Last Sunday I happened to look out onto the congregation, meaning I left the zone I get into, to see our church singing. I was taking aback when I looked at some people just staring out into the blue like zombies. As I perused the gathered, I saw others singing heartily, enjoying the luxury of being able to sing somewhere besides the shower. Still others I noticed holding the hymnal for their children to help them sing along, too.
Every time I look at the paper, I see pictures of young people drawn to the battlefields of Syria to fight for ISIS, with parents pleading for them to come home. This past Sunday’s newspaper had the title, “From Minneapolis to ISIS”. These young children didn’t learn any values on the basketball court of of their local high school. Perhaps, if they had gone to Sunday School, it would have been different. Just dropping kids off, or sitting them down in a pew during worship, doesn’t cut it. This is true especially when it comes to learning “habits of the heart”.
One thing I hate about going to some Roman Catholic worship service is that there seems to be little participation. You actually have a soloist singing for you, and the priest handles all the rest. I am not trying to throw stones at other Christian denominations, but I will say that parenting continues beyond trying to establish good manners, helping your kids through their homework and getting them into the routine of going to school.
Parenting is a spiritual activity. Did I say spiritual?! Sometimes it seems like war, but when it comes to “habits of the heart”, we need to do at least three things:
1. Teach! Yes, teach them what you believe. Do they know it, or is it just your assumption? Teaching involves dialoging, show and tell, and you witnessing to your faith.
2. Model! Children watch you very closely. They notice the differences between what you do and what you say. They’ll soon find out how important church is to you. If they don’t see you there showing up, participating, doing the whole “nine yards”, you are a phony.
3. Be consistent! Credibility is build on consistency. Things that are important to you are not just things that happen every once in a while. Showing up is a big part of the battle on the road to victory.
Today values slip through the cracks. Parents are busy and expect schools to teach values. The last time I was at a girls’ soccer game, I heard more cursing than the Pittsburgh Steelers locker room witnesses at half time when they are behind by 40 points.
Here is the thing: just as you can’t leave your own health care up to somebody else, you can’t leave your children’s spirituality to other people. Our Sunday School teachers, Pastor, and members of St. John’s only supplement what you can really do. That is, raise your kids in the faith that you hold, knowing that one day they may question it. That will be good, too, because you have them something to think about and believe.