I found this picture on Facebook and posted it earlier this week. Being a youth pastor I see this every day in my job. The children and youth in my programs have so many options for their time and commitments, it is exciting each week how many of them choose to be at church. There are times where I'm sure some parents don't realize just how important they are in the decisions their children make. I know there will always be that kid that will make the right choices no matter what their upbringing was like, and then there is that kid that had all the guidance in the world and still makes the wrong choices but for a majority it starts with the parents.
This week being what it is: Holy Week, is such an important time in the Christian calendar. As I look back over my life I realize how important it has been in my own life, thanks to my parents. You see I grew up in the church and it has always been an important part of who I am, and that importance has grown stronger the older I get.
I chose today to write this post mainly because of the date. Yesterday I finally took the time to fill out my Certification paperwork to become a Certified Youth Director in the United Methodist Church. This is something the UMC offers to help insure they have educated people working in the ministries they offer. This was a huge mountain in my mind for me to accomplish, I'm really not sure why it scared me so much but it did, so it sat on my desk for a year and a half before I completed it. But it is finished and ready to send off. There will be an interview process later that scares me to death but at least this step is finished.
While I was working on the paperwork I saw the date of my Confirmation, or the date I officially became a member of the UMC. April 15, 2001.
13 years ago today I stood in front of my church, my family, and God and vowed to live my life for Christ and be committed to the UMC. At the time I honestly had no idea what I was saying. I really don’t have a lot of memory of this milestone of my life, but I do know that I lived out that vow every day after, even if at the moment I didn’t know what was going on. On Sunday, I watched a young lady make this same commitment, and I know she spent some time thinking about what it meant for her life and she stood ready for this confirmation experience.
March 26, 1989 was my first Sunday in church, it was Easter Sunday, and three days after I was born. Growing up I always felt like that made me important somehow. I didn't know until recently that it was Easter Sunday, I just always thought it was awesome that my parents were THAT dedicated to take their 3 day old to church. In my mind it made a statement for the rest of my life.
March 23, 2008 I turned 19 on Easter Sunday, We did a special thing from Good Friday to Easter Sunday where someone was praying in the church the entire time. I took the midnight shift into Easter. That way I literally started my birthday praying in the church. I also wrote my first sermon that day!
Growing up, church was requirement. It was just what Sunday morning was for, you only missed for illness, maybe family vacation, or a family event. I am pretty sure that each year, except for maybe the first couple, I can count on my fingers how many Sundays we missed. My father would work nights and then be in church on Sunday morning because he thought it was that important for not only a family to worship together, but for more young men to be present in the church and to be a strong faith leader for our family. I don't really remember wanting to fight against getting up on Sunday mornings. If we missed a Sunday the whole week just didn't feel right. In high school, youth group became very important to me. I wish now I knew then about the different things the Conference did, and about church camp, but youth group was my place. I refused to work, rehearse, or do any other event on Wednesday nights and Sunday mornings. No job, activity, or event was more important to me than being in church. I never had a problem with it either. My theatre directors were both Christians and they knew I would be there when church was over, or I would make up the time later, or they just wouldn't schedule things during those times. I think I might grumble more now about having to get up on a Sunday morning than I ever did as child or a youth, and its my job now!
So thank you Mom & Dad for making church a priority for us growing up. Thank you for living out your faith openly so we could see what it means to be Christian. Thank you for instilling in us the importance of education and hard work. Thank you for supporting us through everything we chose to do and still chose to do. Thank you for making decisions for me when I was a child that set building blocks to who I am today. Thank you for making faith a family thing. I don't know who I would be or what I would be doing without all the building blocks you set in place for me. It is your example, your lessons, your witness that run through me every day I spend in ministry!
It looks like my 2nd Easter was 24 years ago today! :)
I pray each of you parents realize your importance and your influence, whether your children are young or grown! Don't give up, even if it doesn't seem like they are paying attention or like they care. God trusted you to be their parent, so you have a mighty job to do!
Children don't forget to thank your parents!
Happy Holy Week - I pray you find hope, peace, love, and joy!