Friday, August 21, 2009

Kickin' Kids Out of Church?

David and Katie were an average family with three kids who were just going about the daily routine of raising their growing family. David and Katie had been Christians all their lives, and were raising their children in the church. All three of the children were dedicated to the Lord by a pastor the family loved. A child dedication is a very special celebration in Christian churches all over the world, wherein parents promise to raise their children in the ways of the Lord, and the church promises to support the family emotionally, and prayerfully. David and Katie loved their church family and trusted their pastor and friends with all their hearts.

David and Katie’s oldest son, Michael, had always been a difficult child. He was burdened with ADHD and he seemed to have little control over his impulses. Katie was often exhausted and overwhelmed. She remembers picking 5 year-old Michael up from Sunday school one day and the teacher just looked at her and said, “Michael was very bad today. Michael, tell your mommy how bad you were today.” Over the years Katie would often be stopped in the hallway at church, where people would say things like, “I heard you don’t believe in spankings. Michael needs a good spanking”, or “I heard you let Michael watch ‘The Power Rangers’. That show is making Michael crazy”. Katie was broken over the fact that her child seemed to be the subject of gossip. The odd thing was, Katie DID believe in spankings, and she diligently monitored what the children watched on television. They didn’t watch “The Power Rangers”.

One day when Michael was 14 years old, the Junior High Pastor at the church called Katie into his office. He sat across the desk from Michael’s mom and said, “I’ve given Michael chance after chance and all he does is bite me in the butt. He's too hard. Please don’t bring Michael back to our services again.” Katie couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “Is that what Jesus says…’You're too hard, and I’ve given you chance after chance’?” The pastor pointed his finger at Katie and said, “Don’t you throw Jesus in my face!” Where were the people who had stretched their arms forward and prayed over this child when he was just a baby? There were no prayers, there was no support – there were just words, “don’t bring him back”.

Michael floundered over the next few years and eventually ended up trapped in a cycle of drug addiction and jail. He eventually went to prison.

How can we keep this kind of thing from happening to another family? Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” I believe this scripture is not only about WHAT to teach, but HOW to teach. Train a child up in the way HE should go – according to his bent – and the truth will live in him forever. If a child is an athlete, get him involved in Fellowship of Christian athletes. If your daughter is a dancer, start a dance troupe at your church (yes, I said “dance” and “church” in the same sentence).

If you know a mom who is struggling to raise a special needs child, get off the pew and pray with her, give her an afternoon off, or just call her up once in a while and give her a chance to just talk. You know the kids who hang out in the parking lot of the church on Tuesday night before the High School mid-week service smoking their cigarettes? Get off the pew and go hang out with them. They are fringe kids, but they’re reaching out. Reach back! Are you a children’s pastor, or youth pastor at your church? Remember that every day may be the day that a child makes a choice – the choice to serve God, or the choice to walk away. You are there. Get off the pew and make a difference in a child’s life…or in the life of his frazzled mom!

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