Boxing up perfect Christianity for our children

It’s easy to want to package it up pretty and put a bow on top and protect them forever.

We send our children to Vacation Bible School hoping they learn about Jesus.  We seek to find a church with an excellent ministry for children and youth.  We put our children in a Christian school, or we decide to homeschool.  All of us Christian parents want to raise children who love Jesus.

We are happy when our children don’t cuss, obey, wear modest clothing and decide to wear a purity ring.  We are proud when they want to go to church, memorize scripture, win an award at AWANAS, and learn the four spiritual laws.  And what if they “Kiss dating good bye” and “Do hard things?”  We are so excited.

But what happens when they are thrown into serving drug addicts at a homeless shelter?  What happens when they serve in an inner city ministry and they are surrounded with children who cuss?  Do they gasp?  How do they react to a kid at school who is struggling with cutting him or herself, or a person who is wrestling with homosexuality?  How do they respond when the world presents the imperfect, the grey, the beautiful, the ugly, the dirty, the disgusting?  What happens when they find out a friend has had sex?  What happens to us as parents when we find out our children are around a kid who struggles with any of the above?

What does it mean to be in the world but not of the world when it comes to raising our kids?  Is it possible to shelter them up so much and box Christianity to be this perfect balance of pretty, to the point they don’t know what to do in this world?   And yes…what about the poor?

We spent 6 years serving in a local church ministry that served people trying to get off methamphetamines, alcohol and other forms of drugs.  We were around ex -cons and people who were on the edge of life.  Oh the tattoos we saw.  For six years, I served as the worship pastor at a church where in the back of my mind, I always knew someone might go nuts with a gun.  I raised my girls in a church where they saw broken women who came out of the sex trade and when these women knelt down to pray, their thong underwear would peek out of their pants and revealed more than we all wanted to see, including the tattoo.  My children were thrown into the fire…so to speak.  Why did we do this to our little girls?

We felt called.  We felt like this is where God wanted us…and yes, I struggled as a mom.   I struggled with all they saw and the cussing of the six-year-old child living with the crack head mother and alcoholic boyfriend.  I felt bad when my girls were flipped off or spit on.

But I will never forget.

I will never forget looking out on a Sunday morning at the crowd and seeing my three girls sitting in the front row, surrounded by children fighting for their laps, and my girls wrapping up these hurting children who sported dirty clothing and uncombed hair, and seeing my three girls holding them.  I knew they were learning a theology that could not be taught in a book.

About eight months ago, I stepped down from ministry at this church.  As I felt more of a calling to serve with Compassion International, and my husband’s job demanded more, we knew we needed to step away.   The Lord was calling us elsewhere.


My kids learned to serve.  They learned compassion.  Yes, they heard language, they picked up a little slang that some might find questionable or gasp worthy, however, this is small compared to the lessons God taught them and the compassion they feel for a hurting generation.  We wanted our girls to learn how to serve in a broken and messed up world and to do that; we had to be willing to hang out with the broken.  That meant we had to give up the pretty Christianity with the bow on top and allow them to see the underbelly of the hurting, the brokenhearted and the despaired.  We had to trust God that they would be ok.  In the end, we all learned we are broken, not just the drug addict.  The ground at the cross is equal, and He came for us all.  Sometimes it’s easy to feel like you are doing pretty good until you hang with those who truly have understood the extent of God’s grace.  We all need His grace.

We now are going to a new church and in 4 days we will take 25 of them to the Dominican Republic.  For some, this will be the first brush with extreme poverty.  For others, this will stretch their faith.  What will they do when they see what they see?  How will they respond to what God reveals to them?

My prayer for our team, especially for those who have never seen such things is that they see the big God, the amazing God full of grace, beyond Sunday school, beyond the simplistic disciplines we may have in our life, beyond the comforts we all enjoy daily, beyond and limitations we mistakenly have placed God in, and that our team, our youth… would truly take the bow off the box and be willing to step out and trust God to use them in this crazy messed up world as God wants to use them.  I pray that we all become more like Christ.

I love this verse.

Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”   Jesus words from Luke 4:17-20


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Sandra Jones Counseling

Specializing in Marriage and Family Therapy


Life, Family, Faith and Travel...the life of a Jones

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