When you’re torn in different religious directions, what’s an Adult With Kids to do?
Concert lights. Video games. A coffee shop complete with lattes, pastries and comfy seating.
One doesn’t usually associate these things with a place of worship. But when my husband and I walked into Waters Church in North Attleboro last fall, that’s what we found.
Yep, inside a church.
Why were we there?
See, often, you want to raise your kids the way you were raised.
Other times, you don’t.
And sometimes, you’re just not … really … sure.
Like faith and church.
I grew up deeply Christian, and I struggle with how to approach it now that I’m an Adult With Kids.
Mostly because I struggle with how to approach it for myself.
Setting standards and upholding house rules is easier when you yourself are convinced those standards and rules are right. If you can unequivocally say you stand (100 percent) behind something, you’re likely more likely to pass that on to your kids.
Because you have conviction.
But what happens when you don’t?
I’ll tell you.
You waver. You apologize. You stumble at the thought of being questioned, because you yourself question.
You don’t have the answers. And you realize that really, no one actually does. That’s the worst part.
The only people who know whether you meet God on the other side of death are the people who have, in fact, died.
Therein lies the problem.
That’s why it’s called faith, I guess. A leap of it.
But when my mom suggested that maybe bringing my stepkids to a church would be a good moral environment for them, regardless of the “religion” aspect, I had to pause. Even if we don’t have the answers, we can still go, she pointed out.
So last year, my husband and I did some research.
“There’s this one church I know of, they’d hosted a ‘kids’ day’ or something years ago,” my husband told me. “We can start there?”
We started there.
And we ended there.
The place was ridiculous (in a good way), complete with a worship portion of the service that felt like a concert, and a coffee shop outside the sanctuary to hang out afterwards. (The way to a man’s heart may be with food, but the way to my heart is with coffee.)
It wasn’t until later that we found out about the video games.
We met my parents there one autumn morning (their idea), this time with the kids.
The kids went into the children’s area — and when they came out, both of them were wide-eyed.
“This place is fun!” my stepdaughter declared, telling us about the service and, of course, the video games — and proceeded to ask multiple times when we could return.
“Are we going back this weekend?” she asked that Tuesday.
“No, honey, you’re with your mom this weekend.”
“So,” she tried a different approach, “can we go back tomorrow?”
“Church is on Sunday. Tomorrow’s only Wednesday.”
I gotta say, this place got something right: If you want the parents to come back, make sure the kids have a good time. (And also have a coffee shop.)
That’s why we did go back the next weekend they were with us.
And the next weekend.
And the weekend after that.
We’ve been at it for over four months now.
My stepson was a bit more hesitant than his sister, though. “Why are we going?” he’d asked early on.
My husband explained that it’s good to understand what some people believe — and that it’s OK if he doesn’t believe it, but at least he’ll have the knowledge to make that decision for himself. (More on that next week.)
I thought that was a great way of putting it.
But so far, it’s been a pretty good experience all around. We’ve gotten into a routine with it, and it’s become part of our Sundays now. (I even went by myself one recent weekend we didn’t have the kids, when my husband was away on his crazy midwinter backpacking trip.)
I still don’t have the answers. I doubt I ever will. But if the kids are at least getting some experience around people who have faith, we’re giving them the tools to make up their own minds someday.
It’s a start.
Originally published in The Herald News on March 24, 2019.