In “Letting Kids See the Ugly Side of Church“, I encouraged you to allow your older children and teens to witness ugliness when it happens in church. Whether it is a person who behaves in an overtly sinful way, a minister who trades the pulpit for his sins or a congregation involved in turmoil, ugliness in Christianity can upset even the strongest Christian. On the other hand, you can use what is happening to teach your children some crucial spiritual lessons.
The lessons which apply to the ugliness your child is seeing at church will vary somewhat depending upon what is happening. As you reflect with your children about the things they have seen and heard, it is important to let them share their thoughts and feelings with you first. Listen carefully to what they say. Encourage them to share how that makes them feel and what questions they have. Don’t panic at what they share. Knowing their doubts and concerns makes them easier to address. Just because your child doesn’t say his doubts and fears, doesn’t mean they aren’t there. It just means you will be less likely to address them.
So what basic principles should you share with a child who has seen Christians behave in ungodly ways? There are probably many, but here are some of my favorites:
Once when I was little, I complained about a disagreement my parents were having. My parents looked at me and said, “Take notes. You will fight with your spouse one day and you need to know your marriage will survive it.” It’s funny how we as parents want to protect our children from any ugliness in their lives. I have known parents who absolutely refuse to ever let their children hear them arguing. It may be fine in childhood, but then you have raised a child who thinks spouses should never fight. After all, his didn’t!
It may sound far fetched, but I have encountered many adults who thought an argument meant they had a bad marriage because their parents had “never fought”. Unfortunately, we are even more likely as parents to hide the ugly side of Christianity from our children. We then raise children who question the concept of church and even God when they encounter their first ugliness in a Christian or a congregation.
Parents fight. If they don’t, there are other serious problems involved. Two people cannot live together for that many years and never disagree about anything or want to get their own way. Churches too are filled with people. Yes, they are Christians trying to follow God’s Word (granted perhaps some more than others!), but they are still sinful people in need of a Savior. Baptism doesn’t suddenly make you perfect. It makes you forgiven and saved.
Over the years, we have stumbled upon a great way to decorate our Christmas tree. Almost every ornament on our tree now has a story behind it. I love angels and sheep for reminding us God is always loving and caring for us, so that is our basic theme. Some of our memory ornaments are also sheep and angels, while others have their own special meaning.
Years ago, we began buying a special ornament on the various trips we made around the country and around the world. Most of these trips also involved worshipping with the local congregation. Those experiences often included special memories of their own – from the congregation that sent us on our way with a fresh loaf of homemade bread to the congregation in Montreal that held services in a mixture of French and English.
Some of our memory ornaments are from events we participated in that used the talents and gifts with which God blessed one of us – from dancing to music to even cooking. Others are from special brothers and sisters in Christ who wanted us to remember them and how much they loved us or from fun events we attended with the many wonderful friends God has provided us.
Some of our favorite ornaments are ones like these in the photo from family mission trips or to remind us of those we love and serve in far away places. We even have a couple to spur us on to future mission trips and service works.
The best part of our collection is that we encouraged our daughter to add to it with her own faith ornaments. When she has her our own first tree in a couple of years, it will be filled with ornaments reminding her of God’s love and blessings. She can remember all of the ways God has been there for her and reflect on what adventures He might still have in store for her and her own family.
As you decorate your tree this year, notice if you already have some great memory ornaments on it. Share the stories of the ornaments with your children and how they remind you of God’s blessings and care. Tell them how your faith has grown by watching God work in your life and in theirs over the years. You may be surprised to learn your Christmas tree can provide some great faith lessons for your kids.
The debate over giving kids chores has raged on for decades now. Critics say it creates more work for the parents than it saves and distracts children from studying. Proponents often site the benefits of teaching children valuable household skills or the benefit of having a few extra hands doing the work needed around the house. You probably have seen articles mentioning chores as a way to teach responsibility and a work ethic. Did you know giving your kids regular chores can teach them some godly principles, too?
Perseverance (2 Peter 1:5-15) – Anyone who has ever painted a room needing several coats understands the concept of perseverance. Big chores like painting require sticking with something until it is completed. Painting, much like the Christian life, can have fun moments, but in the end it takes inner strength to gut it out until the job is completed.
Sometimes Christianity can be confusing. There are so many churches, looking at the Bible in so many ways. Frankly, some seem so far removed from what God teaches, it is hard to imagine they consider themselves Christian. Yet, as Christian parents, we not only have to figure out how to teach everything in the Bible to our children, but help them learn how to actually live what they read.