So, what about church? What do you think about it? Seriously….
Is it a place you go on Sunday just to say you went?
Is it a place you go so you can have your weekly social hour?
Perhaps you go when it’s convenient – you know, the kids are up anyway, we have nothing better to do…
Or maybe you go “because we have always gone.”
A better question yet – WHY NOT CHURCH?
Have you been hurt or offended by a person/leader at church?
Maybe you didn’t like the music or the preacher went to long?
Maybe your friends don’t go, so why go?
Perhaps there is a sporting event that is taking place and you feel the need to go there?
It’s the only day you have as a family….let’s relax at home?
As a minister’s wife and before that as a deacon’s daughter….I have at least thought ALL of the above and at some point perhaps they have all been true. However, the older I get and the more I grow closer to Jesus…the more I realize that church is family. I am NOT talking about a building that you attend on Sunday morning….I am talking about the body, the people, that comprise what is the CHURCH.
Recently, I heard it said that the reason attendance is down is because people aren’t committed to their churches…I agree but I think there is more to it.
Let me ask you this…Why family?
Think about it…does your family EVER offend you? Do you get tired of listening to the same old thing? Has there ever been a time where you wanted to stay home from a family event and didn’t simply because it was FAMILY? For the most part, we are committed to family. We will fight HARD for a relationship just because they are our FAMILY.
I know this from my own experience as well as from others. I have a close friend who has gone through some REALLY tough extended family issues…to the point of sister-in-laws criticizing, siblings judging, etc…It would have been easy for her to say “Forget it…their loss.” Yet, I watched a truly amazing thing…she FOUGHT for a relationship, she worked to love in spite of disagreement, she reached out instead of pulling away. Why? BECAUSE THEY ARE FAMILY
Back to the church….What IF we saw a church as FAMILY? What if instead of comparing notes on what church is doing what programs and which church has the most to offer – we instead looked and said “Where can I contribute to this FAMILY?” Once in a church, what if instead of throwing our hands up and saying “I’m outta here” and walking away – we FOUGHT for relationships, we worked at it, we loved, we reached out…suddenly the stakes just got higher.
I am NOT talking about simple attendance on Sunday morning…although that is important. Anyone can get up and tolerate an hour or two at a church. What I am talking about is investing in a FAMILY. Putting their needs ahead of our own…reaching out to them no matter the cost, fighting for the relationship.
This issue has me up at this crazy hour of 4:30 in the morning…well actually since like 2:00. Anyway, as I lie in bed TRYING to go back to sleep I still wrestled with this whole – church attendance/commitment thing. As is typically the case, I knew that if I couldn’t sleep God must have something to show me. I got up and after taking our puppy out I began really seeking what God was wanting me to hear….
Acts 2: 42 “And they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to the prayers.”
Acts 2:46 “EVERY day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple complex and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with a joyful and humble attitude.”
As I read these verses, and then the commentary in my Bible – a few key points caught my attention.
First there were FOUR things that they DEVOTED (COMMITMENT) themselves to:
1.) Teaching of the Apostles – ie. Sunday morning church, Bible Studies, Small Groups.
2.) Fellowship – ie parties, socials, special events
3.) Breaking of Bread – they ATE together, they spent time around the dinner table, like EVERY family should.
4.) Prayer – They were COMMITTED to times of prayer.
Beyond these four things there was an amount of time and places that they met:
1.) EVERY DAY….church was a FIRST priority, before anything else. They didn’t “fit it in” they instead made it FIRST. It was a DAILY thing to be together as a church family…not a once or twice a week thing.
2.) FROM HOUSE TO HOUSE – Did you see that? They were in each others homes, daily. Like a FAMILY should be. They were JOYFUL with each other.
I have to say – some of these hit me HARD. As I was lying awake and thinking of our church family, I was quick to get frustrated and angry and start saying “Well they should…” and then I read these points…
Am I eating with my church family? Am I praying? Am I devoted to teaching – not just going since I am a minister’s wife? Am I a part of fellowships with a JOYFUL attitude? Am I inviting people to break bread in MY home? Am I putting my church family FIRST EVERY DAY?
Shaking head in shame…no, not like the church in Acts and not like the Bible commands. Oh sure, I am frustrated with attendance, I get more than a little discouraged to hear of a family going to another church for whatever reason, I am looking for the right “program” to attract families….but am I DOING IT GOD’S way?
Being on staff, Joel and I have an inside close up look at how churches are struggling both in growth and financially. We are more than aware of the stark budget cuts and having to trim ministry things here and there and to be honest it DOES get discouraging…but then I come to Acts chapter 2 and I realize it’s not about the amount of money our church has – PLEASE DON’T MISUNDERSTAND _ YOU NEED TO TITHE (that’s a whole different topic) but money doesn’t make the church grow. Yes, money helps expand the ways a church can do missions and reach out but that isn’t the key to a growing church.
