I’m going to get real with everyone here. Please bear with me, because I’ve been wrestling with this stuff for years.
Last Thursday, I attended a workshop on addiction. Four speakers got up and shared their stories of struggle and hope with us. They all now work as recovery specialists. All of them cited spirituality as being the central component of their recovery. All of them spoke about the importance of learning to trust, rely and depend on a higher power. Spiritual wellness is what made them whole again.
I needed to hear this. I needed to be reminded that what we are doing is important. Giving our children the tools to tap into God, could quite possibly be one of the most valuable gifts we can impart on them. I believe this with every ounce of my being. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be so passionate about what I do, nor would I be writing this.
In The Spiritual Child, Dr. Lauren Miller, professor of psychology and education at Columbia University, writes about her decades of leading scientific research in the field of spiritual awareness. Dr. Miller explains the clear, scientific link between spirituality and health and shows that children who have a positive, active relationship to spirituality:
are 40% less likely to use and abuse substances
are 60% less likely to be depressed as teenagers
are 80% less likely to have dangerous or unprotected sex
have significantly more positive markers for thriving including an increased sense of meaning and purpose, and high levels of academic success.
At a time when many Christian Education programs are dying in churches, I am filled with immense gratitude and pride at seeing ours thriving. But let’s not pat ourselves on the back just yet. Church is only one part of the faith formation pie. For some it’s a big helping, others a sliver, but no matter which way you slice it, it is only one piece.
My kids are regulars at church. Let’s face it; they don’t have much choice in the matter given my role here. But even with stellar attendance, the amount of time allocated to their faith is pretty slim. Look at my oldest...if we reduce his faith formation to church, and he attends regularly during the church school year, that’s roughly 30 hours a year. Compare that to 90 hours on the golf team, 90 hours on the sailing team or a whopping 952 hours in scouts (camp, camping trips). Do the math and I think we can all begin to see what a small piece of the pie it really is. It’s an eye-opening, reality check in assessing our values. In our family, we do value physical fitness and spending time in the great outdoors, but should it be so proportionally out-of-whack with time spent developing a relationship with God? For me, it’s kind of a personal wake-up call.
Let’s look at the space between Sundays? I’m as guilty as the next person for not always remembering to invite God into our home. Spiritual practices like prayer, reading the Bible, meditation, silence are replaced with errands, cleaning, TV…STUFF!
So, if spiritual wellness really is so important (as the above statistics would suggest it is), why does it most always fall to the bottom of the pile? Why isn’t it prioritized? Well for one, we get away with it! After all, who is more forgiving of our transgressions than God? Certainly our coaches, teammates and dance instructors are not as understanding when we are absent. But God is always there for us and ever present. An even bigger factor may be that it is counter cultural. We live in an era of perpetual motion. Our society values doing over being. And time not engaged in activity is often considered wasted opportunity. However, it warms my heart and gives me hope to see mindfulness programs like Calmer Choice emerging in the schools. Mindfulness is a spiritual practice.
I write this to you just before we “split” for the summer. I write this to you to generate some conversation and feedback. This isn’t about attendance. This isn’t about judgement or guilt - I’m walking along the same path as you! (No one is throwing rocks in this glass house!) As the saying goes, it takes a village. I have some ideas to keep us connected to each other, our church and God over the summer. But, as the church school year comes to a close, I’d love to hear your thoughts, struggles and triumphs. What is working for you? How are we serving you? Where are we falling short? How can we best support one another on this spiritual journey?
And I’ll close with telling you just how grateful I am to have you! Your beautiful families give life and color to our church family. We value you!
With love and gratitude,