It’s not often that you hear church leaders talk about their kids hating church. It’s almost a taboo subject. For me there is a sense of failure associated with it. But, I have to come out of the closet and admit it:
my son does not like church.
For the last 5 years most Sunday mornings have been marked with battle. Expressed from him would be questions like “Why do we have to go”? “What’s church for”? “Why is it so boring”? My usually well behaved and shy son would turn (only on Sundays) into the “I will do anything for attention child”. This included climbing under rows of chairs, doing sarcastic liturgical dances with ribbons, and asking me every 5 minutes when was it time to go home. Ground swallow me up.
But, as all difficult situations should, this pushed me to a kairos – a moment in time when God broke into my thinking so that a new reality could be lived out. God got me realising that following Jesus is not about church attendance on a Sunday or relying on the event of a gathering to disciple my son. In fact, in processing this kairos it caused me to realise that this is the case not just for him but our whole congregation.
We see in the early church in Acts 2:42-47 that the disciples maintain the rhythms taught to them by Jesus. Those rhythms, put in place to maintain a discipleship culture, are embracing both ends of a continuum we should all be engaging with – Home and Temple. These two different formats for discipleship have different functions. Jesus used both the public space ‘Temple’ (a group of about 75 or more), a place where people gather to be inspired, meet for in-depth teaching usually by the more trained or expert teachers. In this context worship is more formal and structured. Organisation is key in public space. But, Jesus also used social space (a group of 20-70 people) or extended family -the “Home” end of the continuum which has a more spontaneous, organic meeting of people with a family feel. Imagine your own extended family at Christmas around the tree, a buffet spread, and music playing in the back ground, lots of chatter as aunts and uncles, good friends and immediate close relatives all celebrating together. That’s social space or oikos. Worship is authentic but messy, the word is expounded together and mission is relational.
So how did this kairos affect our discipleship of our son? We began to give him opportunities to build relationship with young adults and students that meant he had role models in the faith. They enable him to see beyond us that there are other people (cool people!!) that love Jesus. They come for tea every week and just chat to him without any agenda other than friendship. He has joined a boy’s discipleship group that meets in our home twice a month that focuses on adventure with God. This has given him the opportunity to lead, share ideas and grow in an environment that embraces his expression of faith. And yes, he still attends Sunday gathering, they’re not his favourite time but they are an important part of his healthy diet as a disciple.
If Jesus used all these methods to disciple those he led then so should I. Both my family and my congregation need His methods. One is not enough, it will never produce whole mature disciples. In the kairos of my son not enjoying church I realised that I was living with an unspoken preference and bias towards “Temple”. That I had a secret belief that his walk with God would depend on a good temple experience. In this journey I have come to deeply believe much more in the process of discipleship including a balanced diet of both Temple and Home.