Category Archives: faith & spirituality

Influencing your child’s faith…

Sometimes parents will say that they don’t take their children to church because they don’t want to influence their child towards one particular religion. There is one big problem with this kind of thinking. No influence means no choice!

If it is really the parents’ desire to remain neutral, the parent would take the child to a variety of churches or religions so that the child is familiar with the differences. This says to the child that faith is important, and there are a variety of ways to believe as well as act on one’s faith. Adequate information and experience helps one to make an informed choice.

To not teach a child about faith in God, is truly not giving the child a choice. Parents who choose not to influence their children when they are still dependents, have not thought through the results of their rationale.

Most parents, teach their children how to take care of their physical needs: change their clothes, bathe, brush their teeth, comb their hair, eat a balanced meal. Have you ever heard a parent say, “I don’t want to influence my child in his/her grooming habits?”

Most parents encourage their child’s interests, whether it be artistic, music, athletic or scientific activities. Have you ever heard a parent say, “I don’t want to encourage my child in any particular activities, I think he or she should be able to choose music, art or athletics when they are older?”

Most parents encourage their child to do well in school, do their homework, get good grades. Have you ever heard a parent say, “I don’t want to influence my child in their learning ability? I want them to decide how smart they want to be when they grow up?”

When it comes to nurturing faith in God, nurturing moral and ethical decision making, why do so many parents retreat or run to the hills on this issue? Is it a backlash to the rigid fundamentalism we’ve all been exposed to? Is it because parents were not adequately prepared as children and they pass this inadequacy along to the next generation? Are parents simply not convinced that children have spiritual needs too?

If you are a parent or plan to be one soon, listen up! If you don’t influence your child from day one till the time they move out, everyone else will! Their friends, advertising, TV, music, teachers, coaches, did I say friends??? If you don’t nurture their spiritual, physical, intellectual and emotional needs, everyone else will!!

There is no place for being neutral in this day and age! Your son or daughter is being bombarded with the values of others and our culture. You must be focused on nurturing basic life skills so that your child has the tools to make wise decisions and face life on his/her own. If you are going to retreat and leave that job to someone else, rest assured, someone will!!

why should children be nurtured in faith?

My aunt recently confessed that she thought she and her husband were too rigid in their faith when their children were younger. She said, “the kids would probably have gotten just as much from an occasional Sunday picnic as they did from attending church.” She recognized and admired that her adult children had more “balance” in their lives and more flexibility in raising her grandchildren.

My son had to go to church because I was a pastor and he couldn’t stay home alone. When I no longer preached every Sunday, we still attended regularly, but not religiously.

Why should you nurture faith in children?

1. The Creator of creation desires to be worshipped.

2. The Creator desires to be in relationship with humanity.

3. Church provides a disciplined avenue for worshipping and showing gratefulness to God.

4. Human beings were not meant to be alone.

5. A spiritual community is a great source of support and accountability.

6. Faith is a road map for the meaning of life, in all circumstances.

7. Through faith, we find hope and good news for all


Making your child go to church…

When you are a pastor, it’s a good idea if your child goes to church with you. I am sure everybody understands that the pastor tries to set an example for other parents.  After all, if the pastor can’t get her or his kid to church, all the other parents are off the hook too.

Getting children to church when they are young, is not a problem, at least it wasn’t for me. My young son accepted it as a normal part of the routine on Sunday mornings. Since I was in the pulpit and single, there were several families that would have him sit with them. He was loved and cared for by many.

Fast forward to the teen age years. It was my experience, that getting a teenager to church is where the real challenge lies. The junior high years were not too difficult, because there were several cute girls at church that were always interested in him. He loved the attention.

At about 15 and 16 years of age, there was a bit of rebellion. He wasn’t so sure that he believed all that church stuff… and I said that was okay. God would still be waiting for him, if he changed his mind. That lasted a couple of Sundays.

It happened that my son loved to have breakfast at McDonalds. When he was elementary age, we started the ritual of eating at McDs before church. When the girls became less interesting, he still liked McDs. He knew that if he missed church, he missed breakfast… so sometimes that was a motivation to attend too.

As he became an older teen, I appealed to his reasoning. I explained to him, that all week, he and I were doing separate things, he with his friends, I with my work. Worship was one family activity we did together… once a week. I was no longer in the pulpit and I enjoyed sitting with him. There were times, when this 17 year old would lean his head on my shoulder and go to sleep! Yes… right during church! I was a bit surprised… but loved it. There were choir members who loved it too… they probably wished their teenagers would do the same! Since I missed so many times of sitting with him in church, it was a precious, tender time.

