I have two young daughters, and even before the first time we held them, my wife and I agreed it was important that we raise them in church. That we felt this way is, when I think about it, a bit ironic.
We both have a lot of baggage concerning church. We have often felt like outsiders to the Christian community and, for a few years, we stopped attending church altogether. But with time we returned, though aware of old wounds and the scars that remained.
Why the change of heart? Because in the church we have found people who are at once broken and yet being slowly transformed by the love of God, just like us. Because there are values my daughters will learn in the church, things that set apart Christians from the world around them—things they won’t necessarily learn somewhere else.
And, ultimately, because it is here amid the people of God—in worship and teaching, in communion and baptism—that we encounter Jesus.
It is here amid the people of God that we encounter Jesus.
Being a new parent can be terrifying. It slowly dawns on you that you are responsible for a child. Suddenly your choices shape another life; you are setting an example every moment. Decisions about church, or praying as a family, or how to treat “the least-of-these” are now given a weight and significance they did not have before.
Many churches are concerned about a growing absence of young people in their pews, but it’s a false comfort to think that once these folks have families they will come walking back through the doors.
The church needs to show grace and patience to hurting people so that if they do darken the steps of a sanctuary they will find genuine welcome. At our church, we have been embraced as people with questions and doubts as well as parents of two little girls who sometimes disrupt things at inopportune times. We aren’t being treated as a project or held up as the token “young people who prove the church is hip.” We are simply loved.
I pray that as they grow, my daughters will find the same love and grace among other Christians that we have found in our church community; perhaps they will avoid some of the more painful bumps along the way. Because, for all the messiness, this is where we encounter the presence and people of God.