Some people say that families are busier than ever these days, but I’m not convinced that’s really true.
I grew up in a family with six children all born within 10 years, and our house was a hub of activity. My mom did an amazing job caring for us, and my dad worked full time while taking evening classes to earn a college degree.
We six kids were involved in a variety of pursuits such as 4-H, Boy Scouts, T-ball, piano lessons, science fair, swimming lessons, band, choir, track, cross country, drama club, city youth musical group, newspaper routes, and part-time jobs. It was a very busy household.
And we worshiped together on Sunday mornings, our family filling an entire church pew (until we were teenagers and we sat with our friends in the balcony). If one of us was sick then Mom stayed home with the sick child while Dad took the rest of us to church. I don’t remember any discussion about whether or not we were going to church on Sunday. It was something our family did together weekly. My parents demonstrated that participating in worship was a joy and a privilege. It was a priority to them and became a priority for me.
Fast forward to when I became a parent. Our daughters participated in soccer, gymnastics, ballet, art classes, choir, safety patrol, Girl Scouts, student council, music lessons, and swim team. By middle school there was volleyball, band, track, tennis, and accelerated math classes. In high school they added marching band, AP and dual credit classes, independent study mentorships, youth orchestra, Latin Club, National Honor Society, volunteering, and part-time jobs. There were weekends when my husband and I had color-coded charts so we knew what time and where to drop off or pick up each daughter. Busy? — Definitely!
And yet we worshiped together as a family on Sundays. I don’t remember my children ever asking if they “had to” go to church. It was something we all did together. Worship became a priority for our daughters and they continued to attend places of worship even while away at college and into adulthood.
I am a little sad that people who attend worship once a month claim to be “regular” worshipers. I’m also concerned when I hear some of the reasons parents give for not participating in worship more consistently.
- It’s the only day they can sleep in. 11:00 a.m. doesn’t seem unreasonably early to me. Would a Sunday afternoon nap be an option?
- They want to spend family time. Worshiping together can be some of the most valuable family time.
- They have relatives visiting from out of town. Out-of-town guests are welcomed at church, too.
- The kids don’t want to go. Do parents express joy in the opportunity to worship? Children notice.
We need one another just as a body needs all its parts, and children need a faith foundation that can carry them into adolescence and adulthood when parents are no longer their biggest influences.
Personal prayer and scripture reading are vital spiritual disciplines, and online sermons and podcasts are useful tools, but faith development happens in relationship with one another. By giving and receiving encouragement, gaining deeper understanding of scripture, and serving together, we are strengthened and empowered to be the body of Christ in the world.
I am savvy enough to know that church doesn’t have to — and shouldn’t — look the same as it did when I was a kid or even when my daughters were kids. The society in which we live is changing. But our need to experience God in community has not changed and may be more important now than ever.
Maybe a church building on a Sunday morning is not where you will find community. Maybe your faith will grow while gathered in a home or a coffee shop with a group of friends who seek to become more Christ-like and to support one another in that journey. As the church continues to move out beyond our walls my prayer is that we can create opportunities for relationship-building faith communities to take root and thrive.
Take time this week to make fellowship with other believers a priority.
The Bible knows nothing of solitary religion.John Wesley