When my teenager was too tired to go to church, there was one final principle that I held to. I understood being tired and needing a morning to sleep in. However, if he was too tired to go to church, he was too tired to do anything else that day. The days that he didn’t go to church, he couldn’t go to friend’s house, a movie, etc. It didn’t last for more than a Sunday or two. Sleeping in to miss church meant sleeping in and missing other activities too. Before long, he was back to attending church and knew the day held many more opportunities.

A mother to others…

They laid Ms. Ginny in the ground today. Her body rests peacefully after months of illness. I’ll always remember her as the woman who was a “mother to others.”

I first met Ginny when visiting the church that we eventually put our roots down into. As my eleven year old son and I tried to make a hasty exit out of the sanctuary, I was approached by a friendly woman who proceeded to make comfortable conversation. As this interesting dialogue approached the 15 minute mark, I glanced around to see if my son was still waiting for me. He was engaged in conversation with Ms. Ginny and her sister. Of course I hadn’t met Ginny yet, but any adult who made the effort to make a young visitor feel welcome, began to rate very high on my list.

As we became active in that congregation, it became obvious that Ms Ginny was a special person. Her smooth, calm voice had a way of conveying assurance and acceptance. She lived her life in a way that offered unconditional love to those who had been rejected. When other mothers renounced their sons because of their sexual orientation, Ginny was there to offer friendship, love, and a shoulder to cry on.

There is one Mother’s Day I hope I never forget. Ginny had recently fallen and needed assistance to walk. When she arrived at church, a member of the choir named Barry, greeted her affectionately. It was obvious that Ms. Ginny meant a lot to Barry. He pinned on a corsage and proudly escorted her to a pew. It was a touching moment. Ms. Ginny wasn’t Barry’s natural mother, but yet a real mother. She offered Barry unconditional love during a difficult time in his life, and became like family to him and his partner.

Yes, that part of the sanctuary is a little darker where Ms. Ginny usually sat. However, her life reminds me and all who knew her, the importance of being a loving presence. That place in the sanctuary will become brighter as others fill in for her absence. This is one way the love of God is passed on from generation to generation, learning from and being inspired by the saints who have lived amongst us.

Goodbye Ms. Ginny, thank you for showing us how to be a “real mother” to others.  ©2007

Why do bad things happen to good people?

“When Bad Things Happen to Good People” was a popular book title in the 80s. It seems an appropriate title when Virginia and the country is reeling from the worst campus shooting in U.S. history.

Why do bad things happen to innocent people?

1. God allows nature to take its course, whether it be natural disasters, diseases or illness.

2. God allows human nature the freedom to act… deeds of good and bad.

3. Even though this freedom may cause great grief, God does not interfere.

4. Some people rationalize a tragedy away by saying that God wanted these loved ones more than their families.

5. Some people believe that through tragedy, God is trying to teach a lesson to the victims or their families.  Granted, new learning and growth can occur from tragedy, but this is not the God I believe in.

After the drowning accident of his son, theologian William Barclay said, “on the day that the waters of the deep surrounded my son and snatched his life, God’s heart was breaking too.”  This is how I view the tragic circumstances that happen to good people. In mercy and compassion, God’s heart is breaking when God’s children are in pain and sorrow.  This loving God uplifts, comforts, brings hope and healing to all of those who despair.  Our thoughts and prayers are with the good people of Virginia and their families.

dr pers ©2007

The daughter-in-law from hell…

daughter-in-law from hell…

With one shoe on and one shoe off, my partner was walking back and forth between her walk in closet and the bedroom, fussing about something. Finally in exasperation she said, “I have been looking for my missing sock and finally discovered it’s already on my foot!” I am sure that she must have thought that I took it, fed it to the dryer or to the creature under the bed! Imagine how many things I get blamed for… that aren’t my fault! She hadn’t quite blamed me yet, but I suspect she was close to thinking it!

Her mother blames me for all the hypocrisy of Christianity and the Church for the past 60 years. Something happened in her family when she was young, a policy or decision made by a priest, that caused a lot of bitterness in my “mother in law.” Granted, whatever happened, it likely was unjust. Because I am protestant clergy, she thinks I am responsible for some decision or action made by a Roman Catholic priest 60 years ago! All those pastors and priests are alike, right!?

Unfortunately, her mother isn’t interested in getting to know me as a person. She does not ask questions about what I do, what I am interested in, nothing about my son, etc. She knows that I pastored churches for 15 years… so that puts me into the category of despised, despicable, the daughter-in-law from hell! Oh well, life could be worse… hopefully she doesn’t have to live with us someday! lol  dr pers   ©2007