Give Kids Faith not More Sports!
What is Faith? Webster’s New World Dictionary defines faith as “unquestioning belief, specifically in God, a religion, etc.” or “a complete trust or confidence.” Do you have faith in something? How important is faith in a child’s life? Today’s kids are raised in a fast-paced and high technology culture of immediate gratification. Their parents are rushing to and from work or working from home, traveling for work, driving the kids to and from a host of activities, and rarely sitting down to eat dinner together, or attend a faith service. Why is faith important to children/families/people in general? Are children being taught faith? If children are not taught anything about faith or given the opportunity to see faith in action, they are missing a key ingredient for becoming a successful adult. The ability to trust in something that cannot be seen, to trust that no matter what obstacles you face, you will be able to survive, and in fact thrive, is key to living a successful life.
Families lead hectic lives. Many parents will tell you they “don’t have time” to prepare family dinners. They will also say that church doesn’t “work for our schedule” or “Johnny has soccer and we can’t make it”. This busy schedule teaches children that they are the most important things in their parents’ lives and gives them a sense of importance and confidence. This is good. However, there will be a time when they are not the most important or when everyone is not running around to accommodate their every need and desire. Kids need to recognize that there is something bigger than them out there. Taking the time out for a faith service is a way to demonstrate to children that other things are important too.
Faith will provide comfort during childhood years and well into adulthood. Children will not always lead charmed lives. They will face temptations. They may struggle with school, or maybe kids will tease them. Life is not perfect. A parent cannot fix everything for the child. However, a child brought up with faith will know that there is a loving God or Being to provide comfort. Research has shown that adolescents who live a non-religious existence more frequently exhibit behaviors that are a risk to their health. Boys who have a religious identity are less likely to commit suicide, according to an article by Mark Regnerus called "Religion and Positive Adolescent Outcomes: A Review of Research and Theory." You can access that article at Google Scholar. Adults know there are times in life when nothing makes sense, or there are no answers, and yet you need to press on. If children are never taken to church or taught faith in the home, they cannot learn this life survival skill.
When disaster strikes, people seek answers. Faith that there is a loving God or Being (whatever the nomenclature) to help you survive is what enables most people to get through the worst of times. After the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, it was documented that the churches of America were full. Everyone was going to a place of worship looking for answers or seeking solace in a place of faith. In cases like the World Trade Center attacks, there are no answers. The pain and grief is unbearable. Yet people must get up and go forward. Survival is key. How do people do that? They do it with faith. Faith does not solve problems or provide answers. Faith provides the confidence that you will survive a personal tragedy, a national disaster, or an economic crisis. It is important to provide a spiritual connection for your child that will last his whole life.
There are no guarantees that faith will save a child from straying, from giving up, or from succumbing to temptation. However, practicing faith with them shows them hope, comfort, and possibilities. It provides a broader view of the world. They need to feel accountable to a higher authority than their parents. Accountability might be the reason a child makes a better choice.
Worship also is an opportunity for kids to count their blessings. A child needs to be aware of the gifts bestowed on him, some of which are not wrapped up in paper with a bow. Don’t families need to take an hour of rest and be grateful for their family, their time together, and their blessings? Some of the best conversations my children and I have had have been coming to and from church. Or perhaps they need to take that hour to fervently seek answers to their problems. By practicing faith as a family, parents provide their children with confidence that they will survive whatever comes their way. This confidence will provide more for a child’s future than winning or losing a soccer game.