Column: Why I Stopped Taking My Kids to Church
By Jake Kircher
Having grown up as a pastor’s kid and getting my first job as a pastor when I was 18, I have spent my entire life waking up on Sunday mornings and making my way to church. Of course, when my kids were born in 2012 and 2013, we continued this same pattern as a family, and yet, the experience of bringing my kids to church led me to deeper questions about what church should be like and why we do it. I started doing a lot of research, reading, and study about Church, faith, the Scriptures and spirituality and eventually I reached a conclusion that I have never been able to shake:
Continuing to take my kids to church just wasn’t good for them or for their future and I had to stop doing it. (All easier said than done as a pastor…)
Think about how you use the word church. More often than not, it refers to one of three things: a building, a program or an organization.
You pass an impressive cathedral and you say to your kids, “Check out that church.”
You’re rushing around on a Sunday morning trying to get out the door and yell, “Come on, we’re late for church!”
You find out your co-worker is also a Christian and so you ask, “Where do you go to church?”
You listen to a pastor tell you about her church and explain what the church believes.
The fact is, our western culture has hijacked the term church to refer to these things, but they are not Church. And what’s more, talking about Church like this actually undermines what it actually is. Over my years as a pastor, I’ve spent plenty of time with my pastor-friends lamenting about the consumer-driven mentality that has become church and Christianity in America, but then we continue to talk about Church in a way that, in my growing opinion, only encourages and teaches that consumer mindset.
When I read the Scriptures, and specifically as I have dug through the book of Acts, Church is all about people. It’s about diverse people coming together, serving together, giving to one another and talkings about Truth and life and faith and Scripture and trying to figure out what it means to live as an image of the Divine and to bring heaven on earth. Church isn’t something that you go to, or watch, or attend; it is something that you are a part of.
In fact, taking it a step further, it is impossible to go to Church, to leave Church, or to be unChurched. You can go to a cool building. You can leave an organization. And you can decide to stop going to a program, but Church is so much bigger than that.
There was recently an incredible viral story about 80 or so people who formed a human wall/rope to rescue a number of people who had been ripped out to sea because of a powerful rip current. It brought tears to my eyes to read about so many people from so many different walks of life joining together to bring life to these stranded swimmers. My immediate thought was: THAT is what Church should be like!
The work wasn’t just left to the professional life guards.
The rescue wasn’t scheduled or arranged.
It wasn’t convenient or safe for those who formed the wall.
This diverse group of people chose to all come together, where they were, to bring life to those who needed it.
This is why I stopped taking my kids to church. We still regularly attend services and participate in our faith community, but when my kids comment that we are “going to church,” I correct them: “Nope, YOU are the Church. It’s impossible to go to Church.” I don’t want my kids growing up thinking that Church is just this thing we do on Sundays or this place that we go to.
Instead, I want them to know that Church is something that they can choose to participate in and to contribute to all week long as they interact with other people and the Spirit of God wherever they find themselves. It’s my prayer that they would understand that everything is spiritual, not just a certain time of the week, and that Church is something they have been created to contribute to, not just something else to consume.
Jake Kircher is Associate Pastor at Trinity Church