By Angela Johnson
The lazy days of summer are coming to an end. Gone are the family reunions, vacations at the beach, and visiting favorite amusement parks. For some the summer marked first-time-sleep away camp adventures, sports tournaments, and robotic competitions. It is still hot outside, but August and early September mark the beginning of school. Family game night will be replaced with homework and projects. Online video game tournaments with friends will be replaced with late night study sessions and writing papers. And short sets and sandals will soon be replaced with sweaters and boots.
For many families, the end of summer also means the start of what we call in my home, "THE CRAZY SCHEDULE!" I know I am not the only one with "the crazy schedule": juggling your schedule, the kids' schedule, meeting deadlines, getting a healthy dinner on the table, and making time for family activities. With all the shifts in activities and responsibilities, one thing in our family does not change…we go to church! That's right, even with the crazy schedule we go to church. There are certainly Sundays when we want to be what some jokingly call "Mattress Methodists," but we make our way.
Recently my sons and I had a conversation about why we go to church. I've always taken them, but I never told them why. I'm not sure I ever gave it much thought, I just felt it was important. In our conversation many reasons emerged. I take them to church because it teaches them what we believe as Christians, they engage in the traditions of our denomination, they have a safe space to explore their gifts and talents, they can think critically and ask questions about their faith, and it helps them intentionally set aside time with God. The conversation was so good that it prompted me to go to social media and ask why my friends take their children to church. Most of us had many of the same reasons, but the top reason among us, and the reason my sons said they enjoy church, is COMMUNITY.
We can worship God at home, but there is something special about corporate worship. It is during corporate worship that my children hear how God has changed and blessed people. They have seen how the community comes together to take care of each other. They receive a Word from God, hear songs and prayer, and have experiences to encourage and inspire them throughout the school week.
Church is a place where my children are nurtured and loved by a community of believers who want the best for them. Because we attend consistently, the members of the church know them and have become family. They have dozens of big cousins, aunts, uncles, and grand-parents. They know they have people looking out for them wherever they are. They see church members in the neighborhood, working in their school, at the mall, etc. And as they have gotten older, they are not only recipients of this love and care but consciously share love and care with others. It warms my heart to see a five-year-old run up to my 13-year-old and give him a hug. It also warms my heart when I see my 15-year-old in deep conversation with one of the elders of the church.
My children see love and accountability modeled in the church community. They experience love through the power of prayer; both praying for others and having others pray for them.
As community/family we share in each other's victories and trials. They are affirmed in their uniqueness and accomplishments. They are held accountable for their actions when they behave out of character. And they experience the power of forgiveness and redemption in the church.
The church community reinforces what I teach at home. They practice respecting their elders, caring for others, and disagreeing with others respectfully. It is in the church community that they have learned that the world does not revolve around them by having opportunities to serve in the church and in the larger community.
Children are under a great deal of pressure academically, athletically, and socially. But when I take my children to church, those pressures are lifted. So even though THE CRAZY SCHEDULE is in full effect in our house, we intentionally make time to go to church where they are surrounded by a loving and supportive community and can simply be kids.
Angela Johnson currently serves as a Resident Chaplain at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, GA and is a candidate for ordination in the order of elder in the United Methodist Church. When she isn't serving as a chauffeur and chef to her teenage sons, she enjoys spending time with friends.
[Posted August 29, 2018]