At the end of Acts 2 it says “They ate their food with a joyful and humble attitude, praising God and having favor with all the people. And EVERY day the Lord added to them those who were being saved.” vs 46b -47.
I have this hunch, okay more than a hunch, belief – that IF we were to do what the church in Acts did – our churches would be overflowing. Instead, we have allowed work, sports, relaxation, entertainment, etc to become first and put the FAMILY last…both biologically speaking and the church family.
Here’s the challenge to myself and to you:
1.) Find a church family that you can be COMMITTED to – in the good, the bad, the ugly. Will you disagree? Yep! Will you get angry and frustrated? Yep! Will you be blessed beyond measure? ABSOLUTELY! Be committed – don’t give up on your church family when things are down or hard. STAY IN AND FIGHT…be like my friend and WORK toward a relationship and unity.
2.) Open your HOME on a regular basis. This is a tough one for me…I have four kids and my home is often not clean (okay pretty much NEVER clean). I have a REALLY small house – it’s crowded with 6 of us! I don’t like to cook…the excuses go on and on…but I can’t ignore Acts 2 when it says THEY MET IN HOMES….I want my home to be a place we can break bread together and be a part of each others daily lives.
3.) EVERY day connect with someone within your church family. A phone call. A cup of coffee. A text message. A facebook post. A lunch date. Somehow, someway, connect EVERY DAY!
4.) Make your church your FIRST commitment – not an “if it fits in”. When your church is having an event make sure that you and your family are there! Make Sunday a CHURCH with NO exceptions type commitment…that means YES you tell the coach your daughter can’t play in the softball tournament if it is on Sunday. That means that YES you are there on Wednesday nights even if you are missing an athletic event or some other thing. When you look at the calendar for the month – the church events are the FIRST things written in – not the last!
As the social/event/calendar coordinator of the Arrington Family – this is my challenge as well. Yes, we are on staff so in a sense we or at minimum Joel – is usually at all church events but I want more. I want a FAMILY relationship, a committed attitude. I want to be reaching out through my home, to be praying with and eating with church family. I want to CONNECT EVERY DAY!
I’m frustrated. I really am.
One of the hardest things I have found about ministering to families is the fact that they are so busy. Between school, work, sports, music practice, vacations, and other activities, they are rarely to be found. Never have we had so many opportunities to be involved in so much stuff. I can’t say that all this activity is bad thing. As a matter of fact, most people would consider this…normal.
Think about it, when was the last time asked, “So, are you staying busy?” How are you to answer that? You are always inclined to say yes. Why? Because it is expected. People expect themselves and other people to be “busy”. If you were to answer to the contrary, what kind of look would you get? What kind of smart remark would you receive? Would you be perceived as joking or being sarcastic? We certainly need to work hard and make good use of our time, but are we are really called to be busy? Is being busy a true sign of success, health, or normality?
My frustration lies where the hectic pace of life can negatively affect the spiritual growth of the family. Hopefully this doesn’t sound like your family: Me:”Hey, we have missed seeing you at church on Sundays.” Parent:”Oh, yeah, well…as busy as we are, Sundays are the only time we can spend together as a family.” Really? I often heard this and scratched my head. But, it makes sense to me, now. Monday through Friday is filled with school, work, practices, homework, and other valuable activities. Saturday is the day families spend playing all those sports they have practiced for all week, or spending all that money they have earned – which is rarely relaxing zipping through malls and grocery stores, driving in hectic amounts of traffic. Saturdays are project days at our home, while others work on the car, or do a little extra work for the office. Certainly nothing I have mentioned is a problem and is all useful. Then Sunday rolls around and our busy families need a day to recover from the previous week of busy and prepare for the coming week of busy, and it is just to difficult to make it to church.
I know that it sounds like I am complaining, but I am really concerned. Why? Because I have yet to hear people with grown up children say, “Wow, I wish our family had not spent so much time at church.” Or, “If only we had spent more Sundays at home, then our children would really love the Lord.” Nope, haven’t heard it. What I have heard is, “If only we had been more involved in church…” or “We made the mistake of not involving our kids in church, an now…” Do I sound like I am pushing the issue of church involvement? You better believe I am. Is church involvement more important than a relationship with Christ? Nope, but the admonishment to regularly meet in worship is still right here.
