I was born the last of eight children in 1957. That makes me an artifact. That’s ok. I’m good with that. It’s called wisdom.
A little historical context is in order. I had a great childhood. I didn’t grow up in an intentional Christian home. But it was a solid home. My mom was tired by the time I came along and I was surely one lost puppy by the time I headed to college. I could criticize my parents for many things, but I am grateful for the home they provided. My parents tried to give us more than they had. But there was never an overarching life purpose or narrative that guided my family. Every time I brought home a bad report card or got into trouble, my mother would say, “all I want is for my last child, my baby, to go to college, and then I want to die.” That was it! My parents wanted us to get a good education, a good job, make money and…well, that was all.
My wonderful wife, Lynn, and I wanted to give our children much more than our own great upbringing. We had an overarching narrative that guided our reason to exist. We loved Jesus and He was going to direct the show of our lives. At least that was our dream and purpose. We made a lot of mistakes. But we worked hard to make Jesus and His word the main thing in our family. We made a big deal out of love and living with Jesus at the center. We failed a lot.
Most of you fall into either the Gen. X or Millenial generations. Many of us have read descriptions that stereotype each of these generational categories and they often make sense. I want to address one subject that can be touchy, but which I think needs to be revisited.
My parents made me go to church. It was a family habit. For most people of the Baby Boomer generation, this was part of the culture. I honestly wouldn’t have gone to church if my parents hadn’t made me go. It was the Gen X generation that began to make church an option for their children. And it is millennials that commonly make church an option for themselves and their children. This is what the Barna research tells us.
I want to encourage you to consider two things. John Adams, one of our Founding Fathers, once said that education has two purposes. The first purpose is to teach our children the meaning of life. The second is to teach them how to take care of themselves and become independent of parents. Therefore, you must teach yourself and your children that life entails a bigger, overarching purpose that completely transcends “things” (all of the idols we create when we don’t make the Gospel story our story). My parents made education and making money the ultimate narrative in life, and as they grew old, this seemed so incredibly trite and meaningless to Lynn and me. What are your idols? Identify them and make Christ the main, intentional person in your family’s life. The continual lesson in all of this for me as a young father was that I could not impart to my children what I did not already possess.
Second, Proverbs 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” What are you “training” your child in right now, that when he/she gets old, will be continued in his or her life? I hear lots of stories about bitter people who as children had “religion” forced upon them. They go on to say that is why they don’t go to church or why they don’t engage their children in conversations about the meaning of life.
I would like you to look at this from the opposite end of the telescope. When you view the pattern of weekly corporate worship as a habit of the heart, you instill this same habit in your child. Let’s face it, we do the things we love, and we form habits around them. So what are your habits? What do you love most and love best? And what is this teaching your child? How is this training your child, so that he/she won’t depart from it when older? Spiritual formation begins and ends in the home.
As you will re-affirm in our Partnership Agreement for next year, ACA is committed to the importance of regular corporate worship and Bible study. If you and your family have fallen out of this habit, I strongly encourage you to renew this family routine in a local church community in order to refresh your heart and to train your children. For those who may be finding it hard to continue this tradition in the current culture, stay the course. The outcomes far outweigh the struggles and inconveniences.
Thank you for partnering with us in the total formation of your child.
Head of School