I recently had a conversation with a woman who has taught children’s Sunday School for fifty years. Her students have almost finished elementary school but, when it comes to their knowledge of the Bible, most are at a preschool level. That fact is true of her students today but wasn’t true fifty years ago. I asked her to tell me what she thought had made the difference and her answers were both smart and sobering.
Her first comment stopped me in my tracks, and I hope it will do the same for you.
She said, “Fifty years ago parents would pick their children up and ask them what they had learned in Sunday School. Now parents pick up their children and ask, ‘Did you have a good time?'”
Recently she asked her class to raise their hand if they could say the Lord’s Prayer. Three of her twenty students responded – and ALL of these kids are old enough to memorize the Preamble to the Constitution, a Wadsworth poem and most certainly the Lord’s Prayer.
This teacher said that fifty years ago children brought their Bible to Sunday School and most could easily locate a passage of Scripture. Recently one of her “regulars” didn’t know how to find the book of Matthew. Her lessons are often disrupted by parents who arrive during the middle of class to pull their child out for a sporting event. There were no sporting events scheduled on Sundays fifty years ago. Very few of her students attend every Sunday. It is a huge challenge each year to find teachers who are willing to make that same commitment.
Contrast that information with the sidelines of a soccer match or a football game. Parents often lobby for a certain sports team, a certain classroom teacher, or a specific group of friends for their children. They hire tutors, trainers and party planners just to make sure their child is included in the right crowds. Parents rarely miss one of their children’s games and neither do their children. There is a lot of competition out there and they don’t want their child left behind.
But what consequences are parents and children competing to achieve? It has never been more important for a parent to consider this question. Are we more concerned with what will make our children successful this month and in this world or are we focused on what will make them successful eternally? Do we want our kids to go to the right school more than we want our children to go to heaven?
What consequences are worth competing for? This is a crucial question and chances are, the choice will come down to this – do you want your child to be successful in the world more than you want your child to be successful eternally? It may not be possible to achieve both, especially for the next generation. A recent USA Today article reported that only one-third of college students believe in God. That number was one-half, just a generation ago. Why is that true? The author of the article closed with this comment, “Being religious now is a conscious choice.”
In other words, your children will not believe in God unless they have been convinced that God is real, and that faith is a priority. Which television shows, movies, coaches or professors are going to teach that lesson? When do parents teach that lesson?
I will choose to be blunt.
If you pick your child up from Sunday School and ask them if they had a good time, are you suggesting that is the reason you brought them? Consider asking them, “what did you learn about the Lord today?” Ask them about their lesson and then tell them what you learned in your class. That will teach them why they need Sunday School and that you need to learn as well.
If you pick your child up early from a Sunday School class to go to a sporting event – or anything else – have you just revealed to them, and the rest of the class, what you think is most important?
If you teach a class on Sundays, and commit to be there each week, what have you demonstrated to your children? If your children achieve the same relationship with God that you have, will you be happy for them?
I agree with the author of the article, “being religious now is a conscious choice.” But then again, it always has been. Christians were never meant to blend with the world and share its priorities. We have been called to a higher purpose.
Jesus said, “Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done” (Revelation 22:12). Did that verse thrill you or make you uncomfortable? I believe Jesus is coming soon. When he returns, I hope he will find all of us competing for his eternal reward.