I was just four years old when my Mom accepted Jesus as her Saviour, became a follower of Christ, and joined our local Pentecostal church. From that time until I left for college, our family went to church. There wasn't a question or a debate—it wasn't optional—we went to church. I was a church kid.
As a church kid, I've seen it all—the good, the bad, and the ugly side of the church community. (Thankfully, when one church became far too ugly because they chose to tolerate sin rather than deal with it, my parents took us to another church that was absolutely amazing.) Still, before we left, I saw a lot. So to everyone out there who says, "You don't understand what I went through in the church and why I can't go there again," I understand. If I haven't experienced it, I've seen it, and I know that the church is made of imperfect people who sometimes do stupid things.
Even having seen the dark side of the church, I still believe in the church. Even more, I will always be grateful that my parents faithfully took us to church, allowed us to be involved, and made it a priority in our lives.
Why? Because I've also seen the beautiful side of the church. I've experienced the many benefits of being a part of the church.
Here are the Top 10 Reasons I'm Thankful My Parents Took Me to Church:
1. I accepted Jesus as my Savior at a very young age.
I was just five years old when the Holy Spirit stirred my heart after a Sunday night service, and I asked Jesus to forgive my sins and come into my heart. From then on, I had a very real, very personal relationship with Jesus. While pastors, churches, and friends have changed over the years, the commitment I made at five years old has remained firm. It all began when I heard the Gospel preached at church.
2. I learned Bible stories.
Whether they were taught on a felt board (yeah, I'm that old) at Sunday school or through a game or demonstration on Wednesday nights, I heard the stories of Adam and Eve, Noah's ark, Jonah and the whale, the three Hebrew children, and Daniel and the lion's den. I heard the stories of Jesus healing the sick, raising the dead, teaching crowds, and feeding 5,000 people with just a loaf of bread and five fish.
Whether it was in Sunday school or on Wednesday nights, I learned God's Word and was inspired by the stories of God's interactions with His people. These stories built my faith and taught me to trust God and follow God no matter what.
3. I was taught to memorize Scriptures.
I was six years old when I memorized my first Scripture as part of our Wednesday night program. It was Genesis 1:1. Every week after that, we memorized and recited a new verse.
Years later, these verses are still in my head. The Holy Spirit helps me remember these verses at just the right times. Whether it's to comfort me or convict me when I'm heading in the wrong direction, these verses are as valuable as a bank deposit, ready and available to pull out when needed.
4. I learned to worship and enjoy God's presence.
The best way to learn to worship is to do it. As a child, I knew all the words to the songs and loved to sing along. I clapped along to the fast songs and raised my hands in worship to the slow ones. More than just going through the motions, participating in worship allowed me to feel God's presence, enjoy it, and long for it in my life.
5. I learned to serve.
Our church didn't believe children needed to wait to "grow up" to become part of the church community. Instead, children were given the opportunity to participate and serve whenever they expressed a desire.
As a child, I was given so many opportunities to try new things, develop my talents, and learn and grow. We were taught that we didn't just need church—the church needed us. It was fun, too!
6. I learned to give.
I learned about tithing at a very early age. It didn't matter if I earned fifty cents helping my grandma; I was taught that the first nickel went to God. I was also encouraged to give to missionaries and people in need. Because I learned these things early on, they became standard practice throughout my life.
Over the years, I have reaped the rewards of giving. God has always blessed me and provided for my needs. Now that we are missionaries, I am experiencing the benefits of others' giving even as I continue tithing and giving as the Holy Spirit leads. It's never too young to learn to give!
7. I learned to be familiar with the Bible.
Sunday school and Wednesday night services taught us to recite the books of the Bible in order. Through "sword drills," we learned how the Bible worked, where the books of the Bible were located, and how to find the chapter and verse. We were encouraged to bring our Bibles, to use them, and to become familiar with the Bible so we would feel comfortable reading it and using it on our own.
8. Church attendance allowed me to be influenced by godly people outside my family.
When I was thirteen years old, my parents decided to leave the dysfunctional church we were attending and travel 1 hour each direction to attend a healthy, thriving church. That's where I met the youth pastor, the pastor, and the pastor's wife, who forever changed the way I thought about the church and people in ministry. I loved these people! They weren't perfect, but they were godly. They sought God's ways and will and did their best to live it out in every area of their lives. They were the example I wanted to follow throughout my teenage years. Even today, when facing a ministry issue, I still think, "What would they do?"
Here's the thing: as kids grow older, they need positive influences in their lives. They need to see people other than Mom and Dad who are committed to following Jesus and living by God's ways. In a world saturated with ungodly influences, your teen or child can never have enough godly influences in their lives. Rather than being threatened by these influences, a wise parent will encourage them.
9. Attending youth group introduced me to other teens committed to living for Jesus.
Not only did my parents drive one hour to church on Sunday mornings, but they also took us on Wednesday nights. Now that I'm their age, this amazes me. I don't know how they did it, but I'm glad they did. Because of their sacrifice, I met other teens (pretty cool people) living their lives for Jesus. They weren't living in rebellion, but they had their own personal commitment to Jesus.
This is important because it's easy to feel like the only teen who is serving Jesus, trying to live by Biblical standards and discover God's will for your life. In the youth group, I found there were others just like me. While we may have been a minority in society, we were not alone. Your teen needs to know this, too!
10. Being in church gives your kids the chance to have a life-changing experience with God.
Recently, I realized that every significant spiritual experience I had as a child happened at a Sunday night service.
I received Jesus as my Savior after hearing a sermon on a Sunday night.
I was baptized in water on a Sunday night.
At seven years old, I was baptized in the Holy Spirit on a Sunday night, and I heard the Holy Spirit's call to ministry on a Sunday night when I was eight years old.
But what would have happened if my family didn't take us to Sunday night service? When would I have had the opportunity to have these life-changing experiences?
Granted, I know that most churches no longer have Sunday night services. Instead, they have different times when adults and kids can experience the power of God.
Your kids need to be there for these times. They need to have the opportunity to answer altar calls, feel the Holy Spirit's presence, and have Him work in their lives.
In a culture where parents are afraid of their children "missing out on experiences," these are the experiences you don't want them to miss!! These are the ones that matter!!
That's why you must take your kids to church.
Make it a priority. Don't just attend—participate. Be part of the family, not just a visitor who pops in once in a while.
It's part of training your child how they should go, so they don't depart from it when they are older. (Proverbs 22:6)
It's a funny thing—-years ago, it was often said that this verse means more than just going to church. However, as of late, it needs to be noted that this verse includes TAKING YOUR KIDS TO CHURCH.
They need to be there.
It's the responsibility of a godly parent to take them.
I encourage you, as we are heading toward a new school year, don't make excuses for why you can't take your kids to church. Instead, make a plan for how your family will be in church and how your kids can be involved.
As a former church kid, I promise you will not regret it.
Adessa Holden is an ordained minister with the Assemblies of God specializing in Women's Ministry. Together with her brother, Jamie, they manage 4One Ministries and travel the East Coast speaking, holding conferences, and producing Men's and Women's resources that provide practical Biblical teaching for everyday life.
When asked about herself, she'll tell you "I'm a women's minister, a sister, and a daughter. I love to laugh and spend time with people. My favorite things are chocolate, the ocean, sandals and white capris, anything purple, summertime and riding in the car listening to music. It is my absolute honor and privilege to serve Jesus and women through this ministry."