Are you surprised by the lack of love and commitment our young people have toward the church?
Are you stunned to see them walk away from the body of Christ?
Do you wonder what the church could have done differently? What the church could have said better? What dynamic program would have made the biggest difference in the lives of those young adults?
Have you stopped to consider whether or not we’ve played a part in making our young people’s exit strategy so convenient… so easy… so almost expected?
We parents hold the keys. What we do and don’t do will affect the choices our young people make. What we say and don’t say will influence their attitude and affection toward the church and toward Christ.
It would be so easy to start with a list of “To do’s” that would help us win our children’s hearts for the Lord. I’d love to begin with a strategic plan for building our kid’s commitment and affection for the church. If it were really all about helping them to “do” more in order to become more attached, that would be where I’d start.
However, I don’t think we need more “To do’s”. Most of the parents I know are busy involving their kids in church ministries. They take them to the retreats, and rallies, and Sunday school, and worship. They buy them the camp t-shirts, and church water bottles, and trendy bibles and cases. The problem isn’t really that we need to “do” more. The problem is that we need to evaluate the ways we are “undoing” all of that important “doing!”
How’s your conversation about the church? As you drive in the car to all of those great church activities… is what you’re saying about the church unraveling the good of what your doing with the church?
Many years ago, my husband and I asked a group of teens from our church how they were doing communicating honor to their parents. We had a great discussion with those kids, but one of them brought up a troubling question. She asked, “What should I do when my parents are speaking poorly of the Pastor and the church when we drive home on Sundays?” She went on, “I love coming to church, but it makes me feel funny when they talk so negatively about what I just enjoyed.”
Wow! I promise you, those parents had no idea that their front seat conversation was undermining the confidence their backseat daughter felt toward her church and the church leadership. They were dutifully ensuring that she attended church, but by their undisciplined conversation, they were undoing all of the good that church attendance should have provided for her. It doesn’t take too many overheard conversations of that nature to convince a young person that church really isn’t all that important, after all.
And we’re surprised when young people leave the church?
How’s your conversation about the Pastor? Everyone needs a pastor! The pastor fills a unique role as the shepherd, teacher, counselor, and in many cases, authority, in a believer’s life.
I knew a woman that faithfully purchased each week’s sermon tapes. I admired her consistency as she took those tapes home week after week. Sadly, one day she shared with me how she would play the audiotapes, (remember those… boy oh boy, am I old) at super speed. She and her son would sit at the kitchen table and laugh at how foolish and silly the pastor sounded. She told me how they would mockingly repeat his words at super speed. Not surprisingly, I watched that preteen become a young man who had a real problem with authority. He became unteachable, prideful, and arrogant.
Again, I promise you, that mom never intended to reap those consequences. In an attempt be “cool” for her boy, she made fun of her pastor and undermined his authority in the eyes of her son. She turned the shepherd into a buffoon; and the man who could have offered her son Godly counsel into a performer to be mocked. At a critical time in her son’s life, she robbed him of an important resource…His pastor.
…I’m afraid she’s not the only mother who has made that same mistake…
And we’re surprised when young people resist submitting to the authority of the Pastor?
How’s your unspoken conversation about the teaching from the pulpit? Sometimes, our lack of conversation, our lack of interaction, and our lack of vulnerability can speak even more loudly than our words!
Does the preached Word move your heart? Do you find yourself convicted by the Holy Spirit of God? Do you ever publicly confess that conviction? In our years of working with young people, we’ve seen an interesting dynamic. Some young folks will never allow you to see what’s happening in their hearts. They’re always an enigma… a question mark when it comes to the working of the Holy Spirit. Without fail, those same young people have parents who behave in the same manner.
I have friends who have never raised their hand during an invitation. They’ve never shared a testimony regarding personal conviction and necessary change. They pray for others, but never share prayer requests about themselves. They maintain a stoic and stony outward appearance of “all is well.” They refuse to embrace transparency. What they are communicating to their children is a picture of independence and self-sufficiency. They are just fine without any intervention from God and their children adopt that same attitude of complacency towards conviction.
Don’t get me wrong. My friends love the Lord. However, they also cling tightly to outward appearances of “all is well.” I suppose it’s their pride that won’t allow them to be vulnerable and to transparently share their needs and the working of the Holy Spirit in their hearts.
Let me be clear. I’m certainly not saying we need to raise our hand at every invitation. We don’t need to air every area of conviction the Lord brings to our attention. We don’t need to publicly share those things that should be private and kept between the Lord and us.
If we never share, respond, or force ourselves to be transparent, we are sending a loud clear message regarding the importance of the church and it’s ministries to our kids. We are communicating independence rather than interdependence; stoicism rather than vulnerability. Young people long for transparency and authenticity and if they don’t see that being modeled by us, they will assuredly go elsewhere to find it.
They lose, we lose, and in the long run, Christ’s church suffers.
Here’s the good news…
In the same way our negative words and lack of transparency can drive our kids away, our positive words and willingness to be vulnerable and share how God is working in our lives through the church can be a powerful cement, wooing and winning our children’s hearts for the Church and for her Savior.
It’s all about our speech patterns!
So what are you communicating today? Don’t let poor or undisciplined communication undo the good actions you're carrying out for your kids. Remember, our kids don’t miss anything!
More to come…