My wife is a bit concerned about our son. He no longer wants to go to youth group at a church. “Why?” I have been asking myself this for the last few hours. Why is she so concerned?
I have my theories. I truly believe that she worries about his well-being, his relationship with the Lord as well as him making the right decisions. I get that. It is a great thing to know that my wife sees the importance of having the Lord in the lives of her children, as well as her own. As for myself, I don’t see it the exact same way as she does. I don’t think that it is so much a place that our kids go to, as it is a place that they are at within themselves. Sure, a word about the Lord is fruitful for child and adult alike, but their youth group experience is probably about fifteen minutes of Scripture, and the rest is entertainment and social time labeled “fellowship,” containing games and physical activities. I wonder how much of the Lord is actually taken with them after they have left the building?
I am the stepfather of our three beautiful children. They are thirteen, twelve and ten years old. The kid my wife is concerned about is the twelve-year-old. He is a good kid. He has a level head, knows a lot about the Lord and has some issues with other kids of the same age at his school. The typical twelve-year-old stuff. He doesn’t want to go to youth group because he is avoiding a certain individual who is causing a lot of problems for him. The boy is bullying, picking fights and calling our son names. Our son stands up for himself, and does it in a pretty respectful manner. He wants to avoid conflict, so he has decided to stop going to a place where he is forced to be around the kid. He is already dealing with the kid at school, so having to spend time with him at a church is challenging for him.
I’m not concerned. My wife and I try to be good examples for our kids, and it comes from realizing our own mistakes that were made as we were growing up and teaching our kids about the consequences of those decisions. I take time to teach my children about the Lord, and really it is not very often. Last Saturday, my kids and I sat down and read some Bible stories from a children’s Bible. They were for kids that are a bit older, and the content was easily understood. I would ask my kids about the meaning of the things that we were reading, and all three of them were very knowledgeable in their responses to my questions. They have a very good understanding of the core of what God is according to the Bible. They really see what I never would have seen at their ages. It made me glad. Very glad.
I try to teach my kids about the true meaning of church; not a place that they go to, but who they are in Christ. I teach them about how we as people, are the church. Do they fully grasp it? I don’t know? None of us truly do. But, they do understand a few things. They understand the truth of Christ and what He has done for all of us. They know that He has taken away our sins. The past sins, present sins and future sins. I have explained how sin separates them from God, and continuing in sin will keep them separated. They seem to understand that as well. As we had our little meeting last week, I found that they are wrapped in the loving arms of the Lord already. He is with them. Their words and actions show it.
I have nothing against churches. I believe they can be a great tool in learning about the Lord. I’ve learned a great deal from them. I’ve also learned a great deal from two or three gathering in His name. I believe the true meaning of Church is a relationship with Jesus Christ, and the knowing of His presence within. Understanding that His Holy Spirit guides us, as long as we acknowledge Him and His ways. I try to teach my children how they are one with God the Father through their faith in what Christ has done. I try to teach them how the fruits that they choose to bear through His guidance is the key to this life. They have a pretty good grasp on all of this already. I encourage them to hear, read and live out His Word, and it starts not only right here at home, but within their hearts.
So if my kid doesn’t go to youth group, he is still in a group of loving Christ-followers. We are a family who prays, loves, shares, gives and teaches our children about what we know in our hearts to be His provisions. We practice love. We have fellowship. Some of us attend a church building, and some of us do not. When we fail in our flesh, we walk beside each other and encourage one another to consider, in a loving manner, a different way. We truly care for one another. We never stop being His children.
I hope my wife will not worry so much about the building. We were just discussing with her family how some of the attendees of the youth groups from our earlier years had become menaces to society, and themselves. Some of them grew up to be drug addicts, sex offenders and very troubled people. It just goes to show that it doesn’t matter where you have gone to hear the Word, it is about what you have chosen to do with it.
I choose to be a man who keeps myself grounded by studying His Word, and applying it to the best of my ability. I don’t do a very good job at times, but I always show myself grace. I know that our Father knows my heart. He also knows that I show my children His love, and show them His knowledge from His Word. I strive to be an example. His example. I don’t force righteousness down their throats like I did when I first came into my walk with Him. The religion that I was practicing was not a practice of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. It was a practice of forced rule-keeping. I’ve since learned to practice listening to His Spirit. I now practice bearing His fruits. I show my children these things by the way that I live, and their mother does as well. I fail, but the more time I spend focusing on His ways, the easier His ways become. I pray that our growing children will see our loving examples and continue to seek a relationship with the Lord. If our son chooses to go back to youth group, then that is great. If he doesn’t, then that is also great. Either way, I have faith in God and His guiding hand. We always encourage our kids to lean on the Lord, as we as parents also lean on Him, to provide the way.