Do I Have to Go to Church?

November 7th, 2011

Every parent has heard, "Do I have to go to church today?" The reasons a child asks the question are as varied as the responses. It may relate to previous experiences at church or to how tired the child is or to something fun waiting at home. Regardless of the reason, the question comes. Are we prepared to answer the child?

We can prepare ourselves by asking, "Why do I go to church?" It is a question for every teacher, parent, and pastor to ask and to ponder. Take a few moments right now to answer this question for yourself. Encourage other teachers, children's ministry leaders, and parents to do the same.

So, Why Do We Go to Church?

Because God says so. The first commandment (found in Exodus 20) says we shall have no other gods before God. It is sometimes difficult to remember that commandment when we are caught in the busy-ness of everyday living. Attending church regularly helps us to remember to keep God first in our lives.

The fourth commandment (also found in Exodus 20) tells us to keep the sabbath day holy. Certainly we can do that without attending church, but joining other Christians in worship and study helps to renew our souls for the week to come. "Keeping the sabbath holy" is much easier when we are reminded to do so through church attendance. 

Because it is "Jesus' home and he invites you." For five-year-old Chaney, this was his answer to the question. A child has much to teach us! If we would frequently hear Chaney's response, how different would we be? Ever arrive at church harried and hassled? Remembering that Jesus invites you (and me and every other person) into relationship with him and with each other should put a bounce in our step and a smile on our face. It is like getting an invitation to a party every day. What joy fills our hearts at the sound of Jesus' voice saying, "Come!" Thanks, Chaney, for reminding us of that important invitation.

Because we want and need to worship and sing. It is in corporate worship that we: 1) praise God for the gift of eternal life, and 2) gain strength and support from one another as a community of faith.

It is through music that we are able to praise God and raise our voices in response to God's Word speaking to us. It is often the songs we sing regularly on Sunday morning and during the week that shape how we are to live as Christians. When times of trouble come (and they do come), it is frequently the songs that lay in our hearts and on our minds that help to get us through those tough times. What are you teaching your children about worship? What songs are your children learning to sing?

Because I want to learn about God. Chelsey reminded me of this important reason. It is at church we can learn about God, the Bible, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and about living as a Christian in today' s world. It is at church our minds are provided with new information that feeds our faith. It is at church our hearts learn in new ways how to experience faith. It is at church that new knowledge fills our souls to help us grow as children of God. What are you teaching the children in your class and in your home?

Because I can learn symbols of my faith. Our lives are surrounded by symbols that are meaningful. Stop signs help us to be safe. Family dinner reminds us of the connectedness of family to each other. Wedding rings symbolize a lifelong covenant. Our name symbolizes our identity that is ours alone.

What symbolizes my faith? It is through learning about those symbols that they become mine. The cross, sign of the fish, descending dove, shell, wheat and grapes on a vine, an open Bible, and a manger with a baby all have deep meanings for me. They remind me of who I am as a child of God. They help me stay connected to God, to my faith. What are important symbols of your faith? Teach them to the children and help them discover important symbols as they begin their own faith journey.

Because I need to find what is missing in my life. When our souls are empty and hungry needing to be filled, we go to church or to those in the church community who can help us be filled. Through worshiping, learning, praying, singing, and Christian fellowship, our souls will receive nourishment. Our spiritual life is enriched. As we are always on a journey of faith, it is important to remember that "some assembly is required." Our experiences at church help us to put the pieces and parts together correctly.

Because when I am open to seeing God in new ways, I grow as a Christian. As a follower of Jesus, I sometimes get off track and forget how to be a Christian. When I go to church with a mind and heart eager to learn and grow, surprises happen. Watching Madison play peek-a-boo with the stranger seated nearby reminds me to be welcoming and accepting of each person. Knowing Delaney sat with the homeless woman at the church dinner reminded me that every person is a child of God with a ministry of service.

Listening to a motivating sermon reminds me to invite others to church with me to hear and learn as well. Seeing the empty seat reminds me to stay connected with those not present. If I go to church with my mind set on myself, none of these reminders occurs and I remain caught in my selfish self.

Because I like to see my friends at church. What a great response! Nine-year-old Nathan shared this response with me, and I agree it is one of my reasons as well. As much as I appreciate solitude in worship and encouraging words from a good sermon, it is the friendships  that help me to know God. It is in the caring for others and the caring from others that remind me how important church friends are in my life. It is in the developing relationships that future "best friends" are grown. It is in the interaction with friends that my relationship with God is challenged and encouraged to grow. It is my friends who help me stay on the faith journey.

Because I have a leadership role. Okay, so this isn't the most spiritual reason, but it is a real reason. As a children's teacher, you are a leader in the church. People look to you for leadership. Lead them to church. Be there yourself. Take your responsibility seriously and be faithful to it, whatever it might be.

Because it is a good habit. Just like brushing our teeth and eating healthy foods, we need to practice good habits to live full and productive lives that please God. Going to church is just such a habit. It becomes a part of the rhythm of the week and the year. Missing church on a Sunday morning makes the week seem twice as long. Missing Christmas Eve candlelight service or Easter morning sunrise service leaves a big gap in my year. Going to church is a healthy habit for each Christian. I "can't not" go. Pulling away from the habit leaves a big gap in my life.

When you hear, "Do I have to go to church today?" take a moment to encourage the child to think about the question. How does he or she answer this question? Why is it important for that child to attend church? In this case, "because" alone isn't enough. It is what comes after the "because" that reminds the child (and you) why church is an important part of our lives.

Ask a child, "What do you like best about church?"

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