Because of the tree. (Afterall - if the tree falls in the forest and no one hears it - it still falls, and the rest of the forest still stands...)
This post could be full of all kind of analogy. I'll try to refrain, but in case it gets out of hand, I'll apologize in advance.
Those of you who read me often have noticed a transparency lately regarding the urgency I'm feeling for parents to step up (a nice way of saying 'stop being lazy' - and I'm speaking to me), take heed of their responsibility (and gift), and spiritually lead their families.
It's literally making me laugh how much God is drilling this into my being. This has been a project God started on me several months back when, somehow, I started learning about the Shema (which is Jewish, and to be honest, I don't even know where I was introduced to this), but it struck me instantly. (Go read Deuteronomy 6 - the Shema is the "you tell your family and talk about it all the time" verses.) Anyway - I've not been able to shake the idea since then.
Then - in November, a youth pastor's conference we attend every year yielded a completely revamped idea of youth ministry. The program driven / attraction youth ministry idea that has been pushed for so long was suddenly being rammed aside and almost every message and idea revolved around not being program driven and being inter-generational. Ok.
Then - Aaron randomly gets these books in the mail from Amazon one day. Seriously. He called me and asked if I had ordered them. Nope. He was overly certain he hadn't, and it took a whole morning of research and a call to Amazon to figure out where they'd come from. (And we found that they'd come from people who don't even personally know us. Seriously.) That's when I read ApParent Privilege.
Then - Posting about ApParent Privilege, a good blog friend of mine commented and posted a link to a documentary. Go here to check it out. It's an hour long, but worth every second.
Did I mention God is trying to drive home a point?
Then - (yes, there's another then) our Fuel driven youth lessons have been hitting the exact. same. topics. Just tonight we talked about how the family provides the foundation of faith, not the church.
I'm loving the direction God is leading all of this in my life, and tonight, He started building, yet again, on the principles.
For several years - probably since we've been in youth ministry - the question has been tackled about whether a family should force their children to come to youth. Now - it's a no brainer for me regarding children's ministry. (Assuming a church separates by age groups - as many do.) If parents are going to church then one would assume that children would accompany their parents to what is available for them.
Youth gets fishy, though, for a lot of reasons. Youth age are old enough to stay at home (with the excuse of doing homework, of course). Youth age have athletic practices and events, extra-curricular activities, and jobs. Youth also have their licenses and other interests. In other words - the youth age can more easily 'get out of church' (assuming that the way we are 'doing' church is appropriate - but I'll touch that in a moment.)
And I'll be honest - Aaron and I have both been on both sides of this argument from time to time. It's a hard argument! Of course we want to force our kids to go to hear about Jesus (bear with me)! But then we don't want to force them because it may push them further away. It's a lively debate, but we've always said, "Our kids won't have an option." I'll be honest, saying this has always made me... well... nervous.
But tonight a thought struck me. Who cares if they want to go to youth or not? Their spiritual nourishment happens at home! Now don't misunderstand me! I'm not saying that church is bad or that we shouldn't go. We should go! What I am saying is - if your kid doesn't want to go to youth and you don't feel like forcing him / her is the answer... it's really not a question of whether to send him, it's a call to live out, talk about, and love on Jesus at home, something we should be doing anyway. Afterall - if we are living like Jesus and loving on Jesus at home in such a way that we are displaying faith to our children, then the urgency of 3 hours of youth group a week doesn't seem near as, well, urgent.
Again - I say please don't misunderstand. What your church offers is important, and if God has called you to a particular church He has called you to be a part. In fact, the church was established in New Testament times and God ordained it's establishment, making church important.
What I am saying is that church (even in it's original idea) was never meant to take the place of the discipleship and 'passing down' of one's faith that happens in families. It was created to compliment it, not abolish it. Thus - the emphasis, once again, is on family worship, discipleship, and basically, ya'll, us parents loving Jesus in such a way that it is obvious and contagious to our children.
When reading the Shema the first time I got this picture in my head of families back in OT times walking long distances or sitting around in their tents, and in no real rhyme or reason, dad saying something like, "Man, son, did I ever tell you about how God rescued us from Pharaoh? Man - I wish you could have seen all of those bugs. Our God is so faithful, son, I love Him so much. He is so good to us."
That's how I envision it. I envision a passionate parent so in love with God that they couldn't help but speak of it.
I wonder what would happen in our families if we (I am totally included in this) loved Jesus so much that the overflow of heart was this praise and thankfulness to Him that came out naturally in conversation. It would come out in a way that is relational, not rigid or religious. It wouldn't be forced, but our love for Him would seem natural. Wouldn't it make our children want to know this Jesus more? Wouldn't it make them trust Him more if we shared our own stories of God's faithfulness throughout our own lives.
Our God still lives and He still moves, and when our children can see God living and breathing through the change He's made in our lives, what more proof do they need? They can see how God is directly affecting their lives and the lives of their parents... not some dude sitting on a cloud thousands of miles away being unreachable and being completely unrelated to His creation.
I don't know - again, folks - just thoughts, and by no means perfected, but God is developing some things within me. Maybe we're missing the forest (family discipleship and spiritual leadership) because all we can see is the tree (church).