I got a reader email about some comments I made recently about using Sunday School and Children’s Church, voicing a concern about influences. I thought I would quote it in part here (slightly edited for brevity):
What do you do about negative influences with using a nursery or Sunday school class? We’ve always felt that age segregation is wrong because we believe parents are to be the ones training up their children…
There is a huge difference between abdicating your parental responsibilities and allowing others to come alongside to help, encourage, and supplement what you are doing at home.
I absolutely believe that parents are to be primary in training up our children, however, most of our families are isolated from extended family (either physically, emotionally, or spiritually). Many of us are first-generation Christians, forging a path into uncharted territory as we raise the next generation by Christian principles.
The longer I am at this whole parenting thing, the more I realize my own limitations as one person, one mom.
God strengthens me, gives my husband and me wisdom, and enables me to do what He has called me to do…and He also works by sending people into my life who help me and vice versa.
This is the beauty of belonging to a local church, and being a part of a body of believers.
There are many benefits we have seen in allowing others to help us in our parenting through different ministries such as nurseries and Sunday School.
The Benefits of Children’s Ministries in my Kids’ Lives
1. Teaching Opportunities
After church each Sunday, my children love to tell me all about what they have learned or discussed in Sunday school. Because ages 4th grade and up are in the service with the parents for the morning service, we often talk about that too. The children really love to tell me what they have learned, and often their dad or I will have something to add to that, or we can ask questions to get them thinking more deeply about it.
On Wednesday nights, after youth group, my daughter often comes in, sits next to me, and loves to talk to me about what happened, what they learned, what they did, discussions with others, and so forth. This is quality time right there. She wants my thoughts on this or on that. She wants to talk about what she learned.
For us, it’s been a springboard into a deeper relationship.
Do we sometimes have to deal with “issues”? Sure…like when my daughter asks me why the internet filter is blocking something, and I look and see she is trying to access MySpace (we had some great discussions on that night)…or when we may disagree on the finer points of applying a Bible principle.
But…she’s turned 17 this year. She has to learn how to process information, to filter the good from the bad, and right now she is able to do this under somewhat controlled circumstances. She’s applying what she’s learned.
2. The need for fellowship
I have heard it said on many an internet forum, egroup or blog that our children need to be each other’s best friends, and that family should provide all that they need.
I’ve even heard that our children don’t need friends.
…and this from women who spend time on egroups talking about feeling alone, and seeking out fellowship with virtual strangers because of their own need for friendship.
The church is a community.
The local church is a body (or is supposed to be ~ see Ephesians 4).
Our children, as they grow, learn to become a part of that body.
One of the most important factors in choosing a church (after doctrinal position) is the fellowship—being able to make connections, bonding with others in that body.
When I grew up, we went to church and we went home…I had no connection to anyone at the church. I think this lack of friends in the parish of my childhood had a huge impact on me walking away from the nominal faith in which I was raised.
3. Reinforcing our Beliefs
I mentioned this the other day, but I find that there is great benefit to our children hearing someone else they respect reinforcing the same basic thing we are talking about at home.
Our lady Sunday School teachers for the teen girls have some wonderful talks with the young ladies about practical issues like modesty, godliness, relationships, and so forth. I’m so thankful for them. The same is true with the investment the other teachers have made in my kids, and how they have helped to reinforce this idea that it’s not just mom and dad who believe this stuff.
Do I always agree 100% with what they teach or how they apply Bible principles? No.
However, this also provides some great teaching opportunities with the kids, as we are able to explain why we apply it this way, and help them formulate what they believe and why.
I will reiterate that I would be more hesitant if there was nothing but all fun and games going on at church, with absolutely no learning. Some fun is great, as learning has to be age appropriate.
Sunday School and other programs like it can be a great blessing to our families.