Full disclosure: As a youth pastor, I’m a little biased about the value of church. However, I’m writing this primarily as a parent of a teenager who is ready to graduate from high school and who has been filling out a lot of scholarship applications.
Too few parents realize the value of involving their kids in church. First and foremost, a good Bible teaching church and youth program will improve your child’s academics. How, you ask? If they are learning the Bible, they are learning history, geography, a boat-load of vocabulary, some mathematics, plus literary genres and writing styles, as well as many cultural references that have helped to shape Judeo-Christian societies for millennia. Simply put, if you’re not Biblically literate, your education is lacking. Over and over, I’ve seen how reading the Bible improves literacy and academics as well as critical thinking and reasoning skills. There is a reason why the Bible used to be the foremost textbook in American schools.
Secondly, in order to be an informed citizen and function well in society, you need to know something about laws and the purpose of government. Did you know that our legal system and government are based on the Bible? If you read the laws established by Moses in the Old Testament and the way he set up a representative style of government, you will have a basic understanding of our government, our justice system, and the laws upon which our society is built. This is another benefit of knowing the Bible, and again, this is not something your kids will hear in a public school.
Much is being written now about emotional intelligence. What is emotional intelligence? It’s knowing how to interact well with others and make good judgments to avoid and solve problems. Sounds like a great skill, right? Some say it is the key to personal and professional success. Where can you find an education in emotional intelligence? Read the Bible and put its teachings on how to treat others into action. Better yet, find someone at your church who can explain the Bible and put its relational teachings into real-world contexts for young people. Treating others well will open many doors relationally and professionally.
Let’s talk about morals. Nothing can shipwreck your life faster than bad moral decisions, such as getting involved in bad relationships, pornography and promiscuity, under-age drinking, illegal drug use, and other behaviors that can become addictive. No one wants these things for their kids. Being involved in church with other young people and having an outlet for good, clean fun is a valuable way to safeguard your kids. If your church is doing a good job, your child will receive a moral education from studying the Bible that is not being taught anymore in public education. Establishing a relationship with Jesus Christ gives young adults a huge reason to refuse to be involved in damaging activities as well as the moral fortitude to stick with their convictions in the face of peer pressure.
Let’s get back to those scholarship applications. Most universities and scholarship committees are looking for a combination of good academics, extra-curricular involvement, sound character qualities, leadership skills, and community service. It wasn’t until my daughter began listing her community service activities and leadership experience that I began to take note how integral youth ministry has been in her personal development. Again, if your church is doing a good job, your kids will have opportunities to serve others in your community. It could be preparing meals or food baskets for those struggling with poverty, it could be ministering to the elderly in nursing homes, volunteering at community organizations, helping in the nursery, teaching a Sunday school class, making a presentation for other teens, praying with those in need, raising funds for missions, attending conferences, playing music, singing in the choir, or helping to set up before and clean up after events. Any of these activities are experiences that can be listed on a resume for community service. If you can encourage your child to take the lead on some of these activities, all the better. Sports involvement is great for physical fitness, but doing community service regularly with a church group establishes the habit and priority of caring for others. This is something that will help your child become an outstanding young adult and be recognized as such.
Finally, it’s never too late to get involved in a good church youth program. I encourage you to prioritize your time and make room for church and a good Biblical education. The benefits are both immediate and eternal.