7 years ago…and JUST as relevant and powerful…parents and g-parents, get a load of this!

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Your kid’s an All Star? Wow! Someday he’ll be average like the rest of us.

NOTE: A lot of comments have focused on “church.” As one who believes the church is people and not a location or institution, I wish i could have communicated more clearly that this is about we parents living our faith. “Faith activities” and “community” was my intention. Those things come in numerous flavors. Following Jesus is not about sitting in a “church service” once a week. That said, my tongue-in-cheek approach is not intended to offend.

The church in America is puzzled. Young adults are leaving in droves. Magazines, books and blogs are wagging the finger of blame to point out who is responsible. Some say it is a failure of youth ministry, some point to church budgets and some nail the blame on outdated, unhip worship services. We parents are shocked that our kids just really aren’t all that into Jesus.

When I look for someone to blame I head into the restroom and look into a mirror. Yupp, there he is. I blame him. That parent looking back at me is where I have to start.

If you’re a parent, I’m might tick you off in this post. But, hear me out. I think that we, as parents are guilty of some things that make it easy for our kids to put faith low on their priority list.

Keys to Making Your Kids Apathetic About Faith

1) Put academic pursuits above faith-building activities. Encourage your child to put everything else aside for academic gain. Afterall, when they are 24 and not interested in faith and following Christ, you’ll still be thrilled that they got an A in pre-calculus, right? Instead of teaching them balance, teach them that all else comes second to academics. Quick … who graduated in the top 5 of your high school class? Unless you were one of them, I bet you have no idea. I don’t.

2) Chase the gold ball first and foremost. Afterall, your child is a star. Drive 400 miles so your child can play hockey but refuse to take them to a home group bible study because it’s 20 minutes away.

2b) Buy into the “select,” “elite,” “premier” titles for leagues that play outside of the school season and take pride in your kid wearing the label. Hey now, he’s an All-Star! No one would pay $1000 for their kid to join, “Bunch-of-kids-paying-to-play Team.” But, “Elite?!?” Boy, howdy! That’s the big time!

2c) Believe the school coach who tells you that your kid won’t play if he doesn’t play in the offseason. The truth is, if your kid really is a star, he could go to Disney for the first week of the season and come back and start for his school team. The determined coach might make him sit a whole game to teach him a lesson. But, trust me, if Julie can shoot the rock for 20 points a game, she’s in the lineup. I remember a stellar soccer athlete who played with my son in high school. Chris missed the entire preseason because of winning a national baseball championship. With no workouts, no double sessions, his first day back with the soccer team, he started and scored two goals. Several hard-working “premier” players sat on the bench and watched him do it. (Chris never played soccer outside the school season but was a perpetual district all-star selection.) The hard reality is, if your kid is not a star, an average of 3 new stars a year will play varsity as freshmen. That means there’s always 12 kids who are the top prospects. Swallow hard and encourage your kid to improve but be careful what you sacrifice to make him a star at little Podunk High here in Maine.

2d) By the way, just because your kid got a letter inviting him to attend a baseball camp in West Virginia does not mean he is being recruited. You’ll know when recruiting happens. Coaches start calling as regularly as telemarketers, they send your kid handwritten notes and they often bypass you to talk to your kid. A letter with a printed label from an athletic department is not recruitment. When a coach shows up to watch your kid play and then talks to you and your kid, that’s recruiting.

3) Teach your kid that the dollar is almighty. I see it all the time. Faith activities fly out the window when students say, “I’d like to, but I have to work.” Parents think jobs teach responsibility when, in reality, most students are merely accumulating wealth to buy the things they want. Our kids learn that faith activities should be put aside for the “responsibility” of holding a job. They will never again get to spend 100% of their paychecks on the stuff they want.

3b) Make them pay outright for faith activities like youth retreats and faith community activities while you support their sports, music, drama and endeavors with checks for camps and “select” groups and expensive equipment. This sends a loud and clear message of what you really want to see them involved in and what you value most. Complain loudly about how expensive a three-day youth event is but then don’t bat an eye when you pay four times that for a three-day sports camp.

4) Refuse to acknowledge that the primary motivating force in kids’ lives is relationship. Connections with others is what drives kids to be involved. It’s the reason that peer pressure is such a big deal in adolescence. Sending kids to bible classes and lectures is almost entirely ineffective apart from relationship and friendships that help them process what they learn. As kids share faith experiences like retreats, mission trips and student ministry fun, they build common bonds with one another that work as a glue to Christian community. In fact, a strong argument can be made that faith is designed to be lived in community with other believers. By doing all you can to keep your kids from experiencing the bonds of love in a Christian community, you help insure that they can easily walk away without feeling like they are missing anything. Kids build friendships with the kids they spend time with.

5) Model apathy in your own life. If following Jesus is only about sitting in a church service once a week and going to meetings, young adults opt out. Teenagers and young adults are looking for things that are worth their time. Authentic, genuine, relevant relationships where people are growing in relationship with Jesus is appealing. Meaningless duty and ritual holds no attraction.

There are no guarantees that your children will follow Christ even if you have a vibrant, purposeful relationship with Him. But, on the other hand, if we, as parents do not do all we can to help our children develop meaningful relationships in Jesus, we miss a major opportunity to lead them and show them the path worth walking.

I want my kids to see that their dad follows Jesus with everything. I want them to know that my greatest hope for them is that they follow Him too.

