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.
But my kids like the evangelical community church we attend. They find other churches I’ve taken them to visit lame and boring. My child who is a high school Senior has a drivers’ license and has said she would go with my son to the community evangelical church if I want to go somehwere different. They are both dead-set against change, and they’re not really equipped to understand all the changes I’ve undergone. In truth, my kids rarely go to the church service itself; Sunday School is contemporaneous with the worship service, so effectively the youth Sunday School is their “church.” Yet they like their youth pastors and have some friends there. My wife suggests I should be willing to suffer for my kids’ sake. She also likes the seeker-type church, and she has little interest in liturgy or theology. But the truth is that, for me, this isn’t just about tolerating a few annoying things here and there — it’s a deep change (I would say a spiritual growth) that has been a long time in the making. I just can’t come home from church with a stomach ache every week anymore.
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??