Why My Children Hated Church, and then Left It

Because they didn’t see God in real life.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Leanne Mullan wrote an article “My Children Hate Church — Are my kids or the church the problem?:

https://medium.com/backyard-theology/my-children-hate-church-2842f3a15f47

This elaborates on a comment that I left on this story.

Children generally don’t like church. And record numbers leave the church when they reach adulthood. Why?

My track record

First we put the kids in children’s church, which sugar coated everything, or talked down to them. Then youth group, which my daughters used as a proxy for dating.

My oldest still has a complex because the youth pastor gave her a hassle when she drew cats instead of paying attention in Sunday School. And she lamented that they ran the youth camp like a boot camp. She now is an atheist.

The other two daughters have a shallow version of adult Christianity. One of them “just doesn’t want to hear anything negative” because it “gives her a bad spirit” and anxiety.

Not a great track record. Really, it’s a D-.

So what is the problem?

In the older days, Sundays and church were a needed break from a life of toil.

But the more important thing was: church was a community. You knew the people. They lived near you, instead of across town. Although yes, the pastor was still up front preaching or teaching, it was more involved. It was less something to be consumed. It didn’t look like a rock concert with a light show. And it spoke to the need. People’s lives were hard — think “O Brother Where Art Thou” movie and soundtrack, that sound of woe, yet with a look ahead to something better.

When kids only experience church as children’s church, and youth group, what is the next step? What do they graduate to — the adult church? No wonder kids leave the church when they graduate high school. It’s not just because of atheist college professors. It’s because they are never treated part of the community or the “family of God” when they were in church.

Seeing God in Real Life

Even more important, did they really see God or just the American Gospel version of God and the “glorious Christian life”?

Remember March 2020?

Suffering is real, as we know from living through 2020. The American Gospel version of Christianity doesn’t meet that need. Maybe that’s because it skips over the painful parts of the NT and treats sadness as weakness or something to be avoided.

James 4:2–4 says:

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Wait, life comes with trials? When was the last time you heard that in church?

Real Life kind of sucks…but that’s Ok

Photo by Sasha Freemind on Unsplash

James 1:9–11:

Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. But the rich should take pride in their humiliation — since they will pass away like a wild flower. For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.

This is where the American Gospel version of Christianity breaks down.

I know several people that have lost their jobs due to the economic downturn around Covid. Some will try to stand up to the vaxx mandate in 2021 and may lose their job over it. If they do, they will be devastated, because they are rich and will lose much. But another friend doesn’t mind what happens, and doesn’t care whether there are lockdowns or restrictions, because he is lower income. He doesn’t have as much to lose and he has no debt.

Seeing life, death, and trials in a community of God, with the lights up and face to face, helps kids to see real life. Praying for others, for people you actually really know (really praying, not just that fast two sentence prayer to check the box).

Take the kids to food delivery day where they distribute the food bank items to the poor. If your church doesn’t have it, then find one that does and take them to help.

James 4:9–10

Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

Maybe more of this and we can get kids ready for whatever is to come.

The Fourth Turning.

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