Children and the Church

As word gets out that our family is working with the Evangelical Free Church to plant a church of missional communities in the upstate of South Carolina, I find myself fielding a myriad of questions usually regarding the typical “why”, “when” and “where” questions about church planting. I do my best to explain that our church planting model is much more focused on building relationships than buildings and is driven by mission more than programs but I’m confident that I’ve done nothing but confuse those I’m talking to. In my attempt to give sense to our endeavor, I have been met with some resistance from one certain category of people: parents. It has been very sobering to listen to some of the rationale why parents would not consider participating in a missional community and I feel the need to challenge some of the parental thinking that seems to prevail regarding children and the church in general but may also shape a parent’s thinking toward participating in a church plant in particular.

The response that I often hear goes something like this. “We need to be in a church where our children’s needs are met. We want a church that offers wonderful programs which our children love and which fosters in them a desire to participate and enjoy the church experience. We desire a church that offers great programs, great teaching and fun activities which leaves our children wanting to return the following Sunday.” Now let me be perfectly clear. I don’t believe that everyone who is uninterested in launching out and planting a new church is wrong for not being willing to do so. I do however, think that parents need to rethink what they are teaching their children about the church and then take radical steps to reorient their families to the gospel and gospel driven mission.

The problems:

  1. We are likely teaching an entire generation of children that “having fun” and being catered to is the main objective of the church. Instead, children should be taught by their parents that nothing is more important than living in obedience to God’s word and leading others to know Christ by serving others and laying their lives down for the sake of the gospel.
  2. We are reinforcing a sinful nature in our children who already are made to think that the world revolves are them rather than teaching them that God is the center of His universe and He has invited us to join Him in His mission and that should be the very core of our existence.
  3. Parents think more like consumers than “saints striving to build up the body of Christ” while growing up into maturity in Christ (Eph. 4:12).
  4. We think the church is an organization that exist for us. Generally speaking, our culture has little biblical understanding of the church and the mission for which it was founded. We “join” churches using much the same criteria that we would use in searching for a gym, daycare or school. We ask, “Does the church teach the things I believe. Do they play the music I enjoy? Do they provide the programs for my children that attract and keep their attention? Are there plenty of activities for my children to be involved? Are our needs met here?

The Solution:

  1. Realize that Christ created, lived and died for his church and we must become much more diligent about understanding what the role of the church is in our generation and every generation that follows. The church exists in order to fulfill the mission of God to bring about the very reconciliation and redemption of all of God’s creation (2 Cor.5:20).
  2. Realize that the church does not exist to serve, entertain or satisfy your children (Mat 28:19). You have Disney World for that.
  3. Pray, repent of self-worship and look for ways to engage culture as a family. Raise your children to be selfless heralds of the gospel and not those who put their needs above those of others. Parents should model a love of Christ that drives them into the world and culture. Children should be raised to function within culture rather than insulating them against it.
  4. Make it a priority to cultivate Christian community in your family. Our children need nothing more than to belong to an intimate fellowship of believers of every age and culture. More than entertainment, our children need to see their parents interacting and living within the body of Christ AND the world. How will our children grow up to love the church and how will they know how to function within the community of saints if they do not see it modeled in their parents?

In Deuteronomy 6:7 the Bible explicitly articulates what every page of the Bible affirms regarding a parent’s responsibility to their children and that is, “You shall teach them (God’s law) diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Our children don’t need us to teach them how to “go to church.” They need their parents to teach and model for them what a life and family saturated with the gospel and consumed with the mission of God looks like and the only way to do this is in Christian community. Is it any wonder that so many young adults abandoned the church when they are own their own? It’s not enough to show our children that church is a big part of our lives. We must pray and help them develop a deep, abiding love for Christ and all of his creation and train them to be faithful “ambassadors for Christ” who are servant minded rather than consumers looking to have their needs met.

There may be many reasons why we would not subject our family to the trials and troubles of church planting (though I can’t think of a legitimate reason at the moment), but our children’s comfort and social needs should not be one of those reasons.


Teresina Project

Throughout the nations Chribrazpicstians are beginning to realize that gospel mission has much more to do with the integrating of their lives into the existing rhythms of life around them than it does the use of gospel gimmicks which cheapen the majesty of God and produce no lasting righteous fruit. One of those rhythms which is presenting enormous missional potential is the increased need and desire for English education in Brazil.

For several years now, our family has traveled to parts of Brazil to serve local churches in any way that would be fruitful for the kingdom. Through those travels we have discovered a missional heartbeat among Brazilian congregations and pastors to shine the light of the gospel in their country in order that the dark deceit of religion might be destroyed. We are compelled to join our Brazilian brothers and sisters in Christ as they labor in fields that are ripe for a great harvest but lack the workers necessary to effectively tend the fields.

Brazilians place a great value on education and especially education which involves the inclusion of the English language. For years we have discussed the possibility of starting an English speaking school in Teresina which teaches and models a robust Christian world-view. Not only are there Christian parents who long for such an option to educate their children, but there are also many poor or orphaned children that would never have the opportunity to attend a school of such academic vigor apart from God extending His grace through us to make it possible.

The first week of May I spent in Teresina meeting with business and church leaders to develop a strTesesinaskylineategy to move this dream into the realm of reality. I will return to Teresina in August to continue to take steps to assist in laying the groundwork for this life changing project. In addition to the August trip, we strongly believe that God wants our family to travel together to Teresina in February to serve and participate in a camp that coincides with Carnival. This trip will require God to provide in ways that can only be explained by saying, “God did it.”

Would you please pray for us as our family prepares to be more engaged in ministry in Brazil and also would you commit to praying for Rodrigo and Alessandra Brotto as they serve on the front lines in Teresina?

Help us get the word out to as many people as possible and know that we welcome every opportunity to share with your church or anyone interested about the Teresina work. Be on the lookout in the days to come for more information about what God is doing in this great country.