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FIRST-PERSON: 7 ‘ups’ to raise kids who remain in church

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–A recent statistic reported by the Southern Baptist Convention reveals that 88 percent of children who are raised in evangelical homes leave the church at the age of 18 and never return. What kind of example are we setting as parents when it comes to raising, or erecting, pillars of the church? By remembering the seven “ups” for erecting a pillar of the church, you can make sure your children are standing on the firm foundation of your own godly lifestyle:

Cough it UP: Give freely of your time, talents and resources. Eddie Poole is the associate pastor at Canopy Roads Baptist Church in Tallahassee, Fla. Currently, the church is meeting in a local school. “My son Matthew and I always leave at 7 a.m. on Sunday mornings to set up the school for church. Part of our routine is to stop at a convenience store for doughnuts. This past week, he only ate two of them. After church we packed up the sound system, and that’s when we saw the five leftover doughnuts that I had given him that morning. I ate two and he ate the other three. Then he looked over at me and said, ‘You owe me two doughnuts.’ I responded, ‘Let me get this straight. I buy you seven doughnuts, eat two, and then I owe you two more? I don’t think you get it.’ He started laughing. He said, ‘I get it. I owe you five doughnuts.’ Then I was able to talk to him about how God gives us everything that we have and asks for 10 percent back. We must look pretty silly to say no when he gave it to us to begin with.”

Keep in mind that it’s okay to establish boundaries as the Lord leads you. Children need to see that their parents are generous givers, but they don’t need to see parents who lack priorities and wind up giving so much of themselves that there is nothing left to give their families.

Cheer UP: Are you an encouraging member of your church body? Are you sensitive to the needs of those around you? Think of the pleasure you receive from a (gasp!) handwritten note or an unexpected phone call. By keeping a supply of note cards and stamps on hand, you could easily send at least two notes a week to shut-ins or people who just need a lift. That kind of ministry easily rubs off on your children.

“Children are people pleasers,” says Anna Alba, preschool associate in the Kids’ Ministry at First Baptist Church in Euless, Texas. “They love to be involved in bringing joy to someone. You let them do what they love — coloring, cutting, pasting, decorating — and teach them about loving one another at the same time. It brings honor and glory to God and a little sunshine to someone who needs it.”

Clam UP: When you’re tempted to dissect the delivery of the Sunday sermon on the way home in the car, gripe about the new church budget or complain about a proposed building project, just be quiet. Your children are always listening. Do they hear you running the church and its operations down? Or do they hear a tone of thankfulness and respect in your conversation? Enough said.

Lift UP your hands and be an enthusiastic worshiper. Train your children by your actions in church. Bill Salmon, minister of music and senior adults at Parkway Baptist Church in Goodlettsville, Tenn., says, “I like enthusiasm in worship. I appreciate the teaching I received when I was very young. My mother had a big booming alto voice and what she lacked in quality she made up for with volume. As a 12-year-old, I remember feeling embarrassed when all the kids around our pew would turn and stare at my mom and roll their eyes. I remember getting home from church one Sunday night and saying, ‘Momma, why do you have to sing so loud? People are staring at you.’ I’ll never forget her reply. She said, ‘I’m not singing for them, I’m singing to the Lord, and he expects me to give it all I’ve got.’

Stick UP for your pastor. As a pastor’s kid, I know how important this is, and so does Salmon. “My dad preached from the time I was about 4 years old until he died,” he explains. “I saw some really bad character come out of some ‘church’ people and saw them do and say things that Christians should never do or say. Despite that, my folks had a deep love for people and ministry and a tenacious sense of calling.” When he was called into the ministry himself, it was his parents’ reaction to the offending parties that set the example for Salmon.

Warm UP to your pastor and other members of your church staff, along with their families, by having them in your home to share a meal. “I wanted to have my pastor over to my house so that my kids would know he was accessible to them, that he was their friend,” explains Dianne, a homeschooling mother of three. “I was able to accomplish that for them, but in another way for myself. I began to see my pastor as a person whose family was a lot like mine and who needed my friendship and my prayers, too.”

You’re UP! “My wife Marla and I try to make serving God such a part of our lives that we don’t think about it,” Poole says. “Our kids don’t think about it either. It just comes natural, and they do it too without thinking much.”

As a parent, the home team is really counting on you. When you’re up, don’t let them down. By setting an example, you’re erecting your pillars on a foundation of stone.
Rebecca Ingram Powell is an author and speaker living in Nashville, Tenn.

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