Posts Tagged ‘ church ’

A Non-Churchgoer’s Guide For Finding A Church For Your Family

Friday, August 10th, 2012

20 months.

Maybe you recently read “8 Non-Religious Reasons To Take Your Kids To Church” and now you’re thinking, “Okay, I see how that could be a good thing for my family but there are so many churches out there, I just feel overwhelmed. I simply wouldn’t know where to start.”

For someone who is new or unfamiliar to the church scene, I recommend the kind of church that meets at a school, where everybody pretty much wears jeans to the service.

This concept seems to be decently modeled after Saddleback Church in California, where Rick Warren, the author of The Purpose Driven Life and The Purpose Driven Church is the pastor.

Often the names of these “purpose driven” churches include phrases like family, life, community, and fellowship as opposed to official denominational ties, such as Baptist, for example.

They are easy to Google and definitely have a constantly updated website letting you know what exciting activities are going on there.

These churches are typically designed with you, the newcomer, in mind. They have a much more casual setting with a more open, feng shui feel. No pews, for example.

Churches like this are a natural magnet for younger families with children. And that’s hugely important for you as you consider joining a church community.

There may be a band leading the worship music in some likeness of Coldplay (or Lady Antebellum) while coffee and snacks (often free) are served nearby.

I predict at a place like this, you won’t feel like you’re being held over hell like a marshmallow, but instead will feel welcome and part of the crowd.

You can also expect the pastor to be less preachy and more teachy. You’ll feel like he’s talking to you, not at you.

That’s not to say that churches that don’t follow the “purpose driven” model are predictably stiff, outdated, and judgmental, but I do think that a church that fits the model I have described is going to have a better chance of not making you feel out of place, as a newcomer.

What matters is that you find the church that is the best cultural fit for your family so you will want to go back, not feel like you’re supposed to or have to.

I don’t think church is supposed to be boring. I think it’s supposed to be full of abundant life. That’s the kind of church I hope you find for your family.

Photo: Paper Coffee Cup via Shutterstock.

 

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8 Non-Religious Reasons To Take Your Kids To Church

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

20 months.

Year after year, polls like this recent one by Gallup show that “churchgoers” not only experience more positive emotions but also less negative emotions than people who do not regularly attend church, synagogue, or mosque.

So maybe you’re not like me; having been intrigued since Kindergarten on how we all got here and what happens to us after we die.

This is for the agnostics who are curious about taking their kids to church, as well as, for those who haven’t had much exposure to church but are curious enough to consider checking it out.

Therefore, I am attempting to explain why going to church is a good idea for you and your kids, not from a religious perspective, but from more of a scientific one.

1. Friends. For you as well as your kids. Most of my friends and my wife’s friends are somehow traced back to our church. In fact, we met each other through a mutual friend that I met through a group of friends I knew through my church.

2. Community. Similarly, you find yourself among other people who are bound to have things in common with you and your children; even if it’s just the fact you are parents with kids around the same age at the same place.

3. Activities and events. There is always something happening on the church calendar and much of it involves free food. Not to mention, most of the activities themselves don’t cost anything to participate. Basically, it’s free entertainment with families you have stuff in common with.

4. Child care. Free child care. While you are in the main worship service, as well as Sunday School, your kids are being supervised and taught in their own age appropriate Sunday School and worship service where they make you crafts out of construction paper and popsicle sticks.

5. Family values. Church is a great place to get moral reinforcement. It’s no secret that pop culture, everyday life, and even just our own negativity can be a drag on our ideal personal standards.

6. Motivation. Imagine the hope that comes out of the belief that the creator of this universe not only loves you but has a plan for your life. When you go to and belong to a church, you are exposed to a way of thinking that ultimately affects how you see the world, yourself, and others.

7. Opportunities to help others. You’d be amazed at some of the unique ways you can help others and your community through your church. It is likely you will find a venue to serve others in a way that is framed around your talents and abilities.

8. Routine. When you expose yourself and your kids to all this positivity every week, after a while you’re bound to see a noticeable difference in the way your family interacts.

Even if you have trouble believing in all the religious aspects of going to church, there is evidently something to the fact that people who go are generally more positive and less negative.

The way I look at it; even if at the end of my life I was wrong about God this entire time and when we die, we just die and that’s it, I still wouldn’t regret having believed.

Because if nothing else, I had a sense of hope amidst all of life’s uncertainties. Not to mention, as the polls show, I lived a happier life than had I not believed.

But I do believe. And I invite you to check it out. Even if it’s just for your kid.

Feel free to email me (look at the top right side of this page) if you’d like for me to personally help you find some good churches in your area. I’ll try to make sure you don’t end up going to some kooky place where they drink poisoned Kool-Aid or attempt to catch a ride in a UFO that follows a magical comet.

