Sunday, May 28, 2017

Church Leaders: Don't Lead Your Children AWAY From Church!

One congregation I served had several elders.  By all appearances they were good, solid leaders.  Each had their own gifts and emphases in their ministries.  They were faithful in their attendance and support of the work of the congregation.  They were upstanding, godly individuals in their own right, and good examples to the flock.  But sadly, each of these men had kids who had fallen away from Church and didn't attend anywhere.  Some left for denominational congregations.  The only time you saw some of them is when they came home for vacation and dropped in to their former church to be with their parents, or for a special Christmas service, etc.  For some of these children of leaders, who are now adults themselves,  it was the only time they 'darkened the church door.'  That is pretty sad.  How could men who were so effective, so seemingly spiritual, so 'involved' in the work of the church have kids who would drop out and have such negative feelings about the church in which they were raised?

Being good ambassadors for the church is a very important task, and many are careful how they present themselves and represent the church when they are out in public, at the job, or in the community.  They model that phrase, "You never get a second chance to make a good first impression."  And that is commendable.  But how about the impression we give to our family when we are home, out of the 'public eye,' and we let down our guard about "how we really feel"?

Children have a remarkable way of imitating their parents.  Their values will become the child's values.  We used to have those old schoolyard arguments of "Chevy is best because my old man drives a chevy!"  Or, this candidate is the best because that's who my parents like.  Children will naturally trust the wisdom and the "likes" of their parents, and so they are likely to become the Child's values and priorities.  Thus we might think their kids would naturally want to attend Church, and be active there because mom & dad attend and are so active there.  But oftentimes it doesn't work out that way.  

Christian leaders need to beware of airing the dirty church laundry at home.  When they hear a constant stream of which people are lazy; which people don't give, attend, or serve; or that other leaders are stupid; or that a decision was made that made them really upset; it has a cumulative effect.  Children may start thinking that even though Dad wants to be a leader (or maybe he really doesn't if he's honest with himself), that they certainly don't want to get involved in that mess, and there's really not much reason to stay.  The stream of negativity may be an unspoken message to children that church is really not a great place to be.  They start 'connecting the dots' for themselves and they check out mentally, physically, and spiritually.  

Oddly enough, that was a reason I regularly heard from men in the congregation who steadfastly refused to get involved in any official church office.  They were perfectly glad to volunteer, show up to do some particular task, but they avoided the "office" because they did not want to (a) go to meetings where there was so much conflict and lack of unity; and (b) get caught up in the politics of the church.  They were perfectly content to serve without a title.  I think they heard way too much that was critical of other leaders or members.  They decided they wanted nothing to do with that leader with a dominant personality, who had the "my way or no way" mentality.  And some of the leaders' wives had very sharp tongues and wielded great influence upon their husbands' decisions, as well as flaunted their own status(?) to members of the congregation.

Christian leaders need to pay careful attention to how they speak about the Church, how they speak about fellow Christians, and how they present the work they are called to do.  This is especially true at home in front of our children.  I often preached that when we speak of the Church to the unsaved we don't air all the dirty laundry, and share the "dirt" that we know about folks who worship there.  We don't speak evil about the preacher, other leaders, or members of the congregation.  Instead I urged that we become 'cheerleaders' for the work the Lord is doing in our congregation.  The good we share, the bad we don't!  If I worked for any business and made regular comments about how bad it was, how rotten the other employees were, or how untrustworthy the supervisors were, I probably wouldn't have that job very long, and I wouldn't attract many to want to do business there either.  Are we attracting our kids or unconsciously pushing them away?  We bear some of the responsibility for when our grown children have no interest in attending or being involved in Church work.

By the way, ALL Christian parents should be aware of what they say about the Church and other Christians in front of their children!  Yet for leaders, who by virtue of the job they do have greater awareness of what is going on - both the good as well as the bad - they need to be especially careful what they are communicating to their children.  And many times communication is non-verbal!  Children will hear and understand, and have their own decisions shaped on the basis on what they glean from dad and mom.

And now a special word to preachers and their wives:  All this applies to you as well!  When your kids hear how badly dad is treated; how poorly and unfairly they are paid;  how other jobs would be so much more beneficial; how people are so mean to them; and the list goes on, why would you think that your children would want to hang around for that kind of lifestyle!  Resentment and bitterness might be the sad fruit that constant angry complaints by the preacher can cultivate in their own children.  The preacher probably loves the ministry, but they may be preaching misery to their kids!  Big mistake!  Some wise discretion needs to be exercised when talking about the church, and the way issues are spoken about to your children.  

May the Lord bless those Godly leaders who are great examples at home, and whose children grow up to be fine leaders and servants in their own right.  Of course it is also recognized that there are great leaders who are also great parents that have children who exercise their own free will and choose an unfortunate course for themselves.  My plea is for Christian leaders to pay attention to both the impression they give as well as the words they use about the Church to their children.  Lead them to want to be involved and serve the Lord.  Do not push your children away with the negativity and problems you may face on a daily basis in your service.

C'mon, Murphy.  Let's go outside!