This post is from a friend of this blog, and he wants to have an open discussion about a topic of interest to many — here goes:
I’m a middle-aged dad, married to my wife of many years, with two teen-aged kids, one a Freshman and the other a Senior in High School. We’re currently experiencing a dilemma about church attendance. My kids have grown up in a typical community evangelical church, with high energy praise music and a high octane youth group. I used to appreciate some of this stuff (in fact I used to play guitar in the praise band!), but I really don’t anymore. My tastes and my theology have moved towards a more liturgical, Eucharist-centered view of the Sunday worship service. My understanding of the mission of the Church, the nature of baptism, liturgy, and corporate prayer, and so-on, doesn’t fit with the “seeker sensitive,” individualistic model of the community evangelical church. My study of theology and church history have moved me way behond the — IMHO — shallow (at best) or neo-fundamentalist (at worst) thinking in many such seeker churches.
I suppose a theologically moderate Anglican congregation might be more my thing these days, or maybe a mainline congregation with some post-liberal / evangelical emphasis, or maybe something heavily influenced by the new monasticism, or maybe even Catholicism or Orthodoxy. All this comes through lots of serious study, prayer and reflection. I simply cannot deal with the evangelical seeker-style church anymore — I’m mentally and emotionally and spiritually done with it.
As a father and husband, I feel I have some obligation to “lead,” whatever that might mean in today’s culture. This is a big deal for me as a third-generation Christian famly man: nothing is more important to me than passing along a joyful, stable faith to my kids. Yet simply for the sake of my own spiritual health — which impacts my role as a father and husband — a change for me is clearly necessary. In fact, I think my kids are getting robbed of a richer heritage in the faith by the go-go youth group culture, though I’m glad they want to go to church at all.
My question for the JC community is this: particularly those of you who are parents, have you ever experienced periods where the teen-aged / young adult kids and the parents (or one parent) attended different churches on Sunday mornings? How about churches in very different denominations? Has anyone found a way to make this sort of thing work? Is it a more common thing today than I think it might be? Can it actually be a healthy thing to let teen-aged / young adult children start to make their own choices about where to attend church (my oldest, after all, is going on 18 years old…)? Or, does the husband in particular have an obligation to “keep the family together” in the same local congregation every Sunday morning? And if so, does that imply taking the kids along kicking and screaming to a setting the husband thinks best, or does it mean enduring what the kids prefer at least until they’re out of the house? Or something else??