We had child dedication this Sunday at Grace Mennonite. I preached a 5 minute sermon, asking the question “Will Our Children Have Faith?”
Don’t store up treasures on earth, but rather, store up treasures in heaven. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
The point of life is not only about how much we own, or how nice our stuff is, or our retirement plans. I think most of us here know this. Yes, we seek to work hard and make good financial decisions, but we all know that we’re not going to be buried with wads of cash in our caskets. We’re not Egyptian Pharaohs.
Jesus reminds us that instead of focusing only our own stuff on earth, we should be storing up treasures in heaven instead, for that is where our hearts will be.
Jesus isn’t very specific on what exactly those treasures in heaven are. Is it how we pray? How we forgive? How we work towards peace? How we practice hospitality and generosity? How we love God and love our neighbour and love our enemy? Yes. These are most likely part of what Jesus means by “treasures in heaven.”
But I’m going to take a bit of a leap here and say that part of us storing up treasures in heaven is asking ourselves questions, like, “Will our kids have faith?” “What kind of faith will they have?” “How can we nurture their faith?” “How do we make sure that our kids will know that life is about more than getting money or stuff?”
This morning, my sermon is going to be one of my most practical sermons ever. I usually like to explore the stories in the Bible and try to find ourselves in those stories, I like to ask questions, be a bit more conversationalist… But today, I’m going to take a risk and be remarkably direct.
To the parents of these children, to all the parents here today.
Some remarkably smart people out of Fuller Youth Institute have set out to figure out what the most important factors are in parents passing on their faith to their children. While it’s not a direct formula, and there are obviously no guarantees, researchers have found some key indicators that help determine what kind of faith our kids will have.
The number one indicator for whether or not our kids will have faith is: The faith of their parents. One of the best indicators of a strong and vibrant faith in children is a strong and vibrant faith in their parents. Every time we invest in our own faith, we are investing in the faith of our children.
This is both good news and terrible news.
Good news, because it’s there for the taking, it’s attainable, we can do something about it, we’re already doing it, we’re important, God gave us these children for a reason!
Bad news, because it’s a huge responsibility, we often feel inadequate, we fail, we have a hard time praying, sometimes we don’t want to come to church, and how are we supposed to pass on our faith if we’re constantly working it out ourselves? And who the heck really reads Ezekiel anyways?
No matter how adequate or inadequate we feel, our own approach to faith is important. That means that every Sunday where we work our tails off to get everyone to church, every time we pray, every time we volunteer (or at least thing about it), every time we sit in the pews and hope that our kids aren’t too loud, every time we seek or offer forgiveness, every time we practice generosity, every time we try to love our neighbours, every time we seek peace… It’s all an important piece of the puzzle.
The other good news about passing faith on to our children is that it’s not only how strong and vibrant our own faith is. It’s also about the quality of our relationships with our kids. The better our relationship with our children, the better chance that our faith rubs off on them. So that means that every time we read our kids stories, every time we sit down and have supper as a family (even if there’s a bowl of spaghetti on someone’s head), every time we go tobogganing on an icy Abe’s Hill, every time we go on vacation, every time we go skating and bike riding and canoeing, every hockey and soccer game that we watch… All of these matter. They’re really important. Every time we invest in our relationships with our children, we’re investing in their faith.
So that’s not too overwhelming, is it? Invest in our own faith, invest in our relationships, and we’re well on our way to figuring out what kind of faith our kids will have.
But, child dedication isn’t only about the children and their parents. It’s also about the church.
How can the rest of us ensure that our children have faith? It’s not a great children’s program, it’s not a hot shot pastor, it’s not how new our songs are. One of the best indicators of how churches can support kids having faith is quite simply how much they embrace and support them. The same researchers have come up with the magic ratio of 5:1. If 5 adults invest significant time and energy into 1 kid, that will mean the world to them and their faith development.
This too, is equal parts encouraging and equal parts terrifying.
It’s encouraging because we can do it! We can learn names, we can share candy and cookies, we can give high fives, we can pray for kids, we can write them cards, we can go for ice cream, we can support them financially, we can look at parents who show up not having slept a wink the night before and give them a hug… All really tangible things. There are 8 kids being dedicated, so that means 40 adults! There are easily 40 adults here this morning. I feel like I’m preaching to the choir because we’re already here, dedicating our kids!
But it’s also terrifying, because it’s a great responsibility. It means that we have to show up at places where the kids are, it means sharing our worship time and space with kids who are chucking cheerios around, it means leaving our comfort zone and learning names and stories, it means having to bake cookies, it means taking time out of our busy lives and investing it in young people, it means that sometimes we show up on Sundays not for ourselves, but because our presence matters in the life of a young person. And if you add up all the kids here at Grace, we need 200 adults, and that’s all of us. Everyone here has a role to play.
5 adults to 1 kid is the magic number. Equal parts encouraging and terrifying.
So there we go. Invest in our own faith, invest in our relationships with kids, and we’re on the right track.
Show up. Sit together in a pew. Learn names. Give high fives. Pray. Go tobogganing. Eat together. Share money and candy. Smile together.
It sounds awfully mundane, doesn’t it? It’s pretty down to earth, not very snazzy or flashy, pretty long-term… But in doing so, I truly believe that we are storing up treasures in heaven.