven’t arrived and we still have some very difficult things to work through. And I don’t know if they will ever love the Bride of Christ like I do. But I’m happy to see progress.

It brings me deep joy to begin to see how Jesus is bridging the gap and building a relationship with my children in a way that isn’t forced, coerced, or built on expectations from mom or dad.

O, what a day that will be!

By Adam McLane

Adam McLane is a partner at The Youth Cartel, co-author of A Parent's Guide to Understanding Social Media, blogger of 10+ years, and a fan of all things San Diego State University Aztecs.

13 replies on “Helping our kids love church, again”

Hey Adam, thanks for this post. Wow… being a new parent, this really hit me. Thanks for your vulnerability!

I really think this post was helpful because it wasn’t about blame, it was about the realities of kids, church life and parenting. Adam, I think it is a great example that you have included your children in the decision making and you even have the willingness to go to Awana!!!

this post was helpful for me as a dad, youth minister and husband.
nate

Beautiful post Adam – thanks for sharing it. Loved your waypoints.
My kids are still pretty young but I have thought about these days from the very beginning. Anxiety comes in quickly for things we care about the most and I pray the Lord will give us all wisdom and strength here.

Wow Adam! As someone who doesn’t yet have kids and also just started working full time at a church, I find your article particularly interesting. Thanks for being open and honest!

Thanks Maggie. It was a wake-up call for us. I don’t know if I’ll ever be fortunate enough to work in a church again. But if I do I think I will be more intentional about protecting my time with family and delineating between my work ministry and my home ministry.

This post was a follow-up to the previous one… and there’s been so much progress!

Appreciate it for this post,
However, with teens or even preteens, if I saw that they were being challenged and growing spiritually (versus just being entertained), I would stay regardless of how I personally felt about it. I do not get a warm fuzzy feeling at our current place of worship, and it’s taken a long time for me personally to begin to feel comfortable there, but it is a most excellent situation for my teens. I can give up a few years of my preference for that. I believe it has actually resulted in quality examination of my own spiritual walk and a stronger understanding of my relationship with God.
But if they were little? I’d be looking. Mom needs lots of good filling and growing herself to be pouring into those little buckets all day. It’s not that the older kids don’t need that, too, they do, they are just expanding their sources to other Godly adults and that is appropriate at their age.

While reading your post I had a flashback to my childhood of a similar experience. My Dad is a pastor, and my mom loves to sing in the choir. When I was in 1st grade I sat by myself on the front row, my brother sat with friends. One Sunday morning when my parents were processingin with everyone I started crying, and apparently so much that bot ofmy parents got out of line to tend to me. I wished I could sit together with my family. My mom ended up making me a special church activity kit for Sundays.

I remember when you first posted your original article and recall thinking about a song that a veteran youth worker’s kids sing to her. (tune is just keep swimming, Finding Nemo) “What do you do when you see someone you know, just keep walking, just keep walking, walking, walking, out the door…” They were frustrated that they never got to leave church.

As a full time youth pastor, I appreciate your concern regarding your own kids. Getting parents to be the spiritual leaders of their kids are sometimes the hardest thing to do and by no means do I think forcing it upon them is always the best choice. It’s good to see you and your wife being honest with your kids and vulnerable to mistakes. That will pay off for them big dividends in the future. Good stuff man, keep writing and processing! Thank you!

Take this post from a former full-time youth pastor to one currently doing it… my kids are no longer in the danger zone and yours are. (If you have them.)

Don’t just say it’s nice we’re recovering. Do what it takes today to fix it.

Leave a Reply