Weekly, I sit in worship service with my daughters, ages seven and four. Often, after worship, I slog to the car wondering, “Why did I bring them to church today?” Sometimes, the question is rhetorical. Other times it is not.
A recent article in a parenting magazine grabbed my attention because it raised the question of why or why not parents should take their kids to church. In Parenting Magazine’s January 2011 issue, Teri Cettina notes, “Young Adults under age 30–today’s and tomorrow’s parents, essentially–are the most likely to be living religion free lives.” However, it is these very same parents who want to expose their children to religion but don’t have a firm idea of which religion or how to go about it.
Cettina encourages parents to expose their children to religion and gives concrete ideas for doing so. I agree with her until she gives her reason for religious education. Her reason is based on research that has found that children who are spiritual are happier and less prone to depression.
I do want my girls to be happy but I want more than that. I want them to be believers and life long journeyers in the Christian path. I want their faith to be central to who they are.
Mary Lois Sanders, a children’s Sunday School Curricula writer, taught me that it is imperative for Sunday school teachers and parents to talk with their children about becoming a Christian. She explained that second through fourth grades are critical years for spiritual development. It is in these years that children discern fact from fantasy and start viewing peers and others as authority figures. In this stage of development, we must share with our children that faith is a source of authority for us.
So how can parents encourage their children to be believers?
At church, I encourage parents to pay attention to what children’s leaders are teaching. Are your children learning the faith stories? Do they come home knowing something about God, Jesus or worship? Are their friends making professions of faith and being baptized?
At home, I encourage you to reaffirm the rituals of worship. For the blessing at meals, teach and pray the Lord’s Prayer. Light candles at Advent. Sing the doxology. Make worship a familiar part of your kid’s lives.
We all want our children to be happy, but as believers, we should want more for our children. We should expect more of the Christian education at our churches than entertainment for our kids and we need to bring our faith and worship into the everyday rituals of home.
Tammy Abee Blom is an ordained Baptist minister, mother of two amazing daughters, and lives in Columbia, South Carolina.