Saturday, May 29, 2010
Responsibility and RESPONSIBILITY
Over the past few weeks we have had conversations in the church office about the declining priority of Sunday school and catechism classes among parents and families of the Church. It has included the usual frustrations of attendance, attention, and actions (meaning behavior). In that ongoing dialog we have noticed a few things worthy of a larger discussion.
It is not true that parents and students are unwilling or unable to make commitments and then follow through on them. At first this was where the conversation headed but then we noticed that kids are being hauled to sports practices and games, dance classes, extra-curricular events, and the like. Parents and kids are making commitments – but those commitments are not to the church, not to Sunday school and catechism, and not to the faith in general. The issue we must face is not why parents and families are not up to making and keeping commitments; they are and clearly do. Rather the issue is why the Church is no longer high on the list of priorities, responsibilities, and commitments in these homes.
It is not true that parents are not as involved in the lives of their children as other parents in other generations were. At first we thought the problem in the Church was related to a general distance parents have from their children but then we considered the amount of time they put in together at those sports practices and games (not to mention the travel time for some of these sports leagues). We paid attention to the amount of time parents were spending in the car transporting their children to dance rehearsals or music lessons and then to the performance events. Clearly they are spending a great deal of time together but it is also true that speaking, teaching, and sharing the faith has dropped down on the list of urgent priorities.
I spend several hours with parents prior to baptism and we include some discussion of the promises parents make to raise their children in the faith, to bring them to the worship services of God’s House, and to provide for their further instruction in the faith (what we call catechism classes). There does not seem to be much difference in their attention to this counseling or in their ability to understand and make this commitment while the child is still very small and very far removed from some of this. We talk about praying with their children every night as a discipline that bears rich rewards later when spiritual and life issues confront children and they look for people to talk to about them.
So what happens between those baptismal promises and the adolescent years when the parents have the most to do to make good on those baptismal promises? You can tell me because I do not have much of an answer. Parents still want to do right and do their best for their children but somehow the faith, the Church, and spiritual maturity in that faith are not connected with what is good and right and the best for their children. The great Dale Meyer video (Easter Showers) includes a line in which a lay teacher in the congregation complains about parents who will pay good money for Stride Right shoes for their children but then won’t come in for an hour of baptismal counseling [or bring them to worship and Sunday school and catechism classes]. Parents want to do right for their children but their definition of “right” no longer includes Church, Sunday school, or catechism classes. I wish I knew why.... and how to change it...