Kids involved in athletics, music, dance and scouts are less likely to become dropouts, get pregnant early, more likely to attend college, and less likely to become drug addicts. Parents fear negative outcomes and want to do all they can to see that their children have bright futures. Kids are signed up for athletics, music, dance, art, and scouts. Parents arrange play dates, move to the right neighborhoods, and enroll children in the right schools. They spare no expense making sure children have all the opportunities to develop their full potential.
I strongly recommend parents support their children’s participation in faith-based and church sponsored youth groups and mission work. Involvement in a religious community increases the probability that children will have positive behavioral outcomes. Children and youth active in church school, choir and youth activities connect with adults who share their parents’ values. Imagine your children developing relationships with adults with whom they can have a serious conversation, adults who share your values.
When parents don’t involve their children in these activities, kids are shortchanged because they will not be exposed to a broad scope of moral and religious thought. Parents who claim you don’t have to go to church to be a good Christian, Jew, or Muslim don’t understand the power of relationships in community. Parents not involved in church rarely plan a religious or moral curriculum for their children, don’t involve them in helping the less fortunate, and don’t sign them up for mission work. Moreover, some weekend sporting competitions plan events on days and times when children would normally attend worship and church school. The life lesson here for kids: certain activities are more important than worship and religious understanding. Of course, not all church school and youth programs are created equal. Some are so poorly executed, kids may be better off playing travel ball than getting the impression a relationship with God is boring and routine.
Pick a church where the children and youth see their activities as meaningful and fun not mundane or routine. When you select a church be more careful than when you pick a sport’s league. How do the kids feel about what they are doing at church? Are these the adult professionals and volunteers with whom you want your child to be in relationship? While not a guarantee, your child or youth may have another protective factor decreasing the probability of early sexual relations, drug addiction, or school drop out. It does take a village to raise a child, but it takes the right kind of village. While we can’t control all the variables, we don’t want to raise the village idiot.
David L. Barnhart, EdD
Certified Clinical Mental Health Counselor