God à la cart. Our Kid's Faith Isn't Just an Extracurricular Activity
Updated: Apr 15, 2021
One of my kids, I won’t say which, did not like his food to touch. There you go, I just narrowed it down to the fact that it obviously wasn’t Candace.
We would learn much later that this wasn’t just a sensory issue but since he is on the spectrum, for him it was an issue of keeping his food from being tainted. Let’s be honest, there’s a whole market for people who don’t like their food to be mixed. In fact, it’s not just a paper plate industry, schools our “in the fight“ as well.
In fact, public schools have been offering partitioned food trays for as long as I can remember. It's because the gravy makes the bread soggy and no one likes green bean water to saturate the tots or they fall apart. It's not just true of our school lunch because things get messy if we don't "keep things in their proper place."
While we’re being honest, most of us don’t even like for that to happen in our work life either. We fight to keep our job issues at the workplace and rarely enjoy the intrusions when they arise. The reality is that this mindset not only affects our food and our job, but also our spirituality.
Hear me out for a minute. When we prioritize our lives we typically put God at the top of the list. For most of us, family comes second, then so on and so forth. This is an idea that has been around long before the Pareto Principle or any other leadership ideology and practice.
What we don’t realize are the damaging implications of living this out in our spiritual lives. Let’s go back to the partitioned food tray for a moment. If we are really spiritual, God gets to the main entrée partition. It’s the largest and most of us realize that God should probably belong there. Then we try to figure out how to fit everything else into the other smaller partitions. Most often, this reflects desire, not actual practice. However, hobbies and jobs aside, this is a very unhealthy view of life and it is affecting the way that we are raising our kids.
My fear is that we don’t realize we are supporting an unBiblical narrative and worldview that they are following and it is creating unhealthy views of how they see their personal faith.
My fear is that we don’t realize we are supporting an unBiblical narrative and worldview that they are following and it is creating unhealthy views of how they see their personal faith. Let me go ahead and get this out-of-the-way: church isn’t about you. In fact, this might even be why we skip from church to church. Some of us are running from accountability, others because maybe we aren't "getting what we want." But remember, it's not about you. It never has been.
We make it about us because we live in a consumer driven culture. Church is about bringing SOMETHING to God because He deserves it.
Our FAITH then is the vehicle (lunch tray) with which we ENGAGE culture, work our jobs, lead our families. (Like the picture above) If our FAITH is the mechanism that all other things operate under than it DRIVES rather than hinders our daily life. It INFORMS our priorities rather than violates our priorities. So when our kids admit: I have too much homework to go to church, they are telling us that we have taught them to prioritize their faith on a list and today, "homework is more important." If our faith INFORMS all other activities, then I recognize that binge-watching a show then getting a late start on homework isn't the fault of a lack of time, but of priority.
Along these lines then our anxiety doesn't keep us from going to church, but our faith informs our anxiety "greater is He who is in me than He who is in the world." (1 John 4:2-6) We CHOOSE to allow our faith to dictate our priorities and we TRUST GOD in the moments when we aren't sure "what to do."
If our faith INFORMS every area of our lives then the sports they play become secondary to the character building that we want to see in their lives and teamwork becomes MORE meaningful because it doesn't just mean that they can "play nice together" but faith informs our hearts that their hearts and souls are important parts of a healthy person.
In the lunch tray model, a nice day, or a certain college football team (O-H...) easily bumps out growing in our faith because after all, isn't God into forgiving? SO we scoop church off the tray and put the BIG GAME in its place. None of us articulates these things with verbally because we aren't consciously making those choices, rather those choices are revealing our priorities. We don't have to tell our kids what we value because we are living it out right before their eyes. Things like church and youth group aren't just activities. They are the framework and the foundation of what we want to inform their every decision about marriage, about integrity, about choices, and most importantly about what is TRUTH. Buying into the"I don't feel" culture (I'm too tired to....I'm too stressed....I'm too anxious...I'm afraid my friends won't....) only validates for them that our FEELINGS are Truth. I sit knee to knee with far too many students who have allowed feelings to shape their sexuality and the existence of God to not at least give our amazing parents the heads up that this is happening.
We truly are all in this together and as a students ministry, we want the same opportunity to help shape your students faith the way that YouTube, Netflix, the neighbor kids, and their team-mates are doing. We cannot do this without your help.
My final analogy is this. No kid REALLY enjoys going to the dentist at first AND it's painful if it's been a while. They aren't sure if anyone understands them, and they can think of a MILLION other ways to fill their time. But we know as parents, that the time will be well spent. Even though they might disagree on the way there, the feeling they have afterwards, of being clean and feeling refreshed, far outweighs the hesitancy that once barred them from coming. Every Sunday night on the way back from church during my teen years my dad asked the same question: Well, are you glad you went? And every time I can remember I answered "yes." The MOST IMPORTANT THING you can do for your teen, your kids, your spouse, is pray. It sounds so "basic" but how much time do we spend actually engaging the Father's heart for our kids. The time is better spend praying for them rather than shaming them or coercing them. There is a spiritual battle being fought for the heart/soul of our families and our choice to pray serves as a wonderful start to making our faith the foundation.
The below articles don't necessarily reflect the values or views of Spring Hills Church or it's staff or employees. They are provided to allow for discussions between teens and parents.
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