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Itís Time to Close the Church Doors - Part 2
By Barrington H. Brennen

Dear Sir: My son and his wife are always going to church. They are involved in a church activity every night of the week. Their small children are suffering for lack of attention. I am also concerned about their marriage, which seems to be not so healthy these past months. I am concerned because it seems they have become so busy working for the Lord that they are neglecting to nurture their own souls. What can we do about it? Signed: Concerned Grandmother.

Answer: Dear Grandmother, I hope last weekís answer was helpful for you. I encourage you, as a dear Christian yourself, to keep your children in prayer, but do not get overly involved in their lives. However, it is good to take the time and express your concern to your son about his over-involvement in church activities and what your have observed about the affects it has on the children. Then, after you would have done that, leave them alone and pray for them as much as you can.

SETTING PRIORITIES
Too often I meet individuals who have misplaced priorities. In our society it is not uncommon for parents to put children above their spouses or church involvement above family life. We must learn how to set our priorities. What should be on our list of priorities? Here are a few things we can consider: career/job, spouse, education, church, children, God, friends, and extended family. Out of these items, which one should come first? As expected, no one would have a problem agreeing that God should always be Number 1 in our lives. However, what comes next is the problem. If the person is married, the next on the list of priority is the spouse, or his or her marriage, followed by the children. Note carefully that the church isnít mentioned yet. First of all there is a difference between having a personal relationship God and being involved in church activities. Although they are both important, they are both separate entities in our lives. Many think that if they know God, then He expects us to "sacrifice everything" for Him. They say "if we make an honest sacrifice for God, he will never forsake us, and all our needs will be met." This is a myth. Usually children suffer the most with this type of philosophy. One of my favorite authors, Ellen G. White, an inspired, non-professional expert of family life, makes an important statement on the subject. She states:

"Every family is a church over which the parents preside. The first consideration of the parents should be to work for the salvation of their children. When the father and mother as priest and teacher of the family take their position fully on the side of Christ, a good influence will be exerted in the home. And this sanctified influence will be felt in the church and will be recognized by every believer. Because of the great lack of piety and sanctification in the home, the work of God is greatly hindered." Child Guidance Page 549

Note the emphasis in Ellen Whiteís statement. She makes it clear that if parents place their family life and children the Number 1 priority, children would grow up in a better environment that will also influence the church life. Note it is not the other way around. Families make up churches and not church, families. In other words when there is strife in the home, it is seen in the church. In fact there is no strife in the church that did not start in the home. If we would understand this concept, parents would be more than happy to spend as much time as possible at home with their children.

TWISTED VIEW OF GOD
Little children cannot grasp the concept of an invisible, all-powerful God who is up in heaven ministering on our behalf. Therefore, parents stand in the place of God to their children. The childrenís concept of God will be gathered from the relationship their parents have with them. Either they will grow to think of God as a rigid and a unkind taskmaster, or they will believe he is a companionate, merciful, and kind God. It all depends on the parentsí attitude. Dragging the children to the church and forcing them to participate in every activity can certainly lead the children to think of God as their enemy instead as their friend.

Letís not forget that

"the family is key in its significance because it is the place where relational skills are learned well or poorly. And if the family is the social organization in which these skills are learned first, then the family becomes central to the process of disciple making. It is a place where disciple like relationship skills are learned and it is a primary group in which disciple making takes place." Guernesy, A New Design for Family Ministry, Page 11

With this in mind, we cannot forget that in order for parents to be good mothers and fathers they must first be happy husbands and wives.

"This would mean that the marriage comes first, even before church activities. All other people and events come after the marriage. Children, parents, work, and play, all benefit most by marital priority instead of marital sacrifice, because the marriage is the central unit to all other processes. The stronger the basic unit, the stronger the rest of the system."

YOUR HOME WORK
Dear reader, if you are married, engaged, or a single parent, take a pen and paper, and make a list of the priorities in your life. I have a sample list a few paragraphs above. However your list may differ. After doing so, rank them based on their importance in your life. See which one comes first and which ones come last. To make it more meaningful, husband and wife can each make a separate list, and then compare their answers and discuss the differences or similarities. Note also that your priority list will differ according to your own unique situation. For instance, if you are a single parent, your would not have spouse on it, and you might rank your children as number (after God) in your life.

It is imperative to understand that although there can be variations in the ranking of the priority list by each individual, yet always your relationship with your most immediate family members (spouse and children) should always come before any other relationship, activity or event.

FAMILY NIGHT
One effective way to keep the family, and not the church first in your life is to have "couple night" one night a week. If there are children, there should also be "family night." The couple should select a night that they would dedicate to themselves with no interruptions or interferences from relatives or friends. They can go out to the restaurant, walk down a famous street, walk on the beach, visit a garden, watch a movie together, etc. Whatever you do, it is your night to be together. Then in addition to that, if children are in the family, there should be a night dedicated to full concentration on the children alone. Wonderful activities can be planned, and it could be a joyous time for the children.
 
LETíS MAKE A DIFFERENCE
Parents, let us help make our country a peaceful and happy one by placing our family and marriage relationships top on our priority lists of our. Our children need us close to them. Unfortunately, although the church may demand that you attend every activity, remember, the church may not be there when you are down and out. Take the time to cherish relationships close to you. Take the time to pick the roses now. Stay home tonight.   Go to part one
 
 
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Permission is granted to print these pages and to make the necessary copies for your  personal use, friends,  seminar, or meeting handout.  You must not sell for personal gain, only to cover the cost to make copies if necessary.    Written permission (email) is needed to publish or reprint articles and materials in any other form. Or you call at 242-327 1980.  Copyright © 1999 Sounds of Encouragement. All rights reserved.   Articles written by Barrington H. Brennen, Counseling Psychologist, Marriage & Family Therapist.  P.O. Box CB-13019,  Nassau, The Bahamas.     question@soencouragement.org