Wind back until 1985. Now I don’t know about you, but in my house my parents made the rules and the decisions. My life growing up was a good one, but my role was to do as they asked or not. The later usually got me into trouble. Nevertheless, at some point I would acquiesce.
I don’t remember being asked my opinion as a kid except in my mother’s daily question about what we should have for dinner. In fact, some decisions were sprung on me as they decided to move around the east coast landing me in four different high schools.
Nor was I asked about my thoughts on church. My mom and dad grew up in a time when church was a response to duty and obligation. No matter how much I resisted, church was a part of my weekly life. Simply, I did not have a choice to go or not.
But things have changed with my kids. As teenagers, they decide what sports to play, clubs to join, or with guidance what school to attend. Church, even though it is my life work, is not seen as an obligation or just some opportunity in our family. My kids decide for themselves on how they would like to be involved or not. Simply, they have a vote.
My youngest is a big fan of Vacation Bible School (VBS) and camp. From the music and songs to the games with friends, he finds joy and acceptance. It’s a place that he can just be a kid in God’s natural kingdom that attracts him to these ministries.
My oldest son teaches Sunday School, sings in the choir, and serves communion. One Sunday, I woke up him to go to church. His response was met with fatigue and asked to stay home. It was no big deal and so I left. About one mile down the road, he texted me. It said, “Man. I wish I was going to church because Addy is singing today.” Addy is my son’s little friend (and my God-daughter). She is a spunky three-years-old, who was singing with her choir for the first time. Remembering this, my son wanted to be present to see her sing. I turned my car around and called him. By the time I got home, he was outside waiting for me. My son – 16 years old – voted against sleep that day. He went to church on his own reckoning. No pressure from me the parent or (almost) pastor. It was a win-win day.
Families visit your church every Sunday. Some kids come willingly with their parents, and others might not be as excited. Whatever the case, these young people will visit our Sunday Schools, worship services and youth groups. Then, they leave. But I can guarantee you this. The first question parents will ask their children on the way home is “Did you have fun?” Kids will answer either, yes or no. Bam! Just like that their opinions are not only heard but help in deciding their family’s next step. These kids, who are parented different than I was, know that their voices and votes matter in family decisions.
So don’t forget: This Sunday as you prepare to open the doors for worship, Sunday School and youth group, that your building will encounter new families. And right along with the parents, a child’s vote will help them decide whether they will return to your church or not. The questions is – are you ready for them to vote, yes.
(Photo credit: The Visual Faith Project of Vibrant Faith)