For us as parents, there’s a careful balance to aim for, between being real and protecting our kids. As children become teens and transition into adulthood, finding just the right time to broach certain topics can be difficult. Sometimes issues appear prematurely — at least to our way of thinking. When it comes to the imperfections of the church and those in leadership there, how and when we choose to discuss such issues can be key to our kids’ future relationship with the Body of Christ.
We’ll look at a few scenarios that you’ll probably encounter sometime in your church experience and some ways to turn them around to add to your teen’s understanding of God and His plan for them instead of souring them against church and Christianity in general.
Personal Problems or Conflicts
Especially if you regularly attend and get involved in your local church, a certain amount of conflict is virtually inevitable. Such would be the case with any secular organization, and even though Christians are saved by grace, we’re all still sinners with selfish hearts and different ideas about how to “do ministry.” Whether you experience a clash in song preference with your fellow praise team leaders or can’t agree with your co-host on a menu for an upcoming fundraising banquet, how you handle such interpersonal conflicts — and how you communicate about them with your teen — can have far-reaching implications.
Doctrinal or Philosophical Differences
This category of issues can be more difficult to explain to teens, but careful and respectful descriptions of our reasons for disagreement are certainly in order. We can show young people a precedent for discussing issues of disagreement in a calm, considerate fashion, even if we do see the need to part ways with a particular church. Hopefully, we can use disagreements to show them a positive model of how to distinguish important issues from those we can overlook, as well as how mature believers can disagree graciously.
I’ve seen people stop talking to one another over such eternally insignificant differences of opinion. Some have even left a local church or stopped attending church altogether over relatively trifling issues. Often, they excuse their failure to employ the steps prescribed in Matthew 18 on the basis that the issue isn’t big enough; however, if it’s big enough to cause fellowship to be broken, it’s certainly significant enough to handle biblically.
Regardless of the reason, if your teen hears you trashing your brothers or sisters in Christ or church in general over trivial issues, they’ll understandably assume that the body of Christ is not important — or at least not as important as hurt feelings or personal opinions. As the institution for which Christ died, the New Testament church deserves our allegiance and even some sacrifices on our parts.
The bottom line, regarding any church conflict, is that we should be able to agree to disagree, remaining on friendly terms with one another.