I did not have to ask my children to wait until they were 16 to date. I did not have to make my sons and daughters commit to be chaste until they married. I was not the only one who taught my children to be honest and not to steal. I had a whole team.
My team were all volunteers. They cared about my children and we shared identical values. My team met with my children twice a week and my kids loved it. They thought my team's members were cool and wanted to learn from them, even when they never listened to a word I had to say.
Former U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton said, "It takes a village to raise a child." I agree. Multiple voices of reason teaching my children to be moral, trustworthy and honest is better than me trying to teach them alone.
So, where did I get my amazing parenting team? Simple — they were all volunteer youth group teachers and leaders at my church. They taught Sunday classes, week night activities and summer camps. They put in countless hours bonding with my children, planning and preparing activities that my children loved and even driving hours to chaperone dances so my children could meet other children with similar values.
The American Psychological Associationreported, "A large body of research finds that religious people live longer, are less prone to depression, are less likely to abuse alcohol and drugs, and even go to the dentist more often."
There are many benefits to allowing your children to participate in religious sponsored activities. Here are a few:
More chances for fun
Due to the church group effort your children may be able to do things you might not be able to afford alone. For example they may get to go river rafting, on mission trips to foreign countries, go mountain climbing, sailing, go to week long safe camps, hear from world famous speakers, go to concerts as a group, go to dances and learn to dance, hike, sail, sew, play basketball and more. My kids did all these things and more cost free.
Because the youth leaders belong to your church, they likely believe what you do. They make great mentors.
Good organizations provide safe leadership
A good organization will have leaders work in safe teams. Good religious group leaders will have passed a background check and will always be supervised by trusted parents and church members. They will never meet with children one on one.
Special skills and talents shared with your children
Great leaders will bring their day job skills and wisdom to your kids. For example a woman who was president of several local banks taught and took the time to get to know and encourage my daughter. A local doctor helped my son look at medical careers.
Opportunities to socialize
If you cannot afford day care, church classes for small children give them an opportunity to socialize. The American Psychological Association reports that research also shows that being a part of a religious group teaches children how to function in a cooperative group or society.
Opportunities to learn to love learning
Small children get a chance to practice being in classrooms. They get to dress up and get together with friends just like their brothers and sisters who go to school. They are learning new things and might even have homework. Going to church classes made my small children feel special. I loved the pictures they brought home to share.
Prosperity, health and long life
There are lifetime benefits for those active in religious life. These benefits include prosperity. There is "... an important link between religious involvement during childhood and adolescence and subsequent economic well-being as an adult," according to an article titled, "The benefits of marriage and religion in the United States: A comparative study." Other research shows children raised participating in religious organizations are calmer, less anxious, live longer and more.
Examples of religious groups for children include
Classes: Regular classes held by most religions to teach children beliefs and values.
Summer camps, sports camps, drama camp and other camps.
Group or youth activities.
Opportunities to take part in community service.
Church sponsored missions.
When exploring religious groups for children consider the following
Does this religion teach my children values that match my own?
Are my children always with at least two adults and NEVER alone with an unchaparoned adult? Do they take safety into consideration?
Are adult leaders good examples every day of the week, not just at church?
Are children encouraged to put what they learn into practice? Do they get to take part in community service even if it is only doing yard work for a widow?
Are you encouraged to be a part of your child's religious experience and allowed to observe and be involved?
You are your child's first and best teacher. Teach them by example. They will not be successful if you drop them off at church and go to play a round of golf.
If your family has not chosen a religion, consider choosing one that will benefit you and your children. Enjoy the benefits of worshiping as a family and as part of a community. Give your children another opportunity to learn and grow.
Shannon Symonds, Author of Safe House due to be released July 2017 by Cedar Fort, has 15 years experience working as an Advocate for victims of domestic and sexual violence while raising 6 children in Seaside Oregon. She loves to write, run and Laugh