The question has been posed many times, “Why are some people more committed to spiritual matters and moral norms than others?” This is an important question for me as a father, friend and Children’s Minister. There are many factors that influence the outcomes in all of us from life experiences and our own natural bent, but let us never overlook the social factors.
Sunday school is important, but not just because of the curriculum. Relationships matter. Christianity is not an academic topic like math. It is a way of life learned through years of discipleship. Knowledge of God and his teachings are important, but it is no more important than a sense of belonging to a community that is committed to following the path of Jesus.
Think about it. How much did the Apostles know when Jesus died? A lot less than he had taught them! The gospels record no less than three times that he told them he would die and be resurrected, yet the cross was a surprise and the empty tomb was beyond their wildest imagination. It was their loving relationship with Jesus and their commitment to one another that allowed them to pick up the pieces and become a community filled and guided by the Holy Spirit.
One of the most famous researchers of child development is Erikson, whose psychosocial development theory is regarded to be of utmost importance in the training of school teachers. We will explore his developmental stages in future posts.
For now the general heads up is this: the two social institutions that most greatly influence a child’s faith are the family and the church. (For children who don’t have a worshiping family, a surrogate church family can be just as powerful an influence.) From the church perspective that does not mean that being in the right church will save your children. What is needed is deep meaningful relationships within your church.
Children need connection more than they need us to entertain them. Those words convict me as I struggle to recall the names of 150 children whom I see regularly at church. But learn their names I must. I must show them that they matter to me, because they matter to God. Any worship they are led in or truths they are told about will be tossed in the scrap pile if there isn’t a real connection with a faith filled parental figure and other children, teens, young-, middle-, and senior adults who are clearly walking by faith.
Faith, religiosity, spirituality and morality are all passed from person to person and generation to generation. The congregation connects the child to generations of faithful followers across centuries of church history. That connection is made strong by deep, meaningful, ongoing relationships. So take time to relate with your own children and go out of your way, because that is what it takes in our culture, to help yourself and your child develop relationships across the generations of your local congregation as we all seek to grow together…