(Or read the follow-up post I wrote a couple of days after I published this one, A Non-Churchgoer’s Guide For Finding A Church For Your Family.)

Top photo: Chapel Sign via Shutterstock.

Bottom photo: Childcare Concept via Shutterstock.

 

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Can You Really Trust Your Kids With Random Strangers?

Sunday, February 5th, 2012

14 months.

Last July when we moved back to Nashville, some coworkers heard that our son Jack was enrolled in KinderCare, responding with something to the effect of, “Oh, is that the fancy daycare where they let you watch your kid on a hidden camera anytime you want by logging onto their website?”

I find that concept laughable.

That I would pay [x amount] of our income for strangers to care for our child from 7:45 AM to 5: 05 PM every weekday, yet not trust them enough to do so unsupervised, but instead Big Brother style, all day by my wife and me; as we check every 30 seconds on a website to make sure our son is okay.

So, no… my son’s daycare does not have a website where I can watch him on a hidden camera all day; in case I had any doubt that the daycare workers are mistreating and abusing him as seen on some 20/20 or Dateline episode a few years ago.

Whether I want to or not, I have to trust my son with random strangers.

In fact, I had to today. Though wife and I love our megachurch we’ve both been attending for over five years now, over the past couple of months we realized that the check-in process for our son to get into the daycare was so elaborate and detailed, with printed badges and passwords, not to mention the 25 minute drive from our house, that we were willing to try a closer and smaller church that is more practical for us now that we are parents.

One where the childcare program was so simple that there was no paperwork nor name tags nor computers. One where if there was some kind of emergency during the service, someone could just walk around the corner and let us know.

So today, we “tried out” a new church, leaving Jack with random strangers in the church’s toddler room. When we picked him back up an hour later, he was totally chilled and relaxed, eating Cheddar goldfish with random strangers his age. He was fine and the random strangers taking care of him were very kind to him.

Random strangers are random strangers until you get to know them and realize you can definitely trust them; that’s the irony.

Image: Woman with a fun expression wearing a purple hat, via Shutterstock.

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Surprise! This Christian Dad Struggles With His Own Faith

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012

14 months.

During my day job, I work alongside someone I consider a “friendly atheist.” Not the kind who has a passionate agenda of converting me out of Christianity or who is obviously mad at God for not existing. He just simply believes that when we all die… poof! That’s it.

He and I have the kind of mutually respectful relationship where we can curiously ask each other questions about the other’s belief system, without it ever turning volatile or even emotional.

Last Friday I told him, “You simply have more faith than I do; to believe we all just got here by random chance.”

He replied, “You know, Nick; I find it very surprising that you, of all people, believe in Jesus and the Bible and all that stuff. I know you well enough to realize you are a very logical, rational guy. It just doesn’t fit you.”

The truth is, he makes a good point. I have no trouble at all believing in each of the miracles told in the Bible; from God creating Adam from dust, then Eve from his side, to Noah being able to gather two of every kind of animal on the ark, to the virgin birth of Christ, to Him being the Son of God, to Jesus making wine from water, to Him walking on water, to Him dying for the whole world and then raising from the dead. No problem.

Why? Because it’s all miraculous. It’s impossible unless it’s true. That’s logical to me.

Sure, I definitely believe the Bible truly is legitimate and factual.

I’m not the kind of person who only believes the parts of the Bible and God’s teachings that I want to; the ones that are easy to believe and that make me feel good. That’s not me.

Instead, I am a Bible-believing Christian who trusts in Christ alone for eternal life and redemption of all my wickedness, yet with humility I am willing to admit, there are parts of the Bible and its teachings that I struggle with.

Notice I said “struggle with.” I didn’t say I don’t believe or won’t believe. It means there are certain things I have to sort out, by carefully reading the Bible, praying to God to help me understand, reading related commentary books and talking to other Christians about my concerns.

I have this theory that most Bible-believing Christians have at least one particular part of the Bible or Christianity they have always struggled with believing. Mine is the existence of a literal, eternal, fiery hell in which people can never be redeemed.

While I’ve never met a Christian who believes that babies go to hell, it seems to be a popular belief that basically everyone else born in sin who dies not knowing Christ as their savior goes to hell forever.

That includes people in other countries who never heard the Gospel. That includes people who were only exposed to judgmental Christians who condemned them. That includes people who have been abused by their earthly fathers and have a deranged idea of what a loving father actually is.

I simply don’t want to be in a position where I have to decide who goes to Heaven and who doesn’t. But I feel that if hell is the fiery place it’s perceived to be by most Christians and their agreed interpretations of Christ’s teachings, then I sort of am in that position.

This can of worms got opened about a month ago when I read the highly controversial book, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, by Rob Bell.

