Our culture places a lot of emphasis on education. Without it, we are told, we cannot succeed.
Our churches place a lot of emphasis on attendance. Make sure your kids are in children’s church, at camp, in youth group, on retreats.
Our families place a lot of emphasis on activities. Make sure little Johnny is playing sports, or has guitar lessons, or all of the above. Make sure little Suzy is cheering, or playing soccer, or on the debate team, or all of the above.
Parents who are also followers of Christ are bombarded with thousands of messages all clamboring up the mountain of attention. Each strives for a space on the priority list.
Amid the commotion and noise of life, one thing children must see from parents who claim the name of Christ is an authentic, humble, ongoing pursuit of God.
Kids are smart enough not to expect perfection, which means they are smart enough to recognize fraud. Kids are experienced enough to expect failure, and wise enough to expect an apology. Kids have witnessed enough to know everything is not what it seems, and hungry enough to want to see someone making an authentic effort to live what they hear on Sunday.
After a lifetime in church I have become convinced the number one reason kids leave church after high-school has almost nothing to do with atheism they face in college or a pastor who believed in 6-day creationism. I am persuaded it is because kids so rarely see lived out what they hear preached week-in-and-week-out by anyone authentically and humbly in an ongoing way. This includes–especially includes–their parents.
Parent, kids hear the all-week arguing magically transformed into the Sunday morning glad handing, “Good morning, brother. Isn’t God good?” And they know it is hypocrisy. They hear church members being gossiped about at home, yet greeting with a smile and laugh at church. And they know it is hypocrisy. They hear the pastor talk about faith, trusting with God and walking with Him, yet see their own parents worry over bills every week. And they wonder why God cannot be trusted. They hear the pastor talk about the need for Bible reading in the home, yet they have never experienced it a single time. And they know it is disobedience. They know kids are supposed to be disciplined in love, yet are only ever disciplined in anger. And they suppose God to be the same way.
In short, kids learn at home first and foremost whether the whole “God thing” is even real.
After 18 years of such is it any wonder so many leave church never to return. They aren’t walking away from God. They are walking away from an lifelong game of Candyland.
Parents, you will never be perfect. You can, however, be authentic. You can be humble. And you can pursue God as a deer pursues the cool, refreshing creek. Your kids will see. They will learn. They will remember. And they just might believe.