A word from Pastor Ed - Transfiguration Lutheran Church - Bloomington, Minnesota

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A word from Pastor Ed

September 2018 - At Council, this month we discussed the problem of declining Sunday school and youth involvement at TLC and what can be done about it. We are not the only church having this discussion. In case you haven't noticed, the church across the nation is in decline and while many are trying to get back to what once was by recreating what once was, others try new things to adapt to a changing culture. No silver bullet yet. We must keep trying.

Interestingly, while we struggle with this challenging issue, studies show there is no decline of faith in the country, just a decline in involvement in faith communities. More than ever before people through technology can access their own spiritual enrichment to suit their busy and demanding life-styles.

This is not all bad, I guess, but as a pastor and student of the Bible I know there is something vital lost when you don't participate in a faith community. Throughout scripture we see God calling his people together repeatedly. It was the thing that made Jesus weep. "Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how I have longed to gather you to-gether as a hen gathers her chicks, but you were not willing," he said. We resist community to our detriment.
But most importantly to my heart is, where does this leave our children? I'm sure they are not accessing spiritually enriching material through social media and technology. Children only consume what they are guided by parents to consume. Left on their own they will not tend toward the things of God and unless you are a super-parent making sure they are getting some kind of spiritual formation they will be left impoverished.

One study I read years ago from the Barna Research Group has stuck with me through the years. If a child is not taught the Gospel of Jesus Christ by the time he or she is 18 years of age, the chances of them coming to a meaningful faith in their adult life drops to close to zero. If we aren't planting the seeds of love and grace, they may go their whole lives without the benefit of knowing the Gospel. How horrible is that?

Church involvement is no longer a given but an option these days. As a father of four, I understand the challenges and trade-offs parents are forced to make these days. With the demands of school, getting good grades, participating in sports and other activities something has to give. Unfortunately, the thing too many cut is what they think the least beneficial—church and faith formation, worship, Sunday school and Confirmation.

Consider the long-term cost of that decision. The greatest joy of my life is seeing the faith that my children already exhibit in their lives and how it is blessing them. I know their faith was the best thing we nurtured in them. It's not just me who thinks this. Science is beginning to believe it too.

A growing number of medical studies show people with strong religious beliefs are likely to be healthier and live longer than their less-religious counterparts. They are less likely to die after open-heart surgery and more likely to recover from depression. They have lower blood pressure and stronger immune systems. They cope better. Who doesn't want that for the children—besides all the other benefits?

"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11-13
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