According to a recent lifeway poll, 66 percent of Christian youth stop attending church regularly (twice a month or more) after the age of 18. This is a dismal number and should concern Christian parents across America. Christians are losing their young people to secularism at a higher rate than America lost soldiers on Omaha Beach during D-day (44%). Might I suggest that this discouraging trend is at least in part to Christian parents neglecting to get their kids engaged in church? Perhaps they’ve been involved in Sunday school, youth groups, and various church programs. Maybe they’ve attended every event offered on Sunday and Wednesday evenings. But, have they engaged with the church? I’m talking about the way the Bible depicts Church engagement. Specifically, have been encouraged to become members of the Church they attend?
Now, certainly, there are things that need to be considered. The children we’re speaking of must first be professing Christians. I would even add that they should be professing Christians old enough to display the fruit of repentance. Our churches, however, are filled with teenagers who meet this description and yet are not being instructed in the next steps of Church Membership. They’ve been taught morality, and in some cases, theology, but rarely are they taught ecclesiology.
Too often, even if a church does have some semblance of a membership process, children are either included with their parents or excluded altogether. The ecclesiastical instruction never occurs, even after they have made a profession of faith accompanied by spiritual fruit. Let me be clear, this isn’t a call for a truncated membership process. In fact, I believe that most churches should consider a more rigorous membership process! This is an encouragement for pastors and parents to teach their children about the meaning and importance of church membership. Let them know that God has provided the local church as a means of sanctifying grace in the Christian life.
Some parents are willing to explain to their children the ins and outs of baptism and communion, yet there cannot be proper instruction in these ordinances without the discussion of Church Membership. Indeed, there are certainly young children who need to mature and grow in the faith before the fruit of repentance can be seen. In these cases, let baptism, communion, and church membership wait. But, when it is time for one, it is time for all three. If the young person is going to be baptized, let them be “baptized into the one body” by joining the local church through membership. And if they are to partake in communion, having been baptized, let them likewise be members of the church. For communion is to be taken “when you come together as a church”. These are all inseparable from one another in practice and when one is divorced from the other, the symbolism they provide us is broken.
If a parent is confident that their child is a believer, then we should encourage them to seek membership in the local church. A Christian finds their greatest good in the commands of God. This includes their children. Christians show that they trust the Lord when they allow their children to follow Him in obedience. One sign that these children are truly believers is that they will desire to be part of the local church! If they have been instructed in proper ecclesiology, they will desire to sit under the Word preached. They will desire the mutual edification found when living life with other believers. They will desire to partake in the ordinances with other committed brothers and sisters in the faith. They will desire to submit to the godly oversight of church leaders, who will give an account for their souls. And when they leave home, they will understand the importance of church membership and, Lord willing, they will desire to find a faithful local church to join and regularly attend.