I read a blog post earlier this week in which the author suggested sixteen things kids should decide for themselves. The first thing he named was religion. His point was very succinct; basically he stated that parents should take their children to church (synagogue, temple, etc) in the early years and then let the child decide beyond that whether or not he or she would like to pursue that religion. As a churchgoing mother of four, I most vehemently disagree. My oldest daughter is nineteen and was raised going to church and Sunday school regularly. In high school, she also participated in youth group. Her participation was mandatory and nonnegotiable. The same is true and will continue to be true for her three younger siblings.
Looking at it from a secular standpoint, I can fully understand that onlookers might question the effectiveness of my method. Faith, after all, cannot be forced or even coerced. It is only faith if in fact it is freely expressed. Anything else is counterfeit. I get that. I agree, even. So why would I insist that my children participate in church activities? I’ll gladly explain.
My reason for raising my children in the church is twofold. First and foremost, I unimpeachably believe the words that are written in the Bible. All of them. And so I take very personally the final commission Jesus issued when, in Matthew 28:19-20 he told us to, “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” I believe that when it comes to making disciples, there is no better place to start than at home.
Secondly, I believe that the church is—overall—a healthy and positive place to be. That is not to say that I believe that the people who attend church regularly are perfect people. Quite the contrary, actually. Churchgoers are, in fact, every bit as human and prone to stumble as the people who avoid church like the plague. In my experience, though, true believers strive to live right, simply put. And when it comes to my children, I’d much rather surround them with people who are at least trying to live right, than people who don’t care enough to notice.
I allow my children to make all sorts of decisions every single day. Some things, on the other hand, are nonnegotiable, attendance at church and church activities among them. I know that there is a possibility that my children will grow up and choose another way. But for now—while I am responsible for meeting their needs—I will continue to nurture them physically, emotionally and, yes, spiritually as I have been called to do.