Sunday morning has become a popular time for youth sports. Weekends are for some families the only opportunity to share quality, sustained time together. And a significant proportion of the population works on Sunday mornings. How else would you get your coffee or donuts on the way to church?
The church should support families in their God-given vocation of caring for each other, and explore ways to extend its ministry to people whose lives are governed by hectic and oppressive schedules.
I recently attended a youth ministry event held by my denomination. One of the most subtle yet significant learnings I picked up there was a simple little law filled with love: Don’t complain about parents who take their kids to (insert activity) instead of church. They are doing so out of love. Of all I heard and learned at the event, I have reflected more on that insight than any other, perhaps because it is so counter-intuitive to our attendance and event-driven models of ministry.
It is too easy for the church to wag its finger and tell people they should “make the right choice,” insisting that kids attend Sunday School rather than soccer. When we make that simplistic claim, we fail to recognize that when Christian families make the difficult choice to spend Sunday mornings somewhere other than church, they are often doing so out of love. In a world where families have less time together and where jobs are hard to come by, who can blame those who make decisions different from ours?
What the church is called to do in these situations is to respond in love, support families in their God-given vocation of caring for each other, and explore ways to extend its ministry to people whose lives are governed by hectic and oppressive schedules. And yes, there is a time and a place for discussing the choices that we Christians are called to make. But that place is not from the blunt end of a wagging finger. Instead, it might be at the sideline of a soccer game, on a church-sponsored family retreat, or at the end of an eight-hour shift on Sunday afternoons. The church and its members can only benefit by going into the world and meeting people where they are, following the example of our Lord who loved the world so much that he entered into it, walked with his people in love, and shared in the joys and sorrows of their humanity.