The Children's Church Generation
Has children's church killed the zeal for God? Could youth ministries and outings make our young people less sensitive to spiritual things?
In our roles as leaders and pastors to leaders in the local church community, my husband and I counsel many families where parents have faithfully kept their children "in church", yet find themselves surprised when those young people mature and "go their own way."
Honestly, we've been surprised at some of the choices our own children have made. We stand on the promise of God that they will return to the roots we've placed in them, whenever their decisions wander. Still the questions and thoughts linger... Have I done enough? Did I set the right example? Are my children paying for my own mistakes or sins?
I'm often pained by the overwhelming number of parents who have "raised their children in church", yet deal with very severe behavioral problems as those children mature into young adults. There is almost always a common theme -- Sunday School, children's church, VBS, and youth ministry. Essentially, it's the separation of the younger generation by age, with an unsupervised yet total trust of a church system of segregation that is not biblical.
By no means am I saying these things are all bad. Certainly, there are some benefits. However, we must acknowledge the common thread. We have millions of young people in this country who attend churches where the word of God is preached with fervor and accuracy -- but they don't hear it. Instead, children are traditionally tucked away in a room to watch videos, color pictures, and spend time on plays and dance routines. They are pressured into learning "The Lord's Prayer" and the 23rd Psalm, but not encouraged to pursue a true, personal relationship with God. Let's be honest. Many of these classes, clubs and gatherings are just that - choreographed social interactions to give our young people some "fun" incentive to go to a church building and assume they are in compliance with the word of God. Then, parents and leaders are somehow "surprised" when those same young people seemingly lack respect for what it holy. Why do we feel they are not mature enough to worship with us, yet they are mature enough to watch 'R' rated movies right beside us in a theater? Why is church treated, by many parents, as a babysitting service so they can enjoy "me time" in the presence of the Lord?
Accountability has been an issue in many of our families. As parents, do we REALLY know what our children are being taught? Are we using the local church to raise our children and teach them the things of God when we should be doing that ourselves? Even more, does this separation further highlight for our children that they are being taught things they never see practiced in their own home?
Personally, I've never been a fan of separating believers during worship. We simply cannot delegate the responsibility of raising and teaching our children to others. Sure, they need balance. They need fellowship with like minded believers. Yet, that fellowship doesn't have to REPLACE a corporate worship gathering. We must ensure they are being taught - not just about the Father, but how to truly get to KNOW Him.
Without quoting a bunch of papers or statistics, I will say this -- such separation is not biblical, and the cultural preponderance lies heavily with the westernized Christian assembly. In other words, this is rarely practiced with other religions. It's a fairly recent implementation for Christians in other countries, but not widely practiced, except here in the US where the local church is undoubtedly treated as more of a business venture (in many cases) than a holy gathering.
Chances are that many of our "churched" young people haven't walked away from God. Likely, many have simply never had a true opportunity to know Him personally. Selah.