Have you ever had that one specific shirt that just seems to attract wrinkles? You have tried basically everything to keep it from happening but it seems to be a hopeless endeavor. You have tried drying it by itself, hang-drying it, and you certainly never fold it. Yet somehow, every time you go to put it on… wrinkles everywhere… And in a desperate moment, you take it to the dry cleaner, and they can press it, and starch it, and they put it in that bag, and you get back a perfectly unwrinkled shirt. It’s such a satisfying service!
Well, you may have heard of this before, but often in the church there is something referred to as “dry-cleaner parenting”. It looks something like this; “Well, I have never really talked to my kid about the Bible or their relationship with Christ. I don’t have time to do that when I am so busy with sports events, making dinner, doing laundry, going to work, etc. But on Sundays (and the occasional Wednesday) we go to church and that is how I take care of my child spiritually.” The reason it is “jokingly” called “dry-cleaner parenting” is because it’s kind of like bringing your child to the dry-cleaner. You drop them off, and when you pick them up, you are hoping that they will be returned to you, “starched and pressed”, with all the “wrinkles and stains” removed.
It’s fascinating that the two major “systems” or “tribes” that God made for his people were the family and the church. We see the family system developed in creation back in Genesis 2, and we see the church system developed at Pentecost in Acts 2. What’s really fascinating about this is when we see how long the family system was developed before the church system. It almost seems like… and I know this sounds crazy… but it almost seems like God wanted a certain emphasis put on the family, and how the family should function. As you look at the family structure in the Old Testament, we see that the parents were responsible for teaching and showing the next generation about who God is, and what he has done. They were to be teaching their children how God has delivered his people. And when the parents and older generation failed to do this, the result was… well, just go read through the book of Judges to see one example of the result.
The reality is this: The church is an amazing gift from God for his people. It gives us a place of fellowship, corporate worship, preaching and teaching of God’s word, the sacraments, and a place where we can use some of the gifts that God has given to us. Families fit into the church; however, the church is not a replacement for discipleship within the home.
Let’s just consider this from a numbers perspective. There are 8760 hours in a year, and we sleep on average for 1/3 of those hours. That leaves 5840 hours remaining in any given year. Now let’s assume that you attend church EVERY Sunday without exception. And let’s say that, as an example, the average Sunday school class is one hour (it’s actually 45 minutes). But assuming your child attends EVERY class on Sunday mornings throughout the year, that means that they would have be given 52 hours of time being taught and discipled. And yes, of course, there are Wednesday events etc. However on average, statistically speaking, the majority of families are not involved in Wednesday night activities in the church. So if there are 52 hours that your child is taught in the church, that leaves 5788 hours that they are elsewhere. How many of those hours are with you?
None of this is to say that you should never relax or have just fun time as a family. But it is certainly something to consider when you look at how you are using the time you have with your kids. The church is a gift, and it can help to train and equip you to disciple you kids. It can even take an active role alongside you in that mission! But the church cannot replace what you have been called to as a parent! Get out your iron and ironing board, and take the time to work with, and disciple, your kids for the sake of the gospel, and for the sake of their soul.