By Jennifer Slattery, Crosswalk.com
I’ve served in children’s ministry for over two decades and have noticed an alarming trend in the past five years. Many families don’t seem to prioritize their children’s Sunday school like they once did. I suspect there are numerous reasons for this, from increased busyness to an abundance of easily accessed online content. While I can understand the appeal of watching church on a computer from the comfort of one’s home, especially in the bitterly cold winter months, computer screens inherently lack some vitally important elements. Each Sunday, in classrooms and worship centers across the globe, students receive much more than religious instruction.
Here are 5 reasons to bring your kids to church each Sunday:
1. Regular church attendance helps children build healthy relationships.
We’ve probably all heard about the role peer pressure often plays in a student’s behavior. We’ve also probably heard of kids who connected with the wrong friend group and ended up making poor and potentially life-altering choices. Most parents would do whatever possible to guard their children against this. The problem is, many aren’t alerted to the problem until their kids become teenagers and have already identified with a particular clique.
Proverbs 13:20 states, “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm” (ESV).
Regular church attendance helps students build healthy relationships from a young age with children from like-minded families with invested parents. And because most programs divide by age or grade, students often interact with the same classmates week after week and year after year. As a result, the friendships made in preschool only grow stronger and often continue through high school and beyond. You’re also more likely to know and build relationships with the parents of the youth who will most influence your child.
2. Sunday morning interactions can create positive associations that persist into adulthood.
While I believe children need to learn the truth regarding Jesus in order to stand strong in our chaotic, deceptive, and often destructive culture, that’s not my only focus. You see, I recognize those children brought by their parents today will one day become adults who will choose for themselves whether or not they want to return. Therefore, I do all I can to ensure that they have fun, know they are loved, and experience a sense of belonging.
Granted, this doesn’t guarantee that every laughing child on Sunday morning won’t ever walk away from the faith. But if they do, I hope the memories of how they felt while under the care of loving teachers draw them back. I pray they’ll recognize that the church they attended was so much more than a building where they learned to follow rules. I hope they’ll remember their faith community as an interconnected family, and that they’ll long for that once again.
3. Caring Sunday School teachers reinforce lessons and values taught at home.
When my daughter was young, I often felt like I was fighting a losing battle against the harmful messages our culture often sends. I felt like my husband and I were but two voices in a sea of noise fighting for her attention. I worried that she assumed we didn’t know what we were talking about or found our words irrelevant.
Thankfully, my husband and I never had to parent alone. We always had a strong faith community surrounding us. This included everyone involved in the children’s and youth ministries, along with other church families with whom we regularly interacted. As a result, our daughter heard the same lessons and truths we taught her from numerous others, whether spoken to her directly or in overheard conversations.
Once she became a teenager, she was able to see evidence of these truths in the lives of others. She began to notice the differences between families within and outside the church. While this wasn’t always the case, from her perspective, the families that didn’t know Jesus generally fought more frequently, their homes felt less peaceful, and the parents were less involved. In contrast, the Christ-following families tended to be healthier and happier overall.
4. Parents model the priorities they teach.
You might have heard the phrase, in regard to children, “more is caught than taught.” Most of us have witnessed this phenomenon in life as well. The child raised by a mother who often lied yet regularly instructed him to speak the truth will likely only do so when it suits him. The teenager told daily about the importance of a hard work ethic from a father who badmouths his boss and frequently calls in sick is apt to demonstrate the same attitude.
Similarly, our kids will be prone to develop a strong and vibrant faith if they see us pursuing one as well. This doesn’t mean we must follow Jesus perfectly; that’s impossible. But they do need to see, more than hear, that God truly is important to us, enough that we’re willing to give up an extra couple hours of sleep on Sunday morning.
Our faith becomes contagious when it becomes a way of life.
5. Children develop godly habits.
When my daughter was young, I committed to reading the Bible to her each night before bed. I wanted to raise her on truth and to point her to Jesus. While she eventually outgrew this mother-daughter ritual, she has maintained the spiritual discipline. Throughout her high school years, during some intense challenges faced in college, and now as a married young adult, she has routinely prioritized Scripture.
Experts say it takes around 66 days, or roughly 2 months, for a habit to form. Imagine the patterns and spiritual strength built into a child who attended church weekly for eighteen years. Allowing for missed Sundays due to travel or sickness, kids could easily spend over 800 mornings in a faith-focused environment. That’s 1,200 hours spent learning delayed gratification, the values of honesty and demonstrating kindness, and developing personal integrity, all while cultivating a hope-filled biblical worldview.
Now, envision the contrast between an eighteen-year-old who received such intentional character training compared to the youth who spent his Sundays sleeping in and playing video games.
Parenting might be one of the most challenging jobs you and I could hold. We’re not simply helping our children reach the age of adulthood. With every intentional moment spent, lesson given, and choice made, we’re building lives. We’re impacting hearts that will either be nurtured toward Christ or neglected to follow the sinful and selfish trends of our culture.
Proverbs 22:6 provides a powerful truth principle we can hold tight to when we’re tempted to disengage: “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
In other words, what you and I do today, what we focus on as parents, will have lifelong significance. When we prioritize church, we send a strong message to our kids. Our actions tell them that God matters. We demonstrate the power of a life built on faith.
Photo Credit: iStock/Getty Images Plus/monkeybusinessimages
Jennifer Slattery is a writer and speaker who hosts the Faith Over Fear podcast. She’s addressed women’s groups, Bible studies, and writers across the nation. She’s the author of Building a Family and numerous other titles and maintains a devotional blog at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud.com.
As the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries, she’s passionate about helping women experience Christ’s freedom in all areas of their lives. Visit her online to learn more about her speaking or to book her for your next women’s event and sign up for her free quarterly newsletter HERE and make sure to connect with her on Facebook and Instagram.