I was captivated by a recent installment of Dr. Albert Mohler’s blog titled, “The New Family Trump Card” — Family Time vs. Church Time.”  In his contribution, Dr. Mohler responds to an article in a recent issue of Leadership magazine that addresses the growing crisis in our churches of families choosing to miss church commitments in favor of children’s activities.  I must confess that this issue has been troubling me for a long time as I see it growing all the time.  Mohler puts the issue in perspective here,

This is a fascinating look into family life in America, even among Christian families. Let’s be honest here — these families, for the most part, are not spending these additional hours of the week in joint spiritual activities and disciplines. It is not as though “family time” was a time of biblical instruction and spiritual edification. No . . . increasingly it’s Little League and NASCAR.

Here is a stark truth.  Family time is critically important.  No one can or should deny that fact.  However, when extra-curricular activities of the children, or of the parents for that matter, are taking precedence over spiritual training and worship, the spiritual vitality of the family surely must suffer.  The Bible squarely places the responsibility for spiritually training children upon the shoulders of the parents.  But how many families actually spend deliberate time together in spiritually beneficial activities?  I believe Dr. Mohler is correct when he concludes that parents who teach their children to prefer sports, or picnics, or any other elective activities over Christian worship and fellowship are usually not taking up the slack in the home. 

Here is the heart of the matter for me, as a pastor.  Mohler continues,

This is a very important insight. When “church time” is seen as a competitor to “family time,” something is wrong at church. When family members hardly see each other at church activities, the congregation needs to take a quick inventory of its concept of ministry.

The sixty-four thousand dollar question becomes, “What’s wrong with our church?”  How can we adjust and adapt, even correct the mistakes that have led us to fall short of meeting Christian families’ needs?  I truly would appreciate some input on this question.  Our congregation is small in number.  We have a thriving AWANA club, though a good number of the children and adults are not members of our church.  But many people believe our own teenagers are not being fed adequately.  How does a small church with limited resources minister to entire families in a meaningful way?  Is it possible to “de-segregate” ministries while providing worthwhile instruction to everyone?  Input, please.

It should be mentioned though, that the church cannot replace the parents in bringing up responsible citizens of the Kingdom.  My priority as pastor is to hold up God’s Word as the authority and standard of all our faith and practice, and as such to remind families, my own included, that neglecting our children’s spiritual welfare is nothing short of sin.  Dr. Mohler makes a strong argument in this regard,

At the same time, when Christian parents take their kids to Little League games rather than worship on the Lord’s Day, these parents teach their children that team sports are more important than the worship of God.

Every kid has a “thing” going on virtually all the time. That is the condition of life today, it seems. But when that “thing” keeps the child — or the whole family — away from church, we need to name that thing what it is . . . at best a snare, at worst an idol.

If enough Christian parents would step up to plate and actually say “NO” to letting these activities compete with church, then the organizers of these events would begin to honor sacred times. 

One final thought here.  The interfering schedules don’t apply to the kids only.  When Mom and Dad themselves let “special” things keep them away from church, they just reinforce those same values.  Granted, church attendance and participation is not necessary for salvation.  However, Jesus said, “I will build My church.”  The Church is the visible representation of the Body of Christ on earth, and it is within the context of the Church that He has chosen to build His Kingdom.  The Bible knows nothing of the Christian who says, “I love Christ.  I just don’t need the Church.”  The Church is the center of sanctification for the saints.  It is not for nothing that the Holy Spirit inspired the writer of Hebrews to say,

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful;  and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds,  not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another;and all the more as you see the day drawing near.  – Heb 10:23-25 (NASB) 

 I know this is a hard issue.  I have made some of these same mistakes in my own life and with my own family.  However, just because something is becoming “normal” in our society does not make it right.  Is that tournament really worth sacrificing our children’s spiritual welfare?

You can read Dr. Mohler’s blog by clicking on this link http://albertmohler.com/blog.php