As a parent, how important is it to you that your child feels a sense of belonging at church?
My guess is that its VERY important to you, and it certainly should be! The church works very hard to make that a reality – but the question is, whose responsibility is it to make a child feel important, valuable, and ultimately that they belong within the church? Is it the churches job, or our job as the parent? The answer is…. BOTH.
Since this is a blog for families, lets zero in on the responsibility of the parent in helping our kids (and ALL kids that come to this church) feel that they are important; that they belong!
Easter is behind us, and that means the flurry of family gathers is too. If any social setting can teach us about the feeling of belonging (and perhaps bloating…), certainly it should be a family gathering. What can they teach us? Consider this; Why do our kids feel like they belong at our family gatherings? The answer is simple – because WE belong there. Kids are so attached to us, especially when they are little, so it logically makes sense that where we belong, they do too! Each year we bring them along to our family events, gatherings and birthday parties, and we show them this is our family, and it is theirs too.
Taking this further, could you imagine if you dropped your three year old off at a family gathering and took off? When your toddler showed signs of hesitation at the door, you lovingly assured them, “Its okay sweetie. These strangers have the same last name as you! You totally belong here! I’ll pick you up in an hour and a half.” We may feel like doing this sometimes – but no parent would actually expect it to work! Having the same last name is simply not enough to spark belonging. The same could be said for church. If a child feels like church equals being dropped off with babysitters, they won’t feel belonging, even if we assure them that the babysitters are Christians too! If church is a “in and out once a week” thing, they won’t see belonging. That is why it is SO important to model to our kids that church is where WE belong, so they belong here too!
Paul’s most common title for those whom he wrote to was “Brothers and Sisters”. Church equals family. We are siblings under one Father – Jesus – according to Romans 8:15, “the spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship…” And with family comes relationships. Not perfect relationships mind you, but relationships nonetheless! As parents, we need to model this for our kids if we are hoping for them to do the same! It is important to note that this is not a formula. Just because we have done our job at modeling church engagement to our kids does not mean that our kids will automatically feel like they belong. We still need to pray and go to Jesus for strategies. But what it will do is give you a leg to stand on when you encourage them to get involved in church, and it will increase the chances for them to want it if they see you receiving life from church!
Here are some questions to reflect on… Do our kids see us building relationships within the church (i.e. getting involved in a cell, serving somewhere, or investing in relationships beyond the weekend service somehow)? Do we show them that church is important for our own relationship with Jesus, and that we need others in order to grow spiritually? Do you kids see you excited to at church, or is it a “get in get out” event?
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Young Marrieds Ministry Pastor
Chris is married to Elly and they have four, yes four, boys. He is Southland’s pastor to young married’s and loves equipping young families.