Who would make your list?
Last weekend, we were at the Dodgers game a day early to celebrate Mother’s Day. And in addition to the free hats they were giving away as part of the 60th anniversary of Dodger Stadium, they were also honoring the 1988 World Series Dodgers. On a side note, I leaned over and told Cassie the only reason we were celebrating the 30th anniversary of a World Series team is because we haven’t had one since. All throughout the night they kept playing videos of the games and of the players from that historic year and Orel Hersheiser, probably the most famous member of that team next to Kirk Gibson, was on screen giving thanks to the coaches, the players, and the organization for making it happen. So who would make your list? If you were up on DodgerVision giving thanks to the people who made your career a success, who would mention? Watching these kinds of tributes, I am reminded of how interconnected the world is and how much we depend on one another for our success. Being famous, winning awards, doing something noteworthy is more than just having the talent or the intelligence to do it. Those things are important, but there’s an element of community that is at least as important as all of that. I can’t help but think of people I know who are fantastic writers who have never had a book published or a script produced; wonderful singers who have never been signed to a record label; artists who haven’t had their work published or put in a gallery and I know it’s not because they lack talent. On the other hand, there are movies like John Carter. Someone was convinced to spend over $250 million dollars on a film that ended up losing $200 million. No one becomes a success in a vacuum. We are the product of so many different variables and all of them are important.
Successfully raising a child is a lot like being a success at anything.
You can’t do it alone. And I don’t mean being a single parent. Having both parents around doesn’t guarantee success. I knew a couple with two kids. Same parents. Same household. Same schools. One of them grew up to be a model student. Helped out with the family, got good grades, never got in trouble. The other one was always getting in fights; got sent to the principal’s office time and time again; and started doing drugs and breaking the law. If it was just about good parenting, it wouldn’t make any sense! But it’s not. A child doesn’t grow up in a bubble. They have different friends. They have different teachers. They get involved in different things. All of it adds up to the person they become. As a church, we have to make sure to do our part, to help build up children in faith, to give them a solid foundation, to help them see God at work in their lives. Because if we don’t, they will drift away to find themselves in other things.
It scares me because the vast majority of kids leave the church when they leave the nest.
Studies show about 70% of kids who took off for college or careers also took off from the church. Seventy percent! They just…leave. Some of them come back, but a lot of them don’t. CNN did an article examining millennials and the church and in the space of just 7 years, the number of unaffiliated people (meaning people with no religious affiliation) rose nearly 7% to a whopping 23% of the population. That means nearly a quarter of all Americans not only don’t go to church, but don’t even have a church they claim as their own. The number that was the most disheartening? “Of America’s major faiths, mainline Protestants (like ours) have the worst retention rate among millennials, with just 37% staying in the fold…” Just 37%. As the study pointed out, “Many young Christians seemed bored by church” The temptation is to blame the kids for not being interested, but in all honesty we need to accept our part in all of this. Because the kids I’ve talked to are hungry for answers. They don’t always know what questions to ask, but they want to know the same things adults want to know – Why am I here? What’s the meaning of life? Is there a God? And if so, why are all these things happening in the world?
Our kids need us to help them answer these questions.
The key isn’t to be a Biblical scholar, but to be the kind of person who exemplifies God’s love. We are lucky to have someone like Susan who feels God’s call upon her life to help our children. She has been doing Children’s Ministry now for about 15 years and has blessed the lives of many kids. And it’s not just because she teaches them the Bible. They enjoy the lessons, they like the goodies, and they always have a smile on their face when the treats come out, but it’s the love and dedication she has for the kids that are the best example of Christ’s love. They learn about the Bible, but through Susan they also experience what it means to live out those words. And that is the best way for children to know and understand God. If we want our kids to stay close to God as they grow up, we have to be a living example of Christ’s love in their lives.
4 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.
It really does take a village to raise a child.
Parents are the most important ingredient to be sure, but parents alone can’t do all of the work. We are products of more than just our biology. Friends, church, community, our nation, and our world all contribute to making us who we are. When then First Lady Hillary Clinton wrote her best-selling book with the title It Takes A Village, it’s purpose was to drive home this point and to inspire us to collectively take responsibility for the welfare of the children in our lives and in our world. In the passage we just read, Moses is talking not just to parents, but to the entire nation of Israel. “Impress (God’s commandments) on your children… Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” That word “impress” is more than just “teach.” The dictionary defines the word as “to apply with pressure so as to imprint.” Teaching is the transfer of information, but impression is making it part of the person’s character. In this passage, Moses is telling the people of Israel that it is our responsibility to find a way to impress upon the children the lessons of Christ and to live them out as a reminder at all times of what it means to be Christian.
Wouldn’t it be great if you ended up in someone’s “thank you” speech?
What an honor to be placed in that rare category of influential people upon a person’s life. If we take seriously Christ’s call not to hinder the little children, we also have to take seriously Moses’ call to impress upon the children the lessons of Christ. Pray about how you can support the children of our church. When we join, we offer our prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness. How can you do that for our kids? We have been so blessed to have more kids in Sunday School on a regular basis than we have had in over a decade. If we want to keep that energy and that witness for Christ alive and strong, we have to help out in whatever way we can. So pray about how you can support Susan and our Sunday School ministry this week. We need volunteers to help out in the classroom. It means giving up a Sunday in worship once in a while, but isn’t that worth it? You might make the biggest difference in the lives of one of our kids. And that is a reward beyond measure. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.