4 Dangers of Being a Church Kid
Many Christians, like me, grew up going to church. Our earliest memories include attending church. It has been a part of our lives from the beginning and in many ways this is a great blessing. I cannot think of a circumstance where it would be better to not have grown up in church. As far as I can tell, being part of a church from childhood is a great thing and is to be desired for all children.
Yet, as virtually all of us church kids know, there are dangers and downsides too. Growing up in church can potentially set people up for some spiritual struggles later in life. It’s good for us to know what they are and be wary of them. Here are a few that I can think of.
1. Becoming an empty, religious shell
Because they grew up in church, church kids learn the “lingo” of Christianity from infancy. At a young age they can recognize Bible figures and stories, learn how to pray out loud, converse about spiritual matters, and know how to get the approval of older Christians. It can easily become all about the external and not the internal: using the right words without knowing what they mean, praying out loud without actually having concern for people in our hearts, caring about the approval of adults rather than the approval of God, faking “goodness” in front of the right people to protect our holy image, singing worship songs without thinking about what we are saying…the list could go on and on. In other words, it is easy for church kids to start going through the motions. When this happens, they become a religious shell with nothing going on inside. This is the exact opposite of Christianity, which is all about the transforming power of God working in our hearts to change us and make us born again. Church kids, because of their immersion in a Christian culture, can adapt to their surroundings without ever experiencing true faith on the inside. This is a sad and dangerous reality, and is the main reason for kids leaving the church when they grow up.
2. Getting sucked into the Christian bubble
The Christian bubble is how many believers live their life – cut off from the outside, non-Christian world. Church kids are especially vulnerable to this because they have less say over where they go and who they hang out with than adults do. At least, as an adult, a person can choose to break out of the Christian bubble if they wanted to. They have the independence to do it. However, a church kid does not. Often their whole life revolves around the church. Virtually everyone they know is Christian, and those who aren’t are often branded as “bad influences”. This can have negative effects in two opposite directions. One, the church kid gets older and starts to experience life outside the Christian bubble and likes it. Sin becomes intriguing and rebellion enjoyable. They allow ungodly people to influence them and they become entangled in unholy living. Or, secondly, the church kid can experience life outside the Christian bubble and react with fear and disgust. They withdraw even more intensely from the evil around them, making them virtually useless as a witness to others and often times a self-righteous snob. On the contrary, Jesus desires his followers to “be in the world but not of the world”. This can really hard for church kids to do.
3. Relying on the faith of others
Church kids can appear to have a thriving, active faith while having virtually none at all. This is because they can ride on the faith of others for a long time before it seems to affect them. Who needs to read or study the Bible for themselves when someone else has done it and will teach me what they learned every week? How hard is it to participate in community service when everyone else in my youth group is doing it? Why would I question the authority and authenticity of the Bible if my pastor doesn’t seem to question it? Church kids can have a hard time thinking for themselves. They can be surrounded by so many people who have thriving faith that it simply rubs off on them – but not always in the genuine sense, but rather a superficial way where church kids never really wrestle with issues for themselves but are content for others to live out their Christian walk for them. This may work for a while but when real life hits them between the eyes and they are forced to rely on their own trust in God, trouble arises.
4. Undermining the primary importance of the gospel
Church kids have heard the gospel a million times before they even start kindergarten. They know about sin and heaven and hell and that they need to accept Jesus as their Saviour. By the time they hit age 10, the gospel is ancient news. Usually, church kids move on from the gospel to moralism – living a life that is pleasing to God. Moral choices do matter and are an essential part of the Christian life, but when the gospel gets dropped from the picture, the whole system becomes distorted and genuine Christianity is lost. Sadly, many church kids get bored with Jesus. His sacrifice doesn’t move them to worship. His blood-soaked cross seems mundane. His resurrection is reduced to a mere fact. The reality of eternity becomes blase. Forgiveness is taken for granted. And before you know it, the gospel that once was central becomes secondary, which then becomes a footnote, and then is forgotten altogether. O that churches would always keep Jesus in his rightful place! Front and centre and there alone and always is where Christ belongs. Only then can we reverse the trend of church kids never coming to true faith in Jesus.
What do you think? What else might you add to this list?