I pastor a church with a vibrant children's ministry. We have age-graded Sunday School and mission classes as well as a thriving AWANA program. Vacation Bible School, Fall Festivals and block parties are the outreach highlights of our church calendar.
In addition to our children's ministries, our youth ministries are fantastic. We have an outstanding group of young people who are involved in every area of church life, from teaching, to ministry, to leading congregational worship.
Despite our focus and prayerful dedication to reaching and discipling children and students, we are fighting an uphill battle. We neither coddle nor consumerize our children--our programs are not entertainment driven--yet we still lose them at an alarming rate.
I have noticed three times of significant drop-off. We lose many as soon as they enter the "tween" years and we lose many more toward the middle of high school. Several more drop out after high school.
One pattern consistently emerges as I reflect on the children we have lost over the years. The vast majority of them have either been dropped off at church or we have brought them in on our van. Some were brought by their grandparents or even their mothers. I can recall none of the children we have lost being brought to church by their fathers. This article by Robbie Low in Touchstone Magazine highlights that fact. The points he brings out are both fascinating and terrifying and the article is well-worth reading.
Dads--do you want your children to grow up with a solid foundation? Do you want them to understand the value and purpose of hard work, family and community? Do you want them to be able to withstand temptation and not fall into the traps of drugs, alcohol, teenage pregnancy and rebellion? Do you want them to become good spouses and parents and have long and happy marriages? Then get up off of your backside and take them to church. Don't just drop them off. Don't just call the church van to come get them. Don't just send them with their mother or their grandparents. If at all possible, find a way to get up and go with them. The more effort they see you putting into taking them to church, the more value they will place on it. They will never recognize the importance of church attendance unless they see it is important to YOU.
Dads, if you are faithful to take your children to church, can I guarantee that nothing awful will ever happen to them? Of course not. Sometimes good, faithful Christians do dumb things too. But what I can guarantee you is that they will understand and learn to value what is really important. And they will truly begin to value it, not just from your words, but from your actions.