As a Pastor, I go to more funerals than most people, as a result, my kids go to more funerals than most kids. The thing that you notice at funerals that is becoming more and more of a reality is that kids are rarely if ever present at funerals. Sometimes you will see kids of the families affected show up but rarely anything beyond that. Kids and teens being absent from funerals is not good and needs to change.
I think there are large societal shifts that have led to this happening in modern America.
- We are increasingly mobile – The average American moves so much they only see people in snapshot segments of life. They don’t grow up in a particular place with a particular people so in general, we don’t know people well enough or long enough to be aware of sickness and death in their families.
- We are increasingly protective – We are so afraid to expose our kids to harmful situations. This is mostly out pure and loving motivations. But in our good desire to protect our kids from harm we can unintentionally protect them so well they grow up unprepared for the joys and pains of life.
- We outsource family life like never before – I say this not as someone who is anti-childcare provider or anti-old person home. The reality is that because of capitalism and affluence we have more options for the care of sick elderly family members so our kids never see their old family members in the slow march toward death that helps kids put into context their own mortality. They only see the young and beautiful family members who are never sick. We also have more options to have someone watch our kids while we go to a funeral to protect them from the pain of loss and those who are morning from the pain of our kids’ behavior (but that’s another post).
Why we need to make a change.
- Our kids need to see brokenness and death and understand that they are mortal they are lost they need a savior. Funerals like no other social setting make us ask “How am I living my life” our kids and teens need to ask that question or at least watch you struggle with that question.
- Our kids need to learn how to show up and what to say and when to shut up when people are in pain. We have become so pain averse in our cultures and to our own shame even in the church. We avoid people who are in pain as if they have the plague. We must teach our kids that when people are in pain, we just show up.
- Our kids need to see that this life is not an unending train of happiness, lollipops, and butterflies because if that is what they think they will miss the beauty all around them. It isn’t until we are confronted with sickness, sin, and death that we can truly love the good gifts we have been given by our gracious Father in heaven. Our culture has an obsession with young and beautiful. We have to help our kids see the wisdom in old things and the power of trust that only comes from walking through hard things.
- Our kids deeply need to understand the beauty of the gospel which is the only answer to the fear of death. My favorite poet is George Herbert his poem “Time” explains so beautifully our kids need for the gospel that will set them and us free from the fear of the death.
Herbert says “For where thou onely
wert before An executioner at best; Thou art agard’ner now”
The power death had before Christ destroyed death is no more. Death used to be our executioner from whom we ran and avoided at all costs now because of the power of the gospel in our lives death is not to be feared for all death can do is plant us, as a gardener plants his crop, into eternal life. Our kids need that gospel truth they will not get it if they don’t see death and then see Jesus as victor over death.