My wife and I have two children: a 7th grader and a 1st grader. For a multitude of reasons, we have chosen to homeschool our sons. Most of the time, when we tell someone we homeschool, we get the same incredulous look. It's the look that says, "You seem so normal, I didn't know you were one of THOSE kinds of people." You see, most people have bought into the greatest myth of homeschool misunderstanding - Homeschool kids are not socialized. I used to get upset at that look, but now I have to keep from laughing because most homeschool kids have much higher socializer skills than public school kids. Almost all homeschoolers are involved in some type of co-op, which serves as a wonderful support for the parents. Our co-op has a class day every Monday from 9:00 until 3:00 with over 60 kids ranging from three years old to seniors in high school. So our boys are learning to socialize with and relate to kids who are younger and older. They have wonderful role models in how to study, treat others and live. They also get to be role models for those who are younger. We go on field trips with families from our co-op, have parties, Have play dates, etc. Because we homeschool, our kids can finish their work by 1:00 and have the afternoon to get together with their homeschool friends. (If you would like to know more about our co-op, you can go to: https://www.homeschool-life.com/1417/contactinfo/contactinfo) My sons are also involved in sports, church and clubs, so they are socialized with a variety of kids and adults. Most homeschool parents I know do not have to search for socialization opportunities, but have to limit the amount of socialization activities because their kids have so many opportunities. In contrast, most public school kids spend their days with their own peer group, rarely interacting with kids who are several years younger or older. They leave home early in the morning, get home in the afternoon and then have homework to complete before they can go and spend time with friends. So their socialization is focused on just one age group rather than a wider variety. So when people ask me about the socialization my homeschool sons get, I have to keep from laughing because of this marked contrast.
I wish followers of Christ were as concerned about their "socialization" with the church as people are amount my homeschooled kids. I see too many Christians who have found too many ways to compromise Sunday mornings. Our culture certainly doesn't help this because Sunday mornings have lost their place of value as a time of worship. Youth sports now play their games on Sunday mornings. Families plan gatherings on Sunday mornings or want to meet for brunch because their schedules are so busy during the rest of the week. Professional sports have begun to impact Sunday mornings, unless you live on the East Coast. And even now, the pregame shows start on Sunday mornings. Employers no longer see Sunday mornings as time to protect, but will schedule their businesses to be open. Many Christians live such busy lives that Sunday morning is their "only day to sleep in and get rest". The pressures in our culture to avoid church and do something different on Sunday mornings has become intense and will only increase. Yet, rarely do we hear Christians talking about the connectedness they need with their church families. Church has become a convenience rather than a necessity in the American Christian circles. Rarely do we even talk about having to tell an employer "No" or not play on a travel team or not attend a family function because we want to be in church. I have found that church participation becomes the first thing many Christians will sacrifice. Trust me, I have heard every excuse in the book. "I don't need to be in church to worship God". "I meet with a group of Christians during the week and that is my church." "I got burned by the church and got sick of all the hypocrites." "I missed a couple of weeks and didn't hear from anyone in my church." "I don't need someone telling me how to be a Christian." "God knows I really want to be there, but if my kid is going to get a college scholarship, he has to be at..." It's too bad we don't have the same burden for the socialization in our faith. I just find it sad to hear people so concerned about my homeschooled kids, but so inattentive to the same issue in the church. We cut ourselves off from the very people who want to pray for us, encourage us and see us do well. We also cut ourselves off from being able to pray for the church family, encourage them and see them do well. We almost become a visitor to our own church.
I am very aware that church participation does not necessitate faith in Christ or growth in our faith. However, I also know that in our culture, people equate our salvation with our church participation. When we compromise Sunday mornings, we tell those around us that our salvation isn't such a big deal. If we don't value church participation, they won't think we value Jesus. Our co-workers, families, classmates, teammates and neighbors ARE watching. They are evaluating our priorities to see if Jesus is something worth investigating. Church participation becomes the stepping stone to discuss salvation with them. They will test us, but once they see our resolve, they will have a respect for us and the church (Even if they are antagonistic). The moment we compromise church participation and then justify it, we have lost the opportunity and privilege of sharing Christ with those who are aware of our decision. However, when we are resolved to have a high priority on church participation, our lives get easier. We are no longer pressured by others because they know we won't be coming until after church. The key, then, is to make this decision BEFORE the pressure arrives. If we have already made a decision about church participation, then when the temptation arises, we already have our answer. It's tough....at first, but gets so much easier. God wants us to be "socialized" spiritually - To meet with fellow pilgrims for worship, Bible study, prayer, accountability and encouragement.
Hebrews 10 puts it better than me: "And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another - and all the more as you see the Day approaching." So reevaluate your priorities and make your connectedness with the family of God on Sunday mornings a top priority. When the Day arrives, you will be glad you did.