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FIRST-PERSON: Parenting in suburbia

MELISSA, Texas (BP)–Politicians have targeted a key constituent group known as “soccer moms” in recent years. This group of female voters symbolizes suburban parents who are known for being zealous in their child-rearing, working hard to provide the best of everything for their kids.

I am a suburban parent, but until last year I had never really earned my “membership card” –- until preschool registration day for 3- and 4-year-olds at our local Christian school.

Registration began at 9 a.m., but I was warned by friends to arrive early to ensure my child a spot in the 3-year-old class. Getting there at what seemed to me to be an extraordinarily early hour — 5:43 a.m. -– I found more than 30 people in front of me in line. In fact, one woman arrived at 9 p.m. THE NIGHT BEFORE, and she was not even the first person listed on the sign-in sheet.

Now, some of you have always wondered if parents in suburbia really act like this. Well, now I can testify that they (I mean, we) do. When I drove into the parking lot, it already was full of SUVs, inhabited by people drinking Starbucks and reading newspapers.

Now, you ask, why did these folks, who engage in professions that require them to have at least average IQs, arrive before dawn to register their children for preschool? No doubt, these parents (I mean, we parents) arrived early because we want the best possible spiritual and educational background for our children. If that means getting up early and waiting in line for nearly four hours, they (I mean, we) will do it.

As I was finally driving away at 9:50 a.m., a steady stream of questions began to fill my mind.

Why don’t people arrive early and stand in long lines to come to our worship services?

Why do we always seem to be running a little late to church?

Why do we attend church as long as there are no important social or athletic events that conflict?

Why do adults value their children’s spiritual development so much and their own so little?

How could churches get people to be as interested in their Sunday worship services as they are in their children’s weekday preschool classes?

What do churches offer in the children’s preschool classes on weekdays that they apparently don’t offer to adults on Sundays?

As I pondered possible answers to these questions, I realized that our churches can learn some lessons from my experience at the preschool at 5:43 a.m., and we as parents also have a few lessons to learn about our spiritual walks.

Churches must know that people will come, even come early, if they believe that the product is worth their time and the message will touch them where they have needs. 21st-century families have dozens of choices and busy routines, so scheduling decisions are based on the belief that they will receive a valuable return on their time investment.

Parents trust that the Christian preschool will teach their children biblical truth in a loving way. If our churches could simply help these same parents know that they, as adults, will receive the same loving care and honest biblical messages, they just might line up in the church parking lot before dawn. People will find time to participate in activities they believe are relevant and life-changing, yet many of them are not actively involved in a local church.

So, pastors and church leaders, we must evaluate what we do and why we do it. How can we best reach people for the Kingdom of God? Which needs are not being met? How can we share the same touch with adults that we can with their children? How can we truly equip strong, Christian families? To truly be obedient to our calling, we pastors must discover these unmet needs and use God’s Word to reach God’s people.

Now for the lessons the suburban parents (including me) need to learn. As parents, we believe that our children will grow spiritually and socially if they attend a solid Christian preschool. And, remember, (we) parents in the suburbs will do almost anything if it means teaching and helping our kids. We parents need to learn, however, that the adults in the families need solid biblical teaching and training just like our children. God has called parents to raise their children to know Him and serve Him, but we must also receive a steady diet of spiritual nourishment.

Biblical training is not just for kids.

In fact, if we, as parents, really want our children to grow spiritually, we must be growing as well. In order to truly disciple our kids, we parents must set the example in spiritual discipline and commitment to church attendance and service.

So, parents, let’s promise to give our children the best possible educations, but let’s also promise to love and disciple them personally, beginning with our faithful attendance on Sunday mornings.
Trey Graham, senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Melissa, Texas, is a speaker, columnist, author of “Lessons for the Journey” (America House, 2001) and director of Faith Walk Ministries (www.faithwalkmin

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  • Trey Graham