It’s not that I agreed with every thing he said, but he was willing to shed light on my lifelong concerns about the Church’s traditional interpretation of hell. He goes back to every use of the word “hell” in the Bible and focuses on the original Hebrew and Greek words used.

So should I believe that all unbelievers, except babies, go to hell if they don’t believe in Christ by the time they die?

I’m going to give a very unpopular answer:

I don’t know. I have no idea. Yet.

I know that I’m supposed to believe it as an evangelical Christian. But I can’t lie and say in my heart I believe it at this point in my Christian journey.

But I’m trying to figure it out as I reread the teachings of Christ and the Apostles. I’m also reading the book, Erasing Hell, by Francis Chan; which counters the ideas written in Love Wins.

Just for the record, I graduated from a one year Bible college called Word of Life Bible Institute and earned my English degree from Liberty University; the world’s largest evangelical Christian university.

I know the Bible very well. But I can’t stand the thought of believing heresy, whether it’s some trendy author’s flawed interpretation of the Bible, or even the Church’s flawed understanding of Scripture.

Nothing has ever caused me to read the Bible with such passion. As a believer of Christ, I want to know who He truly is.

This is real faith. It’s not about having all the answers. Nor is it being okay with not trying to find the answers.

So what does this have to do with being a dad? Everything.

I want to be able to teach my son everything I have learned about God. My faith is everything to me. As his dad, it’s my responsibility to be the spiritual leader my dad was to me.

So to not understand a major part of my faith is difficult for me to deal with.

Like my atheist friend said, I am a very logical and rational guy. I don’t just believe something because I’m supposed to. I believe because God helps me to.

So help me God for my lack of understanding.

Top image: Hands Statue from Hell in Wat Rong Khun at Chiang Rai, Thailand, via Shutterstock.

Bottom image: Marshmallow on a stick over the fire, via Shutterstock.

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Santa Claus and Other White Lies We Tell Our Kids

Saturday, December 3rd, 2011

One year.

With good reason, I’ve never been able to legitimately process the double standard of leading a child to believe in Santa Claus while at the same time teaching them not to lie.

It’s interesting how far we have had to stretch the lies, just like with any outrageous falsehood, in order to keep kids believing.

“How does Santa fit down the chimney? How does he fit all the toys in his sleigh? How does he travel the whole world overnight?”

(Insert ridiculous answers here.)

Yes, the legend of Santa Claus was born of Christian folklore, so as a predominately Christian nation, we can rest assured knowing that jolly ole St. Nick has accepted Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior. He has been confirmed, baptized, and even has a tattoo of John 3:16 on his arm.

Yet we can’t deny that in the way John Lennon once infamously claimed that the Beatles were bigger than Jesus, the fame of Santa arguably is greater than the actual reason Christmas came to be celebrated in the first place: the birth of Jesus as the prophesied Messiah of the Old Testament.

But can we really get caught up in this particular double standard? Aren’t there other white lies we tell our kids to either A) comfort them or B) entertain them? Yup.

A very traditional white lie I’ve heard parents tell their kids is that when a loved one dies, in particular a grandparent, that person becomes an angel who watches over them in Heaven.

Sorry, the Bible doesn’t say that. I don’t know of any popular religion that actually does.

Besides, what does that even mean? How does Grandpa Murphy “watch over” your kid? Does he part the clouds, look down and see little Jaxon about to run over a stick while riding his bike, so Grandpa sends a few of his buddy angels to kick the stick out of the way just in time, saving Jaxon from crashing his bike?

Sure, the Bible says that there are guardian angels, but we don’t actually become them ourselves after entering Heaven. So it’s a white lie.

It’s a similar thing when a beloved pet dies. Yeah, all dogs go to Heaven, just like that movie that came out when I was in 2nd grade. Cats? Yeah, them too. The goldfish? That’s debatable. Now, let’s stop asking so many questions and finish eating this delicious Hamburger Helper dinner.

Don’t worry, we “helped” that cow go to Heaven quicker and meet all his cow family that were part of those burgers we grilled out last weekend.

Image: Traditional Santa Clause via Shutterstock.

Unexpected Bonus!

Want to read more on the subject? Today I am giving away a copy of the new book, Christmas is Not Your Birthday, to one lucky and curious reader. The book’s author, Mike Slaughter, is the lead pastor of Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church in Tipp City, Ohio.

Through his church’s annual Christmas Miracle Offering, over $5 million has been raised for humanitarian relief in Darfur. If you ask me, this guy sounds like a real life Santa Claus. Not one that gives toys to kids, but instead someone who helps keep them from dying.

Just be the first person to A) leave a comment on this post saying you want it and B) send me an email including your mailing address to nickshell1983@hotmail.com

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