Mt. 6:33 Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. (The Message)

On a personal note: I know the struggle. My wife and I have lived the struggle firsthand. My son was recruited by a few D1 NCAA schools for baseball and opted instead to attend a small D3 school. My daughter was recruited to play field hockey by a couple D2 programs and ended up playing D3 when the scholarship offer was not enough to make her top school affordable. Both played in “premier” leagues. Both got A’s in high school though we often told them not to stress out too much over it. Both are in honor societies in college and my son now has offers from UNC, Univ. of Wisconsin, Johns Hopkins and Weil Cornell for a Phd in Pharmacology. Neither ever missed a youth group retreat, conference or mission trip because of their sports or academic commitments. Both missed a game or two to attend faith-based activities. Both missed school for family vacations. Both held down part-time jobs in high school and learned to give employers advance notice for upcoming retreats. My son often changed into his baseball uniform at church to arrive in the third inning of Sunday games. Robin and I did all we could to make sure they connected in student ministry even when it meant driving straight from a tournament to a music festival at midnight so that they would not miss out. It was that important to us. My youngest, a culinary student, lost a restaurant job because he went on a mission trip. That’s fine. Thankfully, all 3 have strong faith walks today. That is due only to God’s grace. But, I do believe that our efforts and example helped them long for a community-based faith.

 

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Church attendance and Mission?

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Live as a Disciple of Jesus What does that lifestyle look like? 
Note by Robin – Don’t be “put off” by the title of this article.  I read it last week…a friend of mine wrote it.  It is NOT, I repeat NOT trying to downplay the importance of worship and the “gathering” call of local congregations.  It is NON-NEGOTIABLE truth, both biblically and from a spiritual “health” perspective, that weekly worship and participation in a vibrant faith community are essential for a growing disciple and follower of Jesus.  What the article IS trying to do is challenge disciples to be able to see their daily lives as prime disciple-making time.  In other words, the BIG IDEA, that being, that often we believe that our participation in worship excuses us from living the life of a disciple daily is a major deterrent to what God is attempting to do in all of our lives.   The Mission of Jesus is what the Lord saved us FOR…Jesus saves with his grace and love, but Jesus saves us for a purpose – to join him in what God is doing in the world – seeking and saving the lost.  SO, read it carefully…take it to heart!  I promised you MONTHS ago, that I would share with you what a life as a disciple would look like – well, here it is!
 
Four Ways Church Attendance Can be a Stumbling Block for Mission 
 
We feel as though “going to church” makes us good Christians…that’s been a popular belief within many churches for years.  Christians have been enculturated to think that if we attend church regularly, we are obeying a well-established rule set out for us that we might become good Christians. This is potentially legalistic and can take the place of meaningful relationship with God. The temptation can be to think that if we “go to church,” we are then doing enough to be followers of Jesus. The focus here is primarily on attending church rather than engaging with God’s mission. Of course, the two things should not necessarily cancel each other out. 
 
Churches have many programs, events and weekly meetings which Christians are mostly expected to attend. Our culture places a high value on busyness, so sometimes it can feel that if we are busy, we are living meaningful lives. This attitude has infiltrated the church. If we are busy then we are hard at work for God at ministry. Sometimes however, church programs are more about keeping the internal machinery of the church going, that is, survival. When this happens and Christians get caught up in this busyness for the survival of the church, it hinders God’s mission. We might feel satisfied that we are doing “God’s work”, but it can in fact be shaping us to be inward oriented rather than missionally focused. 
 
Church can foster a sense of dualism 
 
We are very good at discerning the Spirit of God in our churches but we are more ambivalent about what it looks like to discern God’s Spirit in the world. How is God active in our neighborhoods? Where is God in our workplace? Is church ministry elevated above the call God has place on the lives of doctors, cleaners, architects and technology consultants for example? Going to church can sometimes foster a sense that we are moving into, and then out of, God’s presence when we leave the gatherings. This stops us from participating with God’s mission in our neighborhoods and society. 
 
Church can make us feel comfortable. On the one hand this is important for meeting together as Christians. We gather in order to practice the habits of an alternate world and we get a glimpse into the coming kingdom. That ought to fill us with hope, longing, and comfort. However, if we are not prepared as we gather to interact with a world that is broken and sinful, if we fail to see the brokenness and sin in the church, if we stop lamenting and crying out to God for a new universe, then we are being shaped into safe, comfortable Christians who will avoid the radical call to join with God on his mission.  
 
We can turn into hearers not doers  
 
When we attend church it can be a consumerist experience where we listen and receive doctrine. This fosters a passive stance. We Jesus followers love our theology, worship songs, and doctrines however what produces transformation is taking action and putting into practice what we hear on the platforms and in the sanctuaries of our churches. 
 
We become witnesses to the gospel as we embody the gospel, not merely talk about it. In this way a watching world will point to us and say, “There is the gospel among those people. There is shalom. There is the reality of another kind of world.” An embodied apologetic is important in a world which is highly suspicious of the church today.  
 
Am I saying that we should stop going to church? No. But I do believe that we could rethink what gathering as the people of God looks like, and the structure of our gatherings could reflect this. The practice and structure of church gatherings must not disable mission. The church is God’s light in the world and exists for the purpose of God’s mission, not for the sake of itself. When going to church becomes an end in itself, it frustrates mission. We need to gather as the church to worship God together but worship is always about being formed by the Holy Spirit who sends us out to mission as we leave where we meet. That’s what makes the heartbeat of the church quicken as it is motivated by self sacrificing love, so that our world sees the attractive face of Christ in the people of God. As we practice the values of the reign of God, we are transformed into those who truly see and hear. As one author recently wrote, “
 
“We’ll practice the ways of Jesus, over and over, until the scales fall from our eyes and our ears begin to hear. As God’s people, this must be the purpose of our gatherings.”

From a MORAL powerhouse! Rabbi Sacks

1Moral Philosophy is HUGE in my world…and whether you want to acknowledge it or not, it is in YOURS too!  This video presentation by Rabbi J Sacks is HUGE!  Listen carefully and take notes…this is one of the watershed moments in history to contemplate this epic shift in moral reasoning and action.