God’s word makes it very clear. “And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25 HCSV) This is not a statement made to all families in general. It is directed at people who claim to love and fear God. Do you see my frustration? The families that I am struggling to see involved in church are Christian families, the ones that claim they want their children to love and fear God, too. If you know me even just a little, you know that church involvement does not take the place of spiritual leadership at home. As a matter of fact, just because your family attends church every time the doors are open does not guarantee that your family will successfully grow in their relationship with God. It takes both the family and church working together for there to be growth.
I make this statement all the time to my children, “Don’t stop at the problem, tell me the solution.” So, what is the solution? I believe it begins with:
- Make Christ the priority in our families. We spend the most time doing what we love the most. If we love our kids the most, we spend all our time doing things centered around them. If we love our job, we spend extra time doing things for our job. Christ is to be our first love. All other loves before Him is idolatry.
- Be less busy. God has given us all the time we need to accomplish all we need to accomplish. If we run out of time, it is our own fault for misusing it. If busy is normal, than we need to be okay being different, or Craig Groeschel would call it Weird.
- Attend church regularly, more often than Christmas and Easter. Most churches have several services throughout the week. Try to join one consistently. If not church service, at least a church small group who consistently studies God’s Word and offers opportunities to worship and encourage one another.
- Be aware that time is short. You only have a few years with your family together. Time in general is waning. Every moment counts. How will you spend the little amount of time we have been given to grow you and your family closer to God?
Agree or disagree? What some other things families can do to make Christ and regular church involvement priorities? Blessings.
There is something about being in an airplane that definitely changes your perspective.
I don’t fly much. If you were to see me right now, it would be pretty obvious. Just trying to complete this post is a challenge as I continually turn to glance over the great state of Texas and stare off into the fading horizon. I watch as whole communities slide past my window in mere seconds. What an amazing thing flight is! Now I know many others of you have had all you want of planes, tight schedules, and busy airports. You may feel differently, and I wouldn’t blame you if you did. Regardless, you have to admit that the world looks different from 25000 feet in the air.
Have I been so enamored by the developing concepts and big idea of a family based ministry philosophy, that I have minimized the individuals I am called to serve?
As I travel to go meet with 5000+ people whom all share the same passion and love that I do…
As I listen and absorb God’s message to me through some of the greatest leaders and innovators in the country…
As I think, process, pray, and discern God’s plan for my ministry and the ministry of our church…
May I discover how this ALL…
Will bring little Suzy to a greater understanding of God.
Will help Stacy raise her children without a father in the home.
Will encourage Cecil and Wanda as they care for their grandchildren while their daughter works two jobs just to get by.
Will equip Tom as he follows God’s calling on his life to teach in children’s church.
This is the challenge I pose for myself this week. Excited for great things!
This past Friday night I had the rare privilege to sit down with Todd Capps, Editorial Project Leader for Worship Kidstyle, the children’s worship curriculum from Lifeway Christian Resources. Admittedly, the conversation was mostly me throwing as many questions as I could at Todd within a one hour time frame. Within the course of conversation, he shared a little of his passion, and frustration, with many church’s attitude about Children’s Worship. He stated that too often Children’s Church or similar programs serve only as a way to remove the distraction of children from the main worship service. In a way, Todd expressed, Children’s Church becomes more like child care or babysitting. No doubt that parents benefit from being able to focus while in congregational worship. Yet, this is low on the list of advantages and priorities of a strong, children’s worship ministry. In my opinion, this is more of a perk than a purpose.
So, what are the guidelines and goals which will turn Sunday morning into worship for kids?
Todd was very gracious in providing me one of his copies of Kids Ministry 101:Practical Answers to Questions About Kids Ministry. This book is a collaboration of entries from experts and equippers within the field of Children’s and Family Ministry. Todd, himself, has an article in which he shares some basic principles about leading children in worship. He notes the following considerations:
- Rely on the Holy Spirit. Listen to God as you plan and lead worship.
- Maintain high expectations of leaders. Leaders will live up to the expectations placed on them.
- Remember the levels of learning of the kids.
- Provide a variety of learning activities.
- Use the Bible and guide kids to use their Bibles.
- Involve the kids.
- Utilize simple vocabulary.
- Select appropriate Bible passages.
- Utilize a variety of teaching methods.
- Provide quality space.
- Realize children’s worship is not baby-sitting. Resist a “let’s take care of the kids while parents attend worship” mentality.
- Realize children’s worship is not a “let’s play big church” time. Children’s worship should be designed as worship on the kids’ levels, not adult worship designed for children to “play church.”
My many thanks goes out to Todd, and the rest of the staff at Lifeway Christian Resources, for taking time to encourage and equip. Also, I highly recommend picking up a copy of Kids Ministry 101:Practical Answers to Questions About Kids Ministry. It is an up-to-date, knowledgeable book which provides a foundation for the church and it’s leadership in the area of Children’s Ministry.