We are starting to notice which families are coming back to church and which ones aren’t. It’s a hard thing to think about as a pastor and as a pastor’s wife. We ask ourselves, “Are they Ok?” or “Are they just worried about the virus?” or “Maybe they just don’t like our mask policy (whatever that may be)?” I worry about whether or not their marriage has survived these long months or wonder how they are doing in their walks with the Lord.

Most of the time, my questions come out of concern for them… but not always, if I’m brutally honest. Sometimes I find myself wondering, “Did they just find somewhere else they liked better?”

And there it is. Yuck. What if they are going somewhere else?

In this season of tuning in online to the pastor who is the funniest, or the worship band that plays the songs they like the most, I have to face those motivations in myself that aren’t kingdom-minded and that I need to invite Jesus to change. If they have found a place where their hearts are being fed and they are engaging in Christ-centered community, however that might look, I will celebrate.

But what if they aren’t seeking Jesus anywhere? What if they’ve decided, after this long, long winter of isolation, that Jesus and Church just aren’t a real priority anymore? What if they’ve decided that the newly emerging soccer games and other Sunday morning sports that are starting up again are more important? What do I do with that?

My pastor-wife friend Heidi and I were talking about this very thing this morning. We both agreed that usually when we notice this happening, we address it the same way – by sending some innocuous text telling them we’re thinking about them, that we miss them.

But maybe God is calling us to something more? Because we love these families, maybe God is calling me to have the harder conversation that says, “I really care about you – and I care about your family. I understand that you’ve made a decision not to return to church. But can we talk about why?” And then rely on the Holy Spirit to give you the patience to listen well, to reflect, to understand.

And when they have been heard and loved, have the courage to say, “Can I share something that you might not have considered?…..You aren’t just forfeiting your own growth in your relationship with the Lord, you are forfeiting your kids’ growth as well. It’s their eternity that is at stake. You have a foundation of faith that you can always come back to when life gets hard and you get to the end of yourself. But your kids do not have that yet.

Maybe you feel that by just not coming back to church, you’ve simply put the decision on hold. But in reality, especially in your kids’ eyes, you’ve made the decision.  I’m asking you to reconsider it.”

Won’t you take a moment to ask the Lord if there are any families in your life that God is calling you to have this hard conversation with? This is part of the loving, my friend. Love them well, for their good and His glory.