Ten Good Reasons to Bring Your Child to Church (well, our church, anyway)
Last Sunday night a group of parents gathered at our church to discuss Madeline Levine’s new book, Teach Your Children Well: Parenting for Authentic Success. It was a very affirming experience for me, as both a pastor and the mother of an eleven-year-old, to be in a group of parents working hard to be good parents. And when I say “good parents,” I mean people working hard to love their children well, and to raise them to be moral, productive people who can cope with what life throws at them.
And it occurred to me that church is a resource for these parents in so many ways, besides the occasional book group, and we don’t lift that up often enough. So that is what I am doing. Here are the 10 reasons that bringing your child to church is good for you as a parent and good for your child. I am only speaking about our church, First Presbyterian Church of San Anselmo. These reasons may or may not apply to other churches, and if they do not, well, there is a good opportunity for conversation. These reasons are in no particular order.
1. At church, your child will become accustomed to the benefits of silence. We don’t sit in silent prayer every Sunday, or for very long. But we do most Sundays. This is positively countercultural. On a recent trip with my son’s school, I found fifth graders to be essentially incapable of silence. Maybe it’s because no one has ever shown them it’s a good thing.
2. At church, your children will learn stories that are deeply a part of our culture. They’ll certainly need to know them to be a literate adult. They might even need to know some of them for the SAT.
3. Not only will they learn the stories, they will learn that these stories have meaning and hold truths, even if they are not what 21st century people would call “facts.” At some point, when their brains are sophisticated enough to handle it, they might even learn the difference between “truth” and “fact.” They will learn to think critically about these stories, and to apply them to life.
4. You as a parent will be around other parents who support limits and value morals and ethics over SAT scores and trophies. And your kids will be around other kids for whom limits and ethics are “normal.”
5. You and your child will be plunged into a multi-generational environment. They might even end up with a few extra “grandparents” who take a special interest in them, as many of our kids have. These folks have a lot of parenting wisdom to share.
6. You and your child will be around people who emphasize and value hospitality – not in the Martha Stewart sense, but in the welcoming sense. You and your child will be in an environment where differences are valued – differences in ethnic origin, economic circumstance, developmental ability, age, marital status, sexual orientation, physical disability, and even faith, as many of our parents are married to people of different faiths or no faith.
7. You and your child will be encouraged to build bridges across these differences as well as across other divides. I can think of no more important skill for the 21st century.
8. You and your child will find role models for faith in something larger than we are who loves us beyond our imagining and draws us together. These role models help us see that “faith” does not mean “certainty” and that questions and doubt are valued.
9. You and your child will find role models for responding to God’s love by loving back, giving back, being good stewards of the gift of life and the gift of this good earth, and caring for all of creation, including God’s people (which is all people). And you will be given opportunities to do just that: serving meals to people who are homeless, participating in rebuilding after natural disasters, looking for ways to end hunger …
10. Once a week, your child will hear music that is not hip-hop, rap or pop/dance music.
Our church is not perfect – no church is. It is not Utopia. It is filled with humans with human flaws and frailties. And many, many other churches could offer you this same list and maybe even a longer one.
I’d love to hear more reasons. What are yours? Let’s add to the list.