Jake is Sarah’s eldest child. I saw Sarah on the first Sunday after she dropped Jake off at University for his first term. She said to me, “It’s pathetic. I want to get into the car and drive four hours to take him to church! There’s a good local church so close to him. He needs to walk out of his door, turn right, go 300 yards and walk through that door. It couldn’t be easier. But it’s up to him now.”
We parent for that day when we are not there. That may be when we discover for the first time whether our child really has faith.
Faith or relationships?
A barrier to making this discovery earlier is that our churches are doing a great job of loving our children. Week after week, our children choose to go to our church. Everyone in the congregation knows them. They belong. They would be missed if they weren’t there. That first Sunday after they leave home, they will walk into a building and most likely not know a soul and no one will know them. They may not even be noticed. What will make them want to walk through the door alone? Only a deep conviction that dependent faith calls them to gather with their brothers and sisters (who they haven’t met yet).
Lockdown may have been a blessing in this sense. Many of us noticed that, while previously our children were happy going to church, it was far harder to engage them with church on a screen, without any relationships. As parents, we learnt a great deal about our children’s capacity to engage with church and our capacity to encourage faith in them. Now we’re back to gathering in person, let’s allow those discoveries to influence our decisions.
Sundays or everyday?
While we parent for the day we are not there, our goal is that they remember that their better Father is always there. He made them. They are more precious to him than they are to us. His knowledge and love are better than ours. As parents, let us try every day to point our children to him, rather than to us. Our children were never our possession. The Lord gave us our children. Only he can give them faith. And so we pray that they would leave home trusting and relying on him.
When your child comes to you in tears because a friendship issue leaves them feeling worthless, rejected and hopeless you have a choice. You could speak to their teacher (if it happened at school). You could phone another parent (to quickly get their child into your child’s bubble of friendship). You could do so many things. Some might improve the situation. But there is a day coming when you will no longer be able to do any of these things. To prepare for that day, have a conversation with your child about the one who will never leave them alone. Faith is grown in the everyday not just on Sundays. Well done. He’s got you both.
A longer version of this article appears in the July edition of Evangelicals Now.