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Activity, affluence becoming family nightmare, she says

RIDGECREST, N.C. (BP)–Affluence and constant activity, in her view, have turned the American dream into the American nightmare, making it difficult for Christian families to spend time focusing on God.

“We are raising our children on activity theology,” said Clara Mae Van Brink, director of preschool ministries at Peachtree Corners Baptist Church in Norcross, Ga., “and it is killing the family.”

Parents must be given the skills to raise their children as Kingdom-focused families, and it is the church’s responsibility to help, she told an “Encouraging-Kingdom families” seminar during a Sunday School and open groups conference at LifeWay Ridgecrest Conference Center in North Carolina, July 11-14.

A Kingdom-focused family is one in which parents put Christ at the center of their lives and the family activities, Van Brink said.

“If we want to make a difference in the world, let alone the child’s life, we’ve got to work with the parents,” Van Brink said.

Characteristics that she cited for Kingdom-focused families include:

1) They accept the primary responsibility for disciplining their children. “In my small world, it is often the children who are parenting the parents or running the world.”

She said churches must take responsibility of teaching parenting skills. “We do not do a good job of helping parents know how to parent.”

2) Kingdom-focused families teach their children about serving in the church and in the community.

“One of the best ways parents can teach is to do it,” Van Brink said. “We have a family at our church that goes together to the local food bank to stock shelves. Those children will grow up knowing that’s part of what God expects us to do.”

3) They teach and participate with their children in evangelism locally and globally.

“Not many churches have family mission trips that include very young children,” she said. “That’s something we should work on.”

4. They actively and regularly participate in worship, Bible study and church life.

“I’m not sure we are raising children who find out what God wants through praying,” she said. “I’m a great example. I make a plan and ask God to bless it. “We have to develop a strong prayer life with our children.”

Challenges to a godly family life, Van Brink said, are the many activities families encounter daily.

“Today’s children suffer from chronic fatigue, and it can’t be taken care of with one good night’s sleep. Teens are so weird because they are tired all the time, and they are living with chronically fatigued and stressed parents.”

She said young children shouldn’t be required to participate in activities 40 hours a week.

“I am not 500 years old, and when I was growing up there were no activities outside of high school. We played ball in the field outside my house.”

Van Brink offered various suggestions on ways parents could spend more time with their children and work toward becoming a Kingdom-focused family:

— Sit together during worship. “In one way or another, we have decided that family worship is not a priority, and so we no longer worship together.”

— Set aside a day of rest. “We’re all just so uptight all the time. There is no Sabbath anymore — no day of rest.”

— Make Sunday a day that is different from other days. “It is the Lord’s day. Make it special.”

— Spend family nights together. “Set aside a night where the whole family stays home together. Remember when we all played board games?”

— Teach children to respect authority. “Children aren’t taught to respect authority; after all, their parents do not,” Van Brink observed.

At her church, she said, a no parking zone designated for emergency vehicles is virtually ignored. “Parents drive up, nearly knock over the ‘No parking’ sign, and then park there as their children watch. How are we going to teach the kids to respect authority when their parents don’t?”

— Not acting as if they are the child’s best friend. “They are the parent, the authority, not the best friend.”

— Stop thinking that it is quality time, not quantity time that matters. “There has got to be quantity time.”

— Take responsibility for a child’s spiritual development. “We need to help parents understand the stages of spirituality of young children.”

Van Brink said raising godly, responsible children is a parent’s job, but the church should offer programs that help give parents the tools for raising Kingdom-focused families.

“If our families don’t look any different than other families in the world, then why would I want to be a Christian and why would I want to come to your church?”

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  • Leslie Ann Shoemake