TROUTMAN: Why I make my kids go to church

'As writer Anne Lamott noted, I will make them go because I weigh more than them.'


This is Holy Week. It is also spring break for my children. Ah, the poor preacher’s kids. No big vacation for them. Instead, they will spend even more time than usual in church. It is their cross to bear.

This is the season of grace, not legalism. So, I won’t keep score. I won’t remind them of the other weeks of the year when, because they are preacher’s kids, they visit the playground during the week and receive extra cookies from the fellowship hall. I’ll resist the urge to shame them by recalling the dozens of Christmas gifts and birthday cards that they receive every year from their family of faith. Heck, they got chocolate coins on Saint Patrick’s Day!

No shame for my young disciples. Yet, they have no choice in coming to church. As writer Anne Lamott noted, I will make them go because I weigh more than them.

But I believe with Mister Rogers that faith “is not taught, but caught,” meaning lessons are absorbed through direct experience. On the night he was betrayed, Jesus broke bread and shared the cup with his friends. While my children would doubtless rather be at the beach, they will be in worship on Maundy Thursday. They will receive the bread and cup from the table, the symbol of our unity. Who knows what they will catch, what feeling they will latch upon, and what love they will receive?

The same things are true for all of us who remember the ancient story of Jesus. We gather for worship and maybe we spot a church member who is sitting alone. Perhaps someone else has tears in her eyes. Our hearts go out to a young parent who has to wrangle and wrestle young children, and we offer to help. We learn how to recognize the suffering in others. We practice empathy and compassion, which is a way of using our suffering and the suffering of others to love one another. Isn’t that what we are here to learn in our time on Earth?

I don’t want you, gentle reader, to feel too sorry for my kids. Come Easter Sunday, they will get plenty of extra video game time after church. While Jesus will have risen from the grave, this pastor will go back to bed for a nap.

Andrew Taylor-Troutman is pastor of Chapel in the Pines Presbyterian Church as well as a writer, pizza maker, coffee drinker and student of joy.