Sunday, October 19, 2008

Evangelism... to our families: Diagnosing the problem in the family part 1

Disclaimer: I am not trying to point fingers, blame others, or bad name anyone. Many of the things I will talk about were started for a good purpose, but have been expanded to cover areas they are not meant to. My main desire is to encourage a “gut check.” How do you view your family? As a burden, or as a wonderful opportunity to teach, instruct and train these special souls entrusted to you in the ways of the Lord! Keep in mind the instruction given to parents in Deut. 6 as you read this article.

First, we need to diagnose the problem. Lets start with the family.

I believe the family, not the church, is more at fault here. I think this is a problem with far deeper roots than just one or two generations. This problem has stemmed from a mindset that has grown from the days of the first schools. The issue: a lack of interest to teach their children.

Originally, there was still a general desire to seriously invest in the lives of the children. Historically children were taught at home the skills they would need in life by their parents. When schools were first used in this country, parents were still very involved. The parents were the school board, and they chose, paid, and hired the teachers themselves. Soon apathy set in, and parents weren’t so much concerned about the teaching their children were getting, more they were concerned about the convenience of the teaching. This created a downward spiral.

Now don’t get me wrong, there is still a serious desire in any parent for their child to “get knowledge,” but parents have lost the desire to teach their children themselves. This is by far the most effective teaching. When parents teach their own children, the children will also see what they are taught lived out in the lives of their parents. Remember actions speak louder than words!

This lethargy isn’t just confined to unbelievers. I hear it all to often in the church today, “I can’t wait until little *Jane* goes off to school;” or “Won’t it be so nice when you kids all head off the school so you can have that time to spend by yourself (or …so you will be able to go back to work)?” What does that tell the child?

This mindset quickly transferred over to the spiritual training of the children as well. Sunday schools were started. Churches started taking over the teaching of the Catechism (which was meant by Martin Luther to be a help for fathers in teaching their children, by the way, not to be taught by the church.), and churches started organizing youth groups.

Where were the parents in all of this? Some were involved in these developments, while others stayed home (what does that tell a young person, “you only need to go to church until you are…”). Some dropped the kids off for Sunday school, but they didn’t attend until time for the church service, while others attended a separate study for their age group. How often do you think the parents made a point to teach and train their children at home when they were being so “ably” taught at church?

Next came children’s church. Somehow, it was decided that sitting through a 45 minute sermon was too hard for children. Maybe it was thought that they wouldn’t learn anything, it was too “boring”, or maybe they make too much noise.

Let me set the record straight. I know of a two year-old child who would sit quietly through 2-hour services, even though they were being preached in another language! Was he always perfect? Of course not, but normally he was quiet and well behaved. Did it take some teaching on the parent’s part? Yes many hours of work. The dad would spend time each week at home to “practice” sitting in church. (Now don’t think this child was normally a calm or subdued child, in fact he was very active, almost hyper) Don’t think this comes easily. It takes much work, some children are easier to train than others, but it can be done.

Do children learn in church? As soon as us kids were learning how to draw pictures, and learning how to draw stick men, my dad encouraged us to draw pictures of the message, of some point that really stuck out to us. As I have seen the pictures of my younger brother, I have been amazed at what a young age he was able to pull special messages out of the sermon. I often learned so much from my younger brother’s little “sermon notes.”

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