A grandfather asked if I had a few jobs his granddaughter could do for me while she visited the week before Thanksgiving. Still building relationships at my new church, we made arrangements for the following Tuesday afternoon. Sweet girl arrived right on time and started making halos for Christmas Eve, helped me set up the Kid’s Welcome Center for Sunday since Preschool was out, and released quarters to be rolled from coin envelopes collected during the previous month’s stewardship campaign.

Come to find out she attended a church where I knew people. Rattling off names, I asked if she knew them.  She did not. One family I knew had endured a horrific and very public loss over the last year, so I found it odd she didn’t know them. I then asked if she went to youth group or middle school group since she was in 8th grade. She said she didn’t have time because of all the other things she’s involved with. “Like what?”, I asked.

She is part of two organizations. One requires 10 hours of community service per semester, and the other 40 hours. 50 hours of community service…per semester! Wow! When I asked how she got involved in the one requiring 40 hours of community service, she said she was invited due to her good grades and it was a high honor to be included…at 8th grade. Pressing further, I asked if she knew of the time commitment ahead of time when she joined? She said, “Yes, but it’s a high honor and I need it on my college application.” I asked, “Can you get your community service hours at your church?” She said, “No. I have to get them at other places.” And would I mind signing this form to get credit for her service hours today?  She pulled out a clean, folded chart filled with 1 hour here, 2 hours there. As I wrote in her 2 hours with me, my heart hurt for her. No doubt she was a ‘good girl’, but she was missing out on the deeper relationships with her local church, the Titus 2 men and women of her home church, and I was the only faith-based organization on her list. What in the world?!

Just the year before a college freshman who was one of my main volunteers for special events told me he could not use all his hours serving in his own home church for community service to receive his ‘cords’ at high school graduation or on his college application according to his high school guidance counselor. So he was scrambling to get the required community service hours in with everything else he was doing as a senior in high school. His team sports hours counted, but his service to his home church did not….except for Vacation Bible School. What in the world?!

Rant coming: Can we just step back and stop it! Stop the busyness and over-crowded schedules of our kids at such a young age especially for the sake of getting into a good college and the honor of being invited to join the elite dance team, elite junior beta club, and elite travel sport team? I know that academics and team sports are important and there is much to learn, but are the ‘honors’ of that taking priority over their deepening relationships with the Lord and His people in His church? It’s the ‘taking priority’ that saddens my heart. Every parent wants the best for their kids, but we get sucked into following the many voices of academia et al as if they know what’s best for our kids. My own kids were average students, not great students in primary, middle, and high school, but they were growing into great people, because of the people who spoke into their lives deeply and shared lives over time at their home church. When they got to college (they still got into good colleges) they knew how to balance their lives, had great devotional skills, and had wonderful people who loved on them through those early years because of the relationships they built in their home church through children’s and youth ministries. When they graduated college, they graduated with the ‘cords’ they didn’t have at high school. Today, they are both highly trained in their vocational fields AND serving local churches, along with their spouses because they had living, breathing, authentic examples of men and women who love the Lord with all their heart as young people. Moms and Dads are doing the best they can. Can we just help them choose Jesus and not apologize for guarding that priority in their lives? Can we just stop saying, “It’s ok,” when it’s not? Can we choose to raise adults committed to the Lord and the gospel rather than over-committed to what? A form? A team? An honor club? Grades? Can we just stop it! Rant over.

As a young mom, I read the following from a source unknown…

Satan called a worldwide convention. In his opening address to his evil angels, he said, “We can’t keep Christians from going to church. We can’t keep them from reading their Bibles and knowing the truth. But we can do something else. We can keep them from forming an intimate, abiding experience in Christ. If they gain that connection with Jesus, our power over them is broken.”
“Here is how I want you to do this. Distract them from gaining hold of their Savior and maintaining that vital connection throughout their day.”
“But how shall we do this?” shouted one of his angels?
“Keep them busy in the non-essentials of life and invent numerous schemes to occupy their minds,” he answered.  “Steal their time. Persuade them to work long hours and every day of the week. Tempt them to spend, spend, spend, then borrow, borrow, borrow. Keep them from spending time with their children. As their families fragment, soon their homes will offer no escape from the pressures of work.”
“Over-stimulate their minds so that they cannot hear that still small voice. Entice them to play the radio or cassette player whenever they drive, to keep the TV, the VCR, their CDs going constantly in their homes. And see to it that every store and restaurant in the world plays music constantly. This will jam their minds and break that union with Christ. Fill their coffee tables with magazines and newspapers. Pound their minds with the news 24 hours a day and invade their driving moments with billboards. Flood their mailboxes with junk mail, sweepstakes, mail order catalogs, and every kind of newsletter and promotional offering free products, services and false hopes. Even in their recreation, let them be excessive. Have them return from it exhausted, disquieted and unprepared for the coming week.”
“Don’t let them go out in nature. Send them to amusement parks, sporting events, concerts and movies instead. And when they meet for spiritual fellowship, involve them in gossip and small talk so that they leave with troubled consciences and unsettled emotion.”
“Let them be involved in soul-winning. But crowd their lives with so many good causes they have no time to seek power from Christ. Soon they will be working in their own strength, sacrificing their health and family unity for the good of the cause.”
Well, in the end it was quite a convention. The evil angels went eagerly to their assignments, causing the Christians everywhere to get busy, busy, busy and rush here and there.”

Not on my watch!

“My zeal wears me out…” Psalm 119:139