A guest post by Jennifer Underwood, Director of Children’s Ministries: I started going to church alone in the 5th grade. I attended the church to which my parents belonged and were even charter members of, but hadn’t attended themselves in several years. When I first insisted on going, it could have been that my parents thought it was a phase; what 11 year old goes to church by herself? Regardless, my mother faithfully dropped me off at our little Presbyterian church for Sunday School every week and picked me up after church was over and then repeated the process in the evening for Youth Group.
My friend, Vicki, also attended that church and her family took me under their wing, allowing me to sit with them, ensuring that people got to know me, and always making me feel welcome. Vicki’s parents had three children of their own to wrangle on Sunday mornings, but I never felt that they minded having one more, unofficially. I am forever grateful for their love and acceptance of me and their willingness to embrace what must surely have seemed like an odd situation with an odd little girl, who, for reasons she still doesn’t fully understand, felt compelled to show up at church each Sunday, even if she had to go by herself.
The Guilds were my church family and that was my church home, not just for fifth grade, but year after year until the day I graduated high school and left for Austin.
These days I can drive myself to church, thankfully, but that does not mean that there aren’t obstacles to getting there. For one thing, I’m often greeted on Sunday morning with the warm snuggles of a six year old, who whispers to me in little boy morning breath, “Mommy, I don’t want to get up. Do we have to go to church?” while he brushes my hair out of my eyes.
And I’m often tempted, so very tempted. Family time feels perpetually on backorder in today’s busy world and the idea of just rolling over and spending the morning in pajamas is alluring.
But my reasons for showing up on Sunday now are even greater than they were when I was younger, because now Sunday isn’t just something I need; it is something they need too. At this age they don’t feel compelled to show up to church with me or without me, although I pray they will eventually.
As their parent, they need me to get them there, to establish the pattern that on Sunday, this is What We Do. Their occasional desire to stay home is not because they don’t enjoy Sunday School and Children’s Church once they are there, because I can assure you that they do. It’s really just that the allure of hanging out in their underwear and watching cartoons and building pillow forts can sometimes be more attractive in the short term.
But I know the value of the seeds that were planted in my heart and my head during those years when I got myself out of bed on Sunday mornings. I know what a gift it was that not only did the Lord give me the desire to be there, but He gave me parents who were willing to support me and get me there, and the Guilds who opened their family to me.
The things I learned in those years pulled me back in after sitting through college classes taught by professors I respected as experts who treated Christianity as the latest in a long series of myths. The things I learned on those Sundays at church grew and flowered in my heart and pulled me back in after several years of lying dormant and unnourished while I gave the world its opportunity to pull me away.
I want those same seeds growing in the hearts of my children because I know first-hand how much they will need them. I want them to feel the tug of little strings pulling them back to the Truth that they learned at their church and their school when they are beyond its geographical sphere of influence. What they choose to do with those strings and the Truth they have learned is in God’s hands, not mine, but at the very least I can make sure they there to hear it.
One of the promises we make as a church during Baptism is to help form our children in the Christian Faith. There are three main aspects to Christian Formation: The Bible, the Church’s creeds and confessions, and worship.
Our Children’s Christian Education addresses all three of these very important aspects of our children’s formation:
1. Sunday School (9:15-10:15)– This is where we primarily teach the Bible. Our curriculum, Disciplr, teaches our children to understand all Scripture from a Christ-centered lens and understand where any given passage is in salvation history.
2. Children’s Church (10:30-11:00)- This is when we walk our children through classical Anglican worship, familiarize them with the Prayer Book, and allow time for questions and explanation about the various aspects of our worship service – what we do, see, and hear.
3. Catechesis (11:00-11:30) – Catechesis is the centuries-old practice of teaching children the theology of the Church, meaning the creeds and confessions. In the Anglican Communion, we teach such creeds as the Nicene and Apostles’ Creed. Our confession is the 39 Articles of Religion.
What is Christianity? What does it claim? Where does it claim it? What does it mean? All of these questions are answered and learned in order to fulfill our duty as the Church and parents to raise our children in the Christian Faith.