My kids don’t wonder if we are attending church services on Sundays or church fellowship activities throughout the week. I’m a pastor—that’s part of my job. Many, however, choose to be active in a church family in addition to their already busy lives of work, school, and other activities. If your child were to ask you why your family spends a few hours each week with such a diverse group of people, what would you tell them? In part one of this article we will look at three reasons why your kids need a church family.
1. Your kids need spiritual authorities.
As a father, God has given you an important responsibility to be a spiritual leader in your home.1 There will come a day, however, when your children leave your house and launch out on their own. When they no longer live under your roof, who will be the spiritual authority figures in their lives?
God expects each of us to submit to church leaders as God’s spiritual authorities (1 Peter 5:5). Hebrews 13:17 explains this is because “they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.” It’s important for your kids to see that you, as a member of a church, acknowledge the authority of a pastor in your life.2 This will involve your response to sermons, seeking pastoral counsel about decisions, and following the pastors’ leadership in the church’s operation and direction.
Unfortunately, many parents have been hurt by pastors or other church leaders who were abusive, manipulative, or generally uncaring. Sometimes, this has caused parents to pull away from any church so they can shepherd and protect their families on their own. Although this may seem like the safest action to take, it is unbiblical and undermines God’s design.3
If you are currently searching for a church family, put a high priority on godly church leadership.4 Take the pastors out to lunch and ask them about their relationships with God and their families. Ask church members about the strengths and weaknesses in the leadership team. Then, once you’ve found a healthy church with godly pastors, “imitate their faith and submit to them” (Heb. 13:7, 17). Honor them with your words. Refrain from sermon bashing during the Sunday afternoon meal. Go to them for counsel and encourage your kids to do the same. Express appreciation for your pastor in front of your kids. I will never forget my mom making apple pie for our pastor’s birthday every year. And remember that you are shaping the way your children view pastoral authority.
By God’s grace, your pastors will have a vital role of spiritual authority and guidance in your child’s life long after they are out from under your authority in the home.
2. Your kids need corporate worship.
Family worship should be an essential and regular practice in the home.5 However, since the formation of the church in the 1st century, Christ-followers have met regularly on Sunday to remember His death and resurrection through the Lord’s Supper as well as to devote themselves to teaching, fellowship, and prayer (Acts 2:42). Many families experienced how convenient it was to “attend church” from home during part of 2020, but many have come to realize how truly essential it is to gather together for corporate worship.
Don Whitney rightly observes, “There’s an element of worship and Christianity that cannot be experienced in private worship or by watching worship. There are some graces and blessings that God gives only in the ‘meeting together’ with other believers” (Spiritual Disciplines, 92).
It may be easier to stay in your pajamas and tune in to a church service with your family from your living room, but bringing your children to gather with your church family for corporate worship communicates to your kids that worship is not about our convenience—it’s about God’s glory.
When your children ask you, “Why do we go to church?” or as you drive to church on Sunday mornings, remind them that the church gathers in order to worship God through singing, praying, giving, and responding to the preaching of His Word.6 Your church may provide a “children’s church” program during the worship service, but consider keeping your children in the service for corporate worship, at least until the preaching begins.
If you can get a copy of the service order before Sunday morning, sing or play some of the songs during family devotions throughout the week so your children can be prepared to sing along with the congregation. Our children’s voices may not always be perfectly in tune, but I have found that my boys’ exuberance in singing with the congregation is edifying and contagious.
3. Your kids need a Christian community.
In our day and age, there seems to be no shortage of community groups for families—sports teams, school groups, martial arts classes, and music studios to name just a few. In addition, God has placed you in a neighborhood where your kids have likely developed relationships with other children. Each of these communities is valuable, but they should not replace the role of the church as a foundational community for your family.
There may be Christians in those different groups, but there will also be youth with unbiblical worldviews. The friends that your children regularly interact with will inevitably have a profound impact on their lives. So choose your community groups carefully and prioritize the role of Christian friendships, particularly within the context of a church family that you gather with weekly.
It goes without saying that these three reasons apply to you as well as your kids. Each of us needs spiritual authorities, corporate worship, and a christian community. The church is not just another social institution. God has designed church families to function as a vital part of your life.
Don’t view your church family as extended relatives that you interact with at holidays. View your brothers and sisters in Christ as Jesus did, remembering that the nuclear family is temporal, but the church family is eternal (Matthew 12:46–50; 22:29-30).
Note: Read Part 2 here
Christians have differing views on church membership, however, it should be noted that it is very difficult for a pastor to know who he must “watch over” and “give an account for” if there is no form of church membership. ↩
Hebrews 10:25 is clear that regularly gathering with a church family is expected of all believers. ↩
It’s also helpful to remind them that the church is the people not the place. Instead of saying, “we are going to church” you might say, “we are going to worship God with our church family.” ↩