When parents pick their children up from Sunday school, the most common question that I hear come rolling off parents’ lips is, “Did you have fun?”
Think about that for a minute. I know that most parents probably don’t think deeply about that question, nor do I think that parents who ask that intend to inculcate their child with discontentment; but why choose that question over something like, “What did you learn about the Bible today?”
This question seems to be a subtle reflection of adults’ perception of church. What makes a church service worthwhile for us? Is it whether or not the sermon was entertaining? Whether the music piqued our emotions? Whether we felt convicted, refreshed, or “fed”? If this attitude is a seed in the current adult generations, it will be a harvest for the Evil One in the youthful generation.
Ironic, isn’t it? We worry that if our children don’t find church entertaining or enjoyable, they will walk away from the faith, when really this mentality only builds a consumer mindset in our children which will encourage our kids to walk away from church the moment it ceases to meet their needs.
So what’s the solution to this problem? I believe it is fourfold:
1. Fear the Lord–not your kids!
Don’t live in fear of your children being bored, walking away from Christianity, or disliking you. As soon as you begin to fear these things more than you fear standing before God for how you raised your children, you will subtly begin to view your child’s spiritual nurture through the lens of entertainment.
Can you picture standing before Jesus someday as He asks you about how you raised your children, and the first question He asks you is: “Did you make Me fun?” You would probably be stunned! Maybe you would think it was a joke.
Nothing about that question rings true to the way Jesus called people to Himself. He pulled no punches. He told people, “Don’t follow me if you’re going to be a wimp about it. I expect you to die for Me” (that’s my paraphrase). Yet, often, we treat discipleship with our children as something that needs to be “fun.”
If we teach our children that they are training for a spiritual war when they come to church, it won’t matter as much if the “debriefing” is fun or not. Do your children understand that following Jesus is supposed to be hard?
So, you say, what’s supposed to attract my children to Jesus? The answer is: you are! Your life is supposed to be winsome and full of the Holy Spirit so that your kids will want to know Christ. No Sunday school gimmick can replace a parent’s faithful life, nor can it make up for shabby one.
2. Cultivate a heart of gratefulness in yourself and in your child.
Maybe your child’s Sunday mornings are not, reportedly, scintillating. What can you do with those complaints or concerns?
If the concerns are regarding a lack of content or teaching, then you can always kindly mention your concern to the teacher. Ask questions rather than making accusations. Help your brothers and sisters in the church (lovingly, of course) to become better at teaching, if possible. There may be nothing you can do, in which case you can still help your child be grateful that his teacher obviously cares enough about him to give an hour on Sunday to spend time with him, even if the teaching is not very deep.
If the concerns are simply that the class is boring, then acknowledge your child’s frustration. Let him know that sometimes you struggle with the same thing as an adult, but that part of being mature is working to get as much good out of biblical teaching as possible. Then help your child find things to be thankful for about the morning at church (freedom to go, health to go, ability to hear the Bible read, people who care about the Lord and your child, etc.)
3. Teach your kids that growing in Christ is work.
When was the last time, do you think, that your pastor was “fed” through something he heard taught at church? Probably not recently. The secret to a mature believer’s spiritual growth is that he has learned to feed himself. Your child may not be a “mature believer,” but you can challenge her to listen for one Bible truth to tell you afterward. Teach her that it is work to grow in the knowledge of Christ.
4. Teach your kids to be “missionaries” at church.
When your kids come to church, do they leave complaining that no one was their friend? Or do they leave talking about the children they were able to befriend? Teach your kids to be “on-mission” at church. Role-play different scenarios in the car on the way to church. Say, “Okay, I’m a new kid in Sunday school that you’ve never talked to before. What would you say to me?”
When the great preacher Charles Spurgeon was a teenager, he made friends with an old woman who served as cook at his school. She was self-taught in the things of Christ, and she had taught herself so well that she knew far more than the preacher in town! Both she and Spurgeon found the man’s sermons uninspiring. Spurgeon once asked her, “Why do you go to such a place? It must be better to stay at home than to hear such stuff.” Her reply is sadly foreign to too many of us:
“I like to go out to worship even if I get nothing by going. You see a hen sometimes scratching all over a heap of rubbish to try to find some corn; she does not get any, but it shows that she is looking for it, and using the means to get it, and then, too, the exercise warms her.”
May the Lord bless as you seek to free your children from the fear of church-house boredom!