What’s the best thing you could give a kid for Christmas?
Erica Komisar is a clinical social worker, psychoanalyst and parent guidance expert who has been in private practice in New York City for the last 25 years. She’s an active participant in her local synagogue. A graduate of Georgetown and Columbia Universities and The New York Freudian Society, Ms Komisar is a psychological consultant bringing parenting and work/life workshops to clinics, schools, corporations and childcare settings. She is the author of Being There: Why prioritizing motherhood in the first three years matters. In this important and empowering book, she explains why a mother’s emotional and physical presence in her child’s life – especially during the first three years – gives the child a greater chance of growing up emotionally healthy, happy, secure, and resilient.
She was featured last week in the Wall Street Journal; the headline on her article drew you in: “Don’t Believe in God? Lie to Your Children.” What?
Quoting a recent study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, researchers from Harvard did a longitudinal study involving 5000 people to conclude that “children or teens who report attending a religious service at least once per week scored higher on psychological well-being measurements and had lower risks of mental illness.” They also had higher rates of volunteering, a sense of mission, forgiveness and a lower probability of drug use and early sexual initiation. Komisar’s counsel to parents: if you love your kids, you’ll take them to church.
A famous Jewish king put it this way: “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” (Proverbs 22:6). A Jewish tentmaker named Paul – writing a thousand years later – seconded that motion: “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:4). A Jewish man who claimed to be the promised Messiah – who had no wife or children himself – had a heart for kids as well: “People were also bringing babies to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.’” (Luke 18:15-16).
Robert Raikes was a newspaper publisher in Gloucester, England in 1780, who – alongside his career – spent time doing prison ministry in his community. He realized a common denominator among death row prisoners: they didn’t grow up in church. He imagined organizing ministry to children as a preventative solution to the prison ministry dilemma, which came too late.
In that era, there was nothing for children at church on Sunday. Kingdom entrepreneurship envisioned a radical solution: Sunday School began as a parachurch initiative launched by Raikes. First focused on the poor, it challenged class distinctions that were accepted in British society; in its early days, it was disparaged and fought against prejudices to gain a foothold.
Sunday School landed in the United States after the War of 1812; it was the first ministry of D.L. Moody, when he was a shoe salesman in Chicago. Moody was converted to Jesus Christ by his own Sunday School teacher, Edward Kimball back in Northfield, Massachusetts. Moody’s work with street kids in Chicago was his start; he became the most powerful evangelist in his generation.
Churches used to run buses to get kids to church from homes whose parents missed the boat. Today’s trend is to insulate children from church and isolate them from faith and hope.
The best gift you can give a kid is Jesus. Take your kids to church. Take your friends’ kids to church. Take your neighbors’ kids to church. Or… you can get involved in prison ministry.
Jesus left Heaven to rescue the human race; it’s time to rescue another generation…