Family

Jo Seagar says Kiwis have forgotten that church can teach kids about more than just religion

Church can be a great place to teach kids about kindness, manners and diversity – not to mention Te Reo, she says.

By Jo Seagar
Jo Seagar

When I tell people that I'm taking my grandsons to church, the frequent response is "Why?" or "You're doing what?"

Well, I think it's important.

Children need to learn in lots of different ways how they fit into their tribe, their family, their community and their culture.

While the majority of us are no longer ticking the "regular attenders" box on the census form, New Zealand is still culturally a Christian country.

Lots of people still want to marry in a church, and they attend funerals and – more commonly since Princes George and Louis and that wee sweetheart Princess Charlotte were baptized – christenings.

Many also step back through the hallowed doors at Christmas and Easter.

We Seagars do go to church regularly. Not every week, but we are definitely members of the parish.

Leroy, at the age of six, is actually madly enthusiastic for church, so he's often the one driving us to leap out of our cosy beds on Sunday morning and to scrub up in our Sunday best clothes.

That little boy is quite keen about wearing a tie, and church, he's decided, is the place to wear one.

My husband Ross is not so keen on ties these days but often plays along.

Both grandchildren adore rituals and ceremony.

Jo, aged about six months, with her mother on the day of her christening.
Jo, aged about six months, with her mother on the day of her christening.

Church is a time to hear some really fabulous music and to sing – sometimes less than fabulously – with enthusiasm.

The church is also providing them with a crash course in their own cultural history and even little Lucas said he was the only one in his class to know about Noah or that the Easter date was set by the timing of the full moon.

Our order of service is also big in Te Reo.

The church provides a reassuring rhythm and is divided into different seasons for our day-to-day lives.

I like the fact these churchgoing children know lots of people of different ages and ethnicities in our community and are socially adept at chatting to elderly parishioners.

They easily and warmly greet old Doug on his mobility scooter or Mrs Singh when we see her in the supermarket.

My son Guy once told me that another plus of attending church and having to read a lesson during the service helped him overcome any nervousness addressing a crowd or in a public speaking situation.

With Grandsons Leroy and Lucas
With Grandsons Leroy and Lucas

Well-meaning friends have suggested I'm perhaps forcing my beliefs on my grandchildren and, yes, that's fair comment.

However, I don't feel I need to justify it, because being a parent and a granny is all about passing on your beliefs to the younger generation.

I want to stress, though, that having a strong moral compass should never be confused with being narrow-minded.

Just because you go to church doesn't mean you have unquestioning opinions on social issues like same-sex marriage or feminism.

I think you can go to church yet still be very open-minded on lots of current thought-provoking issues.

My grandsons are certainly learning that to be different is okay.

Jo and Husband Ross and their Grandchildren.
Jo and Husband Ross and their Grandchildren.

Children are never too young to go to church.

If we wait until they're perfectly behaved then it's never going to happen.

Having a quiet, church-appropriate voice does take a little time and training, and we've chuckled away at our grandson's rowdy comments, such as, "Look Granny" – pointing to the altar cross – "there's one of those 'Jesus hangers'."

And he has boldly questioned the vicar about whose father we were actually referring to – his own father, your father or our father?

I guess my job in taking them to church is to expose them to the long-term vision they're not mature enough to grasp yet.

When they're older they can make their own educated choice as to whether to accept or spurn its message.

But somehow I know that the doctrine of kindness, forgiveness and love will seep into their hearts and souls, and as they grow up it will help them to realise that when they have God in their lives they are never totally alone.

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