Even though I’m not a parent of a teenager (yet), working with teens has taught me one thing about being a parent: one of your primary jobs is to be a chauffeur. Until they are old enough to drive and have their own car, it is the responsibility of the parent to take their children wherever they need to go. There are countless trips to and from school, to sports practices, music lessons, ball games, to their friend’s house, to the store for project supplies and virtually anywhere else that they need to go. By the time their 18 parents should be able to hand their child a bill for all the wear and tear on the family car, and not to mention gasoline, that was used during their childhood. Of course, we don’t do that (or maybe you do) because we see it as our responsibility as parents to nurture our children’s development and we know that it would be difficult for them to participate in these events if we didn’t take them.
However, this is a situation far too common in many households. After a week of running errands and picking up and dropping off our kids, when the time comes for your child to ask, “Can you give me a ride to church/youth group,” they are met with a response of “Not today, I’m too tired.” In that moment, the child is learning, “My parents are willing to take me almost anywhere I ask them, except church. Maybe church isn’t as important as those other activities.” Please do not misunderstand me, I am not saying that every time we make a choice to not drive our kids to church that we are communicating to them that we think church is unimportant. Certainly, there are times when rest is needed. But there also times when sacrifice is required for the spiritual nourishment of our children.
Let’s look at this from the example of a personal trainer. This person is physically fit and goes to the gym faithfully 4-5 times per week. You are a newbie to the gym and you have hired this physical trainer to help get you into shape. He shows you the exercises you should be doing and encourages you as you work out. One day you show up at the gym and your trainer isn’t there. You give him a call and he tells you he just needed a break and he will be there the next day. Over the next few weeks, the trainer misses more and more days at the gym. You come to the conclusion that, since it seems to be working for the trainer, you only need to come to the gym once a week and you can be as physically fit as he is.
For the personal trainer, missing a few days at the gym won’t have much of an immediate impact on their physique and their routine. Of course, there can be a long-term impact if that behavior persists but it won’t be immediately noticeable. For you, however, this attitude and lack of discipline has a much greater immediate impact as it’s much easier to break discipline and give up on your goal.
For a mature Christian, missing a church service every once in a while, probably won’t have much of an immediate impact on your relationship with Christ. That time of rest may even be more refreshing than what you would have experienced at church. The impact on our children may be far greater, however, as they may be just learning what it means to walk with Jesus. They see that you can miss church and still mature as a believer, when, for them, that fellowship and time of bible study is critical to their spiritual development. That may mean that we have to sacrifice our comfort for their greater need. It may mean that we need to prioritize our schedules to show our children that dedication to the family of God comes first, sometimes even before our own family.
What is happening instead, is that church becomes an afterthought, an event where participation is expected only if nothing more pressing is going on. My father-in-law has made the quip, whenever there would be a drop in attendance at church, “Oh, someone must have dropped a hat,” referring to the notion that many people will decide to miss church at the “drop of a hat.” Why is that when our schedules become too bogged down that the first thing to go is attendance at church or bible study? We want our children to grow into mature Christians who will become leaders in the church one day, but what they are learning is that church is something to be considered only when it is convenient. In a challenge to his contemporary readers and to his modern-day ones, the author of Hebrews reminds us that our ability to stand firm in our commitment to Christ and to encourage one another to live godly lives, stems from a desire to gather with the church (Hebrews 10:23-25).
If we desire that our children walk closely with Christ and to have an impact on those around them with the gospel, we need to drive them to church, not away from it. And hopefully there will be the day, when they choose to drive themselves there.
Soli deo gloria,