There's this weird thing that happens in the life of a pastor's kid as they reach the age when they no longer attend children's Sunday school, and "graduate" into "big church."
The weird thing is that they get to hear their parent preach on a regular basis, which for some of them is kind of odd.
I remember when my son Jackson graduated from the Fifth Grade and started attending worship with the rest of the family.
To begin, it's not like he'd never seen a worship service before, or been exposed to liturgy, prayers, and creeds. But he'd never really heard me preach before--at least when he was old enough to remember it.
"Dad," he said to me afterward, "You're pretty good."
I took that as high praise, to be honest.
My youngest son Jacob has begun to attend worship regularly now that he, too, is about to graduate from Elementary school and our kids' programs at church. He hasn't said much to me yet. Based on his personality, I won't expect much.
But all this does get me thinking about how they view me. They get to see me at my very worst moments at times, but then they also see me striving to do my very best.
They know a lot about my life of faith, but not all of it. And they also know that I keep stumbling after Jesus in spite of all of the obstacles I face, including the ones I place in front of myself, and they also see me all flat on my face from time to time.
I was reading Brian McLaren's excellent book Faith After Doubt, and came across this amazing passage where he speaks of passing on our faith to emerging generations:
Likewise, we will introduce [children] to the Scriptures, beliefs, rituals, heroes, and other treasures of our faith tradition. But we will also remind them that the box of our tradition could never contain all of the goodness and wisdom in humanity, nor could it ever contain all of God. Our tradition is a starting line, not the finish line. It's a runway from which we launch, not the sky into which we soar.
A lot of people seem to be wringing their hands over the way the Church in America seems to be declining. I'm not worried. It's not our Church anyway, it's Jesus' Church. We're all just stewards of it for a time.
One day, the younger generations that are emerging now will assume the stewardship mantle, but until that day we have a responsibility to share our treasures with them and give them our very best.
If my boys come away with anything at all from their time in church and listening to their old man preach on Sundays, it's exactly this:
No church, no tradition, no expression of the Christian faith is big enough to hold all of the Good News of God's great big plan to save the world. The Good News is bigger than that. God is bigger than that.
The adventure of stumbling after Jesus is an adventure that I want my boys to experience, but I also know that they need to experience it in their own way. They may learn a great deal from me, but they sure won't learn everything.
All I can hope to do is provide them with a runway.