Should Parents Skip Church to Disciple Their Kids?
I saw a video the other day advocating that parents skip church on some Sunday mornings to go and have church with their kids in some location like the park or by the lake. The guy was arguing that a.) the church is a people and not a place and b.) that parents should be the primary ones teaching their kids about God. I agree with him on both of these points, but I think he has a fundamental misunderstanding regarding the importance of the gathered church on Sunday as what we would call the Lord’s Day.
Now, to be fair, I’m not sure how this person’s church works. Is there a separate service for youth during the main Sunday service time? If so, that’s wrong. Youth are old enough to understand and worship with adults in the main service. There are even some who would say that kids should be up there learning what the natural rhythms of worship look like even if they don’t fully understand. These are decisions that churches can make. But to forsake the weekly gathering of the saints for the worship of their Lord to spend time with family is something that I can’t get behind. Let’s talk about why.
First, who or what is the church? It isn’t a building. Scripture speaks often of the church as the bride of Christ. A bride is a person, or more specifically in this case, a people. Anyone whom God has saved composes the church. In Christian life, we speak of the church in two different ways. First, we speak of the local church. That is the group of believers that you regularly gather with. There are tons of local churches here in Kentucky. Second, we speak of the global Church. That is every follower of Jesus that is breathing on the planet right now. Obviously, when we speak of the bride of Christ, that is the global Church including every follower of Jesus that has ever lived throughout history.
As we proceed, let me just say that yes, parents do need to be the main ones discipling their kids. They need to be involved and interested in their kids lives. They need to teach them about God and how He affects every other part of their lives. They need to teach them life skills. They don’t need to just always be handing them off to teachers, coaches, and youth pastors. Kids are being discipled no matter what—the question is are they being trained the way you believe is right or the way someone else does?
They also don’t need to be discipled at the expense of church. Church is a great partner in the life of the family, a gift from God, and an observable command in the Bible. Parents should be discipling their kids to make church a priority—not discipling them that it is optional at best and unnecessary at worst.
We see the biblical model for discipleship in Deuteronomy 6 when Moses instructs the people:
And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:6-9)
This is the model for discipleship. We teach our children all the time. They are always observing us. God should intersect with every part of our lives and they should see how He affects that. We should take moments all the time to teach them the how and why of our walk and our dealings in life. We don’t have to skip church to disciple them and if Sunday is our only free time in the week to be together then maybe we should reevaluate our schedules and activities.
Article VIII on the Lord’s Day in the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 puts it this way, “The first day of the week is the Lord's Day. It is a Christian institution for regular observance. It commemorates the resurrection of Christ from the dead and should include exercises of worship and spiritual devotion, both public and private. Activities on the Lord's Day should be commensurate with the Christian's conscience under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.”
Biblically, the regular gathering of the church is a command. We need to be discipling our children to go to church—not teaching them that it is ok to skip it. We see an emphasis on the regular assembly of believers all throughout the New Testament. Acts 2 shows us that believers regularly assembled. Hebrews 10:25 says we should not neglect meeting together. John speaks of being in the Spirit on the Lord’s day in Revelation 1:10. It is hard to read Scripture post Jesus’s resurrection and not come away understanding that the local church is a very important part of the Christian life.
Parents, your kids need you to show them how to walk with Christ. They need to see it from you daily and you need to take the time to explain what it looks like to follow Him in certain situations. They need you to have regular times of family worship with them. But they also need you to show them that being a part of a church is important for them and for you.