This past Sunday during our sharing time after the sermon, a five year old boy asked for the handheld microphone. “I’m getting baptized today!” Simeon began. “I know Jesus died on the cross for me. And he rose for me. I asked him into my heart and I’m ready to get baptized. I love Jesus and I know he washed my sins away.”
In some churches in our land, an increasing number, Simeon would not have even been allowed in the service. The movement towards removing children from “adult church” has grown exponentially, and I hear testimonies every now and then from people who, while visiting relatives, are told by ushers at the door of the sanctuary, “I’m sorry, you can’t bring your children in here. They have their own worship service in the education wing.” One family I know tried to smuggle their kids into the Sunday morning service (and they were members!), but got ugly glares and stares from those sitting around them every week. They finally gave up and went to another church.
What’s the big deal, you ask? I believe it is a huge deal, a deal of biblical proportions, and I am not trying to be funny. We are losing a generation of young people who have grown up in the church. As soon as they have the opportunity to walk away from the faith of their fathers, they are doing so, in record numbers. A USA Today poll in 2007 estimated that 85% of students who enter college professing faith in Jesus Christ renounce that faith by the time they leave school four years later. In 2002, the Southern Baptist Convention’s Council on Family Life reported that roughly 88 percent of evangelical children are leaving the church shortly after they graduate from high school.
There are lots of theories as to why the young people are leaving the church. Some believe it is because church is not “fun enough” once you get past the teen years. You have been entertained and catered to as you have moved from children’s church to youth group, and suddenly you are on your own, thrown into the daunting world of “adult church” and it is distasteful to you. That may very well be true, which is perhaps why some believe the “emergent church” is simply children’s church for adults.
I have a theory that is shared by increasing numbers of people across the nation. That theory is that children learn best by worshiping with their parents. Rather than being served juice and cookies and a fast-paced multi-media presentation of Daniel in the lions’ den, they are hearing expository preaching through the book of Ephesians. They are sitting next to Dad and Mom who are listening to the sermon, taking notes, and then interacting with the congregation afterward with discussion and questions. Our experience over these last 22 years has been that these young people leave home with their faith in tact, raise their own children, and disciple them to follow Christ.
The key to this “movement,” if you want to call it that, is biblical leadership provided by the father. Men who catch the vision for bringing up their own children “in the training and admonition of the Lord” are seeing amazing results in their marriages, their families, and in their own hearts.