A few weeks ago, I sat in a parent-teacher conference with my fifth grader. This wasn’t especially different from any other conference we have had in the past. At least, until her teacher mentioned the holy grail of the tween’s school world: electives. I soon discovered that, even in fifth grade, there are ample attention diverters around every corner. Yearbook, leadership council, and chess club magically appeared, ready to snag multiple slots on our calendar and any notion of familial calm.
With eyes open wide for her future potential, my daughter swam deliriously through all the opportunities for extracurriculars with her teacher. I cautiously stifled a sigh.
Our children’s futures are always in the forefront of our minds. With an abundance of opportunities, it can be so easy to get swept up in attempts to create a well-rounded child, bound for success once they leave the safe confines of our home. My oldest is only wrapping up elementary school, but I can only imagine that this abundance amps up the closer they get to adulthood.
I had to ask myself these questions:
How do we protect our family’s time at church and keep it from becoming just another thing they have to do?
Do fellowship and service add too much pressure to our already over-booked children?
Is the alternative that church is relegated to the back burner, or is there an achievable middle ground?
I had a tough time trying to picture my answer to these questions. There seems to be a precious balance between being over scheduled and bored, between being well rounded and narrow-minded. As our children grow, I know maintaining this balance will present a challenge, no matter how grounded I might feel in the moment.
It’s no surprise that God placed this on my heart during stewardship season. We speak weekly about our gifts, both monetary and spiritual. We try to impress upon our children that these offerings are to be shared with the world around them. Sharing these gifts might not be in a resume-building fashion. On the surface, it might seem that, if we can’t directly correlate using their gifts with their future success, then we lose the argument to have our children active in church.
This didn’t sit well in our house. We believe there has to be a balance, some sort of space we create, which allows for our children’s spiritual, academic, and athletic growth. I was determined to find it.
We had the opportunity recently to make a trial run, trying to balance the demands of the world and our family’s spiritual growth. It was on a smaller scale, since the robotics team my daughter joined only met for four months of the year. She really wanted to do it, and the academic implications were strong.
The only down-side (outside of my inability to understand the terminology) was that the group could only meet on Sundays during part of our church service.We pieced our day together to help it work, but it certainly added stress to our Sundays. As we neared the tournament, I even started to feel like it might be easier for us to stay home on Sunday morning: not every weekend, but more often than we were accustomed.
It was my daughter’s wise words that brought me back: She missed going to church.
She missed being seen, supported, and loved within the body of Christ in our church home. While her contribution won’t make a line on her future resume, my daughter uses her gifts each week as she helps maintain peace in Children’s Chapel, bakes for coffee hour, and organizes food for our outreach pantry.
She also has the opportunity to look to her older peers for their example, and to serve as an inspiration for the younger children in our congregation. And the wise generations support her journey as cheerleaders whose opinion can offer an exceptionally special perspective, beyond the encouragement from her parents.
This is an invitation for all of us, not only to create an atmosphere of welcome and support for our own children, but for our entire church community. Our fellowship should encourage the gifts of our youngest members, and always give them a place to return. As stewards of their hearts, giving them this strong foundation allows their spirits to grow in the knowledge that their gifts are necessary and valued in the world around them.