936 … that’s the number of weekends you have with your children from the day they’re born until the day they turn 18. As a father of four I know 936 is a number that gets small quickly! In my house, our four 936’s have quickly become 781, 597, 506, and 326.
I’ve been thinking about these numbers for the last several weeks, reflecting on my family as well as the families I see in my church. Before I get to the heart of this post, I want to share two thoughts that qualify what follows. First, I’m convinced that a child’s character and habits are set long before weekend number 937. This should give parents a sense of urgency as they think about how they will steward the time they have with their children. Second, it’s never too late for God to do a miracle in the life of your child. You may have wasted most of your 936 weekends on frivolous pursuits. But it’s not too late to chart a new course, and it’s not too late for God to do a miracle.
With those qualifying thoughts on the table, here are 5 ways Christian parents can make the most of the 936 weekends they have with their children:
- Make church a habit. Right off the top you can subtract 36 weekends for illness and 36 weekends for vacation. Realistically, you’re starting with 864 Sundays to show your children the importance of corporate worship. I’ve only been a pastor 10 years, but 10 years has been long enough to see too many parents waste these 864 Sundays. Many of these same parents wonder why their grown children aren’t regular in church attendance? They spent 18 years sporadically attending church, then wonder why their children don’t want to attend at all. Church attendance needs to be a habit, not a last resort when nothing else is on the calendar.
- Be excited about participating church. Yes, church attendance needs to be a habit. It needs to be routine. But church attendance must be more than just routine attendance. It must be more than ritualistic participation. Church attendance must involve participation, and it must be something that parents anticipate with their children. It must be something that parents look forward to each week. It must be something parents are positive about in the car after church. Unfortunately, too many parents model a poor attitude for their children, unintentionally teaching them that church is something we have to do and get to critique over lunch.
- Don’t limit faith to one day out of the week. Christianity certainly has expression when the people of God gather corporately for worship, discipleship, and fellowship. However, Christianity also needs to have expression in your home on Monday through Saturday. Family devotions can take different forms for different families, but somehow parents must integrate faith into everyday life. Too many parents spend 18 years dragging their kids to church on Sunday, then spend the rest of the week living with little or no thought of God and his glory. These parents should not be surprised when their grown kids pass on one-day-a-week-spirituality.
- Don’t let sports or activities control your church attendance. As a pastor, this is one of my biggest frustrations. I know sports and activities have positive benefits for children. I also know sports and activities can occasionally take families away from their home church on Sunday. My concern is the family that allows sports and activities to control church attendance and participation. Most of these families mean well. They’ll attend church if they’re in town, but they’re quick to participate in any game or activity that falls on a Sunday. These parents are teaching without words, and the lesson is this: Church is second to sports and activities.
- Show your kids church is a family you commit to rather than a product you shop for. Over the years I’ve come across a number of families who are incredibly faithful in church attendance and participation. They avoid many of the mistakes I’ve mentioned above. Unfortunately, they never stay at one church for an extended time. Maybe they get cross with the pastor. Maybe they are drawn by the programs at another church. Whatever the reason, these families hop around, shopping for the best spiritual experience for their children. These parents are modelling consumerism rather than real commitment to the body of Christ.
936 … I want to use mine well, and I know I have plenty to learn. I’d love to hear how you think parents can make the most of the short time they have with their children.