How to Train Your Child Not to be a Benchwarmer at Church

The Benchwarmer

It’s a Sunday morning and he sits next to you in church.  When it’s time to sing, he stands but doesn’t sing, he doodles all through the sermon with earbuds in then wants to wait in the car while his parents follow up with friends after service.  He isn’t connected to any other students at church and doesn’t know how to talk to adults. He is simply not in the game. He isn’t engaged. He doesn’t want to be at church. Honestly, he’s not sure he even believes God makes a difference in his life.

You have seen him.  You may have even been him.  The benchwarmers of our faith are present and, yet, unengaged at church.  How do you prevent your son from becoming this young man just sitting on the bench of his faith?

It all begins with you.  Are you a spectator? Are you a player?  Are you a coach? What do you expect when you go to church?  Do you go to be entertained, see some friends, grab some snacks and head home?  Is your expectation of church any different than what you expect in attending a Basketball game?  Take a look at these different church attenders and see which category you fit in.

The Spectator

He comes in just after the music begins because he doesn’t want to help set up chairs and likes that extra 30 minutes of sleep.  He grabs some coffee and donuts and sits his family in the back behind a large family so he can’t be seen. He stands for the singing time, but doesn’t really listen to the words, let alone sing along.  When the speaker starts to talk, he gets out his phone to check the latest scores and make sure his email is updated. The speaker says some interesting things so he nods. When the last song is playing, he gathers his things and is ready to bolt out the door as soon as he is released.  He doesn’t really know anyone at church, so he has no reason to stay and doesn’t care to attend any of the events, so he doesn’t pay attention to the announcements. His wife and daughter stay and visit a little bit, then head to the car to go out to lunch. He’s not sure he needs God, but it sure makes him look good when people ask where he goes to church and he has an answer.  His daughter is watching him. She is learning from him about what it looks like to be a church attender.

The Player

Sometimes it’s hard to get out of bed on Sunday mornings when she knows most of her friends are sleeping in or going to the mountains.  But she realizes church is part of honoring God and growing in relationship with Him, so she goes. She serves at least once a month in the Children’s Ministry and helps set up the Welcome Tables and stack chairs.  She makes sure to follow up with the people she is getting to know at church and asks how things are going that she’s been praying about for them. She tries to go to special events when she can and keeps inviting her co-workers.  One of her co-workers and her family even joined her family at church last Sunday and they went to lunch after church. She is hoping to see them again this week. She likes how she feels at church and how her kids are learning good things there.  She loves hearing what her husband is learning from the messages and is encouraged to keep reading her Bible on her own to continue to grow closer to God. Her children are watching them. They are learning and modeling their behavior after their parents’.  They are learning how to be engaged in their faith and serve others.

The Coach

He doesn’t know everything about his faith, but he is always trying to learn more about God from the Bible and at church.  He is a Sunday school teacher once a month in his kids’ class and attends the Men’s Bible Study when he can. He helps set up and put away chairs when he comes and is a part of the prayer time before church whenever he can be.  He loves serving with his wife and watching her connect with other women who follow Jesus at church. He’s been praying for a few co-workers and inviting them to church. He is even starting a weekly Bible Study with a guy at work during their lunch break.  He’s not sure if the guy believes in Jesus, yet, but it’s a good start. His children are watching him. They are learning what it means to be a follower of Jesus who is active, empowering others, and living out the faith.

Who are you?  The benchwarmer?  The spectator? The player?  The coach?

What is the point of church?  

Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.  And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.  Hebrews 10:24-25

We don’t go to church to be entertained, to check “being spiritual” off our To Do list, or to be served.  We go to serve and to encourage one another to making a difference in Jesus’ name on our personal mission fields.  If we go to church and sit and just listen and watch other people serve, we are just church attenders, spectators. We are not engaging in our faith community and responding to our Creator’s directives for our day, our week and our life.

If you want to raise young adults who are engaged at church, you must model engagement yourself.  There are many ways you can serve as an individual and as a family (Children’s Ministry, Audio/Visual, Welcome Team, Setting up and taking down chairs, picking up the coffee and donuts, serving people coffee, intentionally starting conversations and praying for people).  If you are ready to step it up, talk to the people who are already serving in those ways and they can get you plugged in!

Reread the Scripture above and decide what your next step will be to become active and to help your children get off the bench and be active at church and in their faith.  If you are already coaching… pass it on! Empower those around you to become coaches, too!

What are your children learning from watching your interactions at church?