The Bible says, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22.6). This verse is comforting in its directness and certainty that a well-instructed child will forge a good path for adulthood.
How’re we doing with that, America?
Given our busy lives and our children’s over-scheduled status, religious education seems to have taken a backseat in the family car. On any given Sunday in the fall, spring or summer, that car is more likely to pull up at a soccer field than a church.
There is a sentence religious education teachers hear over and over again in the new millennium:
“I won’t be here – I have a game.”
“I can’t tell you how deflating that is, to hear from your students that sports has once again taken precedence over religious education,” a 7th-grade Catholic CCD (Confraternity of Christian Doctrine) teacher in Austin, Texas, told LifeZette. “It all boils down to the parent, and what that parent considers important. It seems as if children’s sports teams and other activities are the new Gods we serve.”
There needs to be separation of church and sports, and that separation must comes from the moms and dads out there. Chris Roberts, a father of two, is not prepared to simply accept the new-millennium status quo of sports on Sundays.
“We have to model for our kids what our priorities are,” he told baptistmessenger.com. “If enough kids didn’t show up, teams or leagues would have to re-evaluate the schedules.”
There are many important reasons your child should be involved in religious education.
“Children can explore what their call to faith is through religious education,” Mickie Abatemarco, assistant director of professional development for the National Catholic Educational Association, told Lifezette. “After baptism, parents are the child’s first teacher, but CCD or enrollment in Catholic school continues that in such a meaningful way.”
Many parents agree with the importance of religious education. According to the latest Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) report, which provides data culled from their social science research on the Catholic Church, there were nearly 2.7 million elementary-age children enrolled in Catholic education in the U.S. in 2014.
“In the northeast you do hear more about churches and parishes closing, but down in the south, and particularly the southeast, our numbers are very robust,” said Abatemarco.
It can be a struggle to get your kids on the same page regarding a commitment to spiritual education.
“I literally dragged my boys for years to Sunday school and church, and I uttered some words I’m not proud of, not your normal Sunday words, waiting for them to roll out of bed and get ready. I’m sure they uttered some, too,” a Washington State dad told Lifezette.
“But,” he continued, “it became routine after a few months. And I run this ship, and one hour a week given to God will benefit them as men. I figure I am caring for their souls by ruining their Sunday morning.”
An emphasis on religious instruction is very important in the Jewish faith, too.
“More than a coming of age ritual, the bar mitzvah (for boys) and bat mitzvah (for girls) is relevant in the 21st century because of three major factors,” said Rabbi Jason Miller of Detroit. “First, it puts an emphasis on learning. Yes, young adults learn in school, but this ritual encourages extra-curricular learning for its own sake. Second, it demonstrates the importance of community. Bar and bat Mitzvah celebrations are important to Jewish communities as a whole, acknowledging our cultural history, promoting unity and the significance of our faith traditions.
“Finally, these life-cycle rituals teach young adults that their accomplishments are worthy of celebration,” he added. “We, as a community, celebrate their new adult-like responsibilities in a Jewish setting.”
“Whether your child is enrolled in Catholic school or attends CCD, the learning should never stop,” said Abatemarco. “It is so important for this not to be a ‘drop-off’ thing, but for families to really get involved together in church life. And confirmation isn’t graduation; after students complete their years of instruction, they can do service together with their family.”
She added, “That connects a family in the strongest way possible. By faith.”
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