Why Families Should Prioritize the Local Church

A few years ago, a friend who was teaching Bible at a Christian high school asked his students how many considered themselves “involved” in their local church. One student raised his hand. The teacher then asked how many attended worship on a weekly basis with their families. Out of 19 students, two raised their hands.

Many families today have reduced the church’s importance by making it one of several supposedly similar options for personal development. School involvement, sports teams, and other extracurricular activities may draw families away from church, especially if children participate in a club, sports, or dance team that competes on the weekends.

These communities can be a great blessing, and we thank the Lord for them! The problem comes when we neglect involvement in our local church because we’ve chosen to pour our time and resources into one of these communities instead of the church.

Parents, here are three reasons to fight, by the grace of God, to keep the local church central in your family life.

The Church is God’s Ordained Vessel

While there are many worthwhile activities and communities our families may be involved in, the church should take precedence because it is ordained by God as the vessel through which he brings his kingdom to earth (Matt. 16:18-19). As believers in Christ, we are citizens of God’s kingdom, and our union with him is seen and experienced in our union with the local church. This makes the church unique among other places we involve ourselves.

When we miss church on a regular basis because of other activities or sporting events, we’re subtly communicating to our children that our priority is not the kingdom of God, but our own man-made kingdoms and individual pursuits. That’s not to say that we can’t help our kids chase their dreams and ambitions, but we need to help them learn to rightly submit these pursuits to the Lord.

Because the church holds such significance, it’s important that we trust the Lord with the conflicts that arise that keep us consistently away. I have experienced coaches being surprisingly gracious about staying on a team and missing Sunday morning games, but I also know families who had to choose between church and sports. To be clear, this is not an easy situation for parents or for their children and having to make the choice is unfortunately becoming more common.

But when we assume that the only way for our child to excel in a particular area is to sacrifice worship in the church for other extracurricular activities, we are not fully trusting in God to do “immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Eph. 3:20). Because the Bible is so clear about the significance of God’s church, we must trust that in committing to it, the Lord will do His work in our kid’s lives and provide other ways for them to excel in their giftedness.

The Church Is Imperative to Our Spiritual Well-Being

At the heart of the choices we make for our children is a desire to see them flourish. We enroll them in sports and extracurriculars because we want them to use their talents and realize their potential. But if flourishing in these pursuits means neglecting the church, we’re not providing the proper nourishment that will feed our children’s souls long into adulthood. Other activities can’t offer what the local church uniquely provides according to its Biblical purpose (Matthew 28:16; Psalm 150; 2 Cor. 4:5; Heb. 10:25).

In God’s church, sacraments like the Lord’s Supper regularly remind us of the blood that was shed on our behalf, and the promise that for all of eternity God is our God and we are his people. Our engagement in worship draws us closer to our Savior. Preaching and teaching from God’s Word point us to Christ and show us how to live. Receiving accountability and encouragement from other believers is necessary to stand firm in life’s trials.

We can’t chase other activities in neglect of the local church and assume that we and our children will thrive in relationship with Christ. Without these spiritually strengthening elements feeding us on a regular basis, our spiritual well will quickly dry up.

The Church is Our True Family 

Most places of community are not intended to last a lifetime. We lose connectedness in school and sports communities when our kids graduate or move on to a different team. The church’s relationships are different.

In John 19:26–27, we read some of Jesus’s final words from the cross to Mary, his mother, and to John, his friend. From a place of suffering, Jesus hangs his head, sees his mother, and says to her, “Woman, behold, your son!” But Jesus is not speaking of himself because he looks at his beloved disciple John and says, “Behold, your mother!” (John 21:24)

By forming this connection, our Savior gave us the gift of a spiritual family. As John Piper points out, “The new relationship between Mary and John illustrates for us the provision made for us in the body of Christ.”[1] This gift of spiritual relationships in the church remains today. It’s as if Jesus says: Look church! Behold your brother and your mother. Look around and see your spiritual family who will love and care for you in my physical absence.

We are connected to this spiritual family because we belong to Christ, and we need them for support in life’s trials and for sharpening as we grow in our understanding of God and his Word (Prov. 27:17). Your children need to know the importance of this spiritual family outside of their clubs and sports teams. The church is a family who will be there for them in their faith journey and who will love on them for longer than a season.

Is it counter cultural to invest in a church community? Yes. But we cannot love Jesus and not love his church, so we must not give up on it. This is especially true if we are going to pass on a love for Jesus and his church to the next generation. By his grace, seek to make your local church a priority for your family. Trust that the Lord will provide ways for your child to flourish—even if prioritizing the church means less involvement in other activities. In doing so, you and your children will reap the benefits of God’s covenant community and experience Christ’s love made manifest in and through his bride, the church.

[1] https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/the-third-word-from-the-cross

Katie is a writer, teacher, and speaker. She is married to Chris, a PCA pastor at Trinity church in St. Louis, MO, and is a mother to three wonderful kids. Katie works as the Director of Music Ministries and Special Events at Trinity and writes for several Christian ministries and organizations. She received her Master of Arts in Theology from Covenant Seminary in St. Louis. More information can be found on her website at www.katiepolski.com

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