Saturday, November 7, 2015

Should we Raise Kids in Church?

That's a fine-looking high horse
What you got in the stable?
We've a lot of starving faithful”

I grew up in church. I grew up in the South, and while I didn't grow up in the Deep South, most of my mom and dad's family are from that region, so I have roots that reach there. I grew up in the Bible Belt. I grew up going to a private, fundamentalist Baptist School for the entirety of my education. I grew up with a dress code and a code of manners and an air of expectation that included male patriarchy and female subservience.

I grew up riding my bike or walking everywhere in town. I grew up eating dinner at other people's houses because if you stayed long enough another place was set. There are lots of traditions I grew up with that still stick with me after many years. Playing outside for hours, drinking from a hose. Not asking too many questions.

I also grew up confused….

I went to church at a small southern baptist church, it's still there if you want to visit. I'm sure the people are still just as friendly and the atmosphere still welcoming. If it's anything like I remember it will be quiet, reverent and laid back but a touch of class here and there. Like a party where everyone dresses up in nice shirts but wears jeans too, comfort with a touch of respectability.

I also went to a small, Pentecostal church, and specifically one which emphasized a doctrine which is not recognized by Orthodox, mainstream Christianity as within the bounds of accepted doctrine. They embrace Modalism, or more properly called Sabellianism. It was developed by a third century theologian named Sabellius. The idea, in miniature, is that God is not a trinity but one and that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are different “modes” of expression.

These 2 churches could not have been more different (for all the heresy of the Pentecostal church I might add that they were mostly extremely nice people).  As I grew up with all the things previously mentioned I also grew up confused and terrified by these two radically different and in many ways, oppositional, views on God and salvation and in how we should live our lives.

This has, to say the absolute least, left me with a healthy skepticism of churches that emphasize or prey on people's emotions. It has left me somewhat stone-hearted against too much emotionalism in church services and suspicious of those who revel in such a thing.

So how are we to conduct ourselves as parents, grandparents, caregivers, when it comes to children and the church? During my childrens lives they have experienced churches of a similar theology, all of the same denomination with minor differences. We have visited various churches but mostly only attended 4 churches that I can think of, on a consistent basis in the last 11 years. Some have been good experiences that we still cherish and some have been a dark place where we would never go back even if we were paid.

This makes me this good for our children? Is it good to go from church to church? Granted I went to two very different churches but there was consistency you can say that for sure. With the rare exception I attended those churches until I was 18 years old and even on rare occasion when I came back to town for the next year or two. So for almost 2 decades I had some sense of familiarity, some sense of belonging because I grew up there, those churches were as much a part of my hometown and childhood as the local people, the local restaurants, the streets and the familiar hangouts we all flocked to on the weekends.

My children have had very little of that. Is that ok? Is this a good way to grow up in church? Will this leave them more confounded than comforted? And what do you do if you can't find a church at all? I mean there's plenty of churches but there's not many GOOD churches. Many churches are social clubs, others are simply landmarks and staples of the community that people attend to worship their hometown memories and complain about the state of affairs of it all. Other churches were once great but due to corruption, sin or other issues are simply a shell where the Holy Spirit no longer lives. He's already written that the property is condemned but nobody pays it any attention.

No church is perfect because the moment you step in the door you guarantee that it won't be but where do we draw the line between consistency and contentment? And what do we draw that line with? 

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