|Vol. 13 No. 6 June 2011||
Owen D. Olbricht
Denominational churches as well as churches of Christ are seeing an exodus of children from their congregations. Along with other factors, parental attitudes and actions are helping to affect this departure because of their failure to teach, direct, discipline and supervise their children.
The attitude of parents toward the elders, preachers, teachers and members can cause children to develop a bad attitude toward the church. A lady invited me to eat the Sunday dinner in her home. Most of the time she spoke maliciously against the leaders and members. During her tirade, she bewailed the fact that even though she had contentiously taken her son to church, after he left home, he no longer associated with the church. Her evil speaking against the church must have influenced the attitude of her son to resolve not to associate with such an undesirable group of hypocrites.
Lack of Biblical Training
Because of a special series of lessons planned by the teen Bible teacher, a member, a professional counselor, was asked to teach his class of around eighty. The substitute teacher brought to class Bible references written on slips of paper that he planned to hand out to class. Not one student raised a hand when he asked for volunteer readers. He then asked for those who brought their Bibles to hold them up. Only one Bible was held up, and that by a visitor. Appalled at this, he asked how many failed to take their math, English and history books to class at school. No hands went up. This led him to emphasize that a Bible at Bible class is more important than textbooks in class at school.
The result of his quizzing the students was that the teacher of the class said his action had been unfair to the students, because the purpose of the class was discussion of relationships and not Bible lessons, that Bible lessons are not appealing to teens. Some of the parents shared with him their displeasure for shaming their children by exposing their failure to bring their Bibles to class.
Influence of Media
Many teens continually listen to trash on their iPods and Blackberries. These fill their heads with immoral music as also do ungodly TV programs and Porn available on websites on the Internet. Such filth that originates in the thinking of worldly minds stirs passions and emotions that leave no room for spiritual things in the hearts of listeners. The result is that what they are hearing and seeing is more exciting and appealing than private devotions, intelligent study of God’s Word and quiet moments of worship with fellow Christians. What more needs to be said?
Jay Leno and many in his audience thought funny his joke, “A recent report stated that Porn is the cause of instability and broken homes.” In response to this he commented, “This is a small price to pay.”
The church of past from the 1700s through most of the 1900s did not need to offset such powerful influences for evil. Until the invention of the radio, the major influence on children was the family, the church and last of all the community. Following radio came movies, then TV and then other sources of corruption. The world has changed and so have the challenges and needs of churches and families.
Because children go more for settings like pep rallies and pop concerts, churches have incorporated such into their services in order to appeal to them. Congregations that do so fail to realize that excitement of worldly activities does not produce spiritual development. Jesus associated with tax collectors and sinners but did not change His message or method in order to change them, but rather called them out of their cultural setting so that they could change to become His followers.
Take Over of Sports
When some parents in New Jersey were asked where their children were on Sunday mornings, they explained that they were supporting their teams on the soccer field. When asked which they was thought more important, the soccer games or worship of God, they replied: “We do not want them to be disloyal to their teams lest they lose the respect of their peers. Forcing them to attend services will turn them against going to church.” Can someone explain this logic to men or to God? What did Jesus mean when He said to seek first the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33).
A number of years ago, a high school senior in Colorado, the star of his soccer team, told his coach that he would go to Wednesday evening Bible class instead of appear in time for the year’s deciding championship game of the state tournament. The coach had observed the boy’s life and respected his decision, which his father had left up to him to make. Although he missed the first half, he arrived in time to play almost all the last half of the game and to make the game winning goal. Instead of losing respect of his peers, he was their hero and was admired by the congregation and many others in the community who learned of his decision.
Sports have affected the lives of young people as well as adults. In the article, “The Agony of Victory,” April 2006, Reader’s Digest, appeared these statements. “From high school gyms to county ball fields, 41 million children younger than 19 participated in organized youth sports in 2005, according to the latest research by the National Council of Youth Sports” (p. 136). “Unlike professional athletes who rest for months during off-season, kids play in multiple leagues throughout the school year, attend sports summer camps and enroll in training clinics during school vacation” (p. 137).
The craze for such participation that has been encouraged by parents and desired by students has brought about many physical injuries according to the above article, but even worse it has destroyed a thirst for the things of God. Many parents show a greater interest in their children excelling in sports and faithful attendance to the games than in being faithful to Jesus.
Members of congregations have missed church gatherings because of sporting events. A Friday night homecoming football game in Texas that conflicted with the closing night of a Gospel meeting brought to about one half the attendance of previous nights. In Fort Scott, Kansas a preacher missed the Wednesday evening Bible class to stay at the baseball field to see the completion of a game. Members in a congregation in New Jersey missed Sunday evening worship in order to attend playoff football games in Philadelphia.
Many congregations dismiss Sunday evening services in deference to the members wanting to watch the Super Bowl. One preacher preached a sermon to exonerate leaders who changed services so that members could take in the entire Super Bowl game. His justification was that Paul’s allusion to ancient games must mean that he had attended them many times. Such logic would prove that Paul also was a farmer (1 Corinthians 9:10-11), a priest (1 Corinthians 9:13), a boxer (1 Corinthians 9:26) and a soldier (Ephesians 6:13-17; 2 Timothy 2:4).
Parents have been delinquent in instilling in their children a respect for Jesus and spiritual matters. The things of the world are given precedence over the things of God. No wonder children find church attendance unimportant and boring. An appetite for spiritual things is no more appealing to them than an opera production for a pop music lover.
Parents must lead the way. Even though not all children will be faithful to Jesus (Consider Eli‘s and David’s children), more of them will be dedicated to Jesus if parents will help them realize what is most important in life by what they say and by how they live. Their lives should say to their children the following: “Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. And the world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:15-17).