The faith of our children

April 20, 2015 — Leave a comment

The Christian faith is more than an extra-curricula activity. Membership in the body of Christ, which is the church, is the central reality of our lived experience. That’s why children should be in worship, participating in the life of the congregation from the earliest age possible. We don’t place our kids in the basement for a family dinner, we shouldn’t do it while our family worships. 

-Jeff Gissing

 

 

I am concerned that the faith we are handing down to our children is inadequate for the realities that they face. As adult Christians the culture we are shaping and the faith we are propogating both seem to me to be misshapen–bent, misguided, and even sickly.

A growing body of research shows that American youth are not experiencing a healthy, flourishing adolescence. Time Magazine reports that teens feel mostly, “bored and checked out” at school. In terms of stress, our youth are experiencing higher levels of stress than many adults. Further, “They rank in the bottom quarter among other developed nations on measures of well-being, life-satisfaction, and relationship quality…” this from a UNICEF study.

All is not well in our homes. What does this have to do with the church? How–you may well ask–does the faith we are teaching our children fail to provide them resources for a flourishing life?

If we begin with the baseline of our culture we see that children are over-scheduled, under-rested, over-weight, and under-excercized. They, like we adults, have created a treadmill of activity that forces them into a reality that adversely shapes health, relationships, and even faith.

A simple glance at the possibilities for my own family are enlightening. Ballet, choir rehearsal, Tae Kwon Do, small group, committee meetings, grocery shopping, church programs, worship, all interspersed with a health dose of car-commuting. The kids can leave for school at 8:30 am and not get home until 6:00 pm or later.

Consider also the economics. Wages are essentially stagnant except for the top 1% of earners. The cost of many foods are increasing significantly and the cost (in time) of getting and preparing healthy meals is also huge. As a result, there is an increase in people “eating on the run,” which usually refers to buying something to eat as you drive. Notice the increase in fast food outlets providing breakfast.

Where is the Christian faith in the midst of this? Essentially, for many, it is a series of obligations they discharge throughout the week just like Tai Kwon Do or ballet. Our faith is easily reduced to a couple of one hour blocks on the family calendar.

The Christian faith is more than an extra-curricula activity. Membership in the body of Christ, which is the church, is the central reality of our lived experience. That’s why children should be in worship, participating in the life of the congregation from the earliest age possible. We don’t place our kids in the basement for a family dinner, we shouldn’t do it while our family worships.

The Christian faith is meant to be lived as the ordering principle of our lives. Writing to the church in Colosse Paul says, “…As you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith as you were taught…” (2:6-7a). In others being a Christian is both a relationship with God through Christ and a way of life.

We follow our Lord along a path and the curbs that run along either side of that pathway of Christian experience are the doctrines of the church that keep us walking along a straight and trustworthy path. Straying from the trail can be dangerous and consequently God has given us his church and his word and sacraments, in order to guide our steps and assure us of his presence with us as a guide.

As long as we understand the Christian faith to be something that we do along with our other community involvements it will always be misunderstood and under-appreciated. D. G. Hart (a presbyterian minister) has written that theology abhors a vacuum. The same is true in the spiritual life: failing to attend to Scripture and to prayer creates a vacuum into which other voices, authorities, and influences will pour. The complexity of contemporary life demans that we take rootedness in God as front and center to who we are. To do less will be to lose our way.

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