When some people say that they don’t want to take their children to church, let alone Sunday school, because they are allegedly forced there to complete difficult tasks, to keep fasts and stand through long services (which is allegedly often beyond adults’ strength!), I tell them this story.
When I went to school, I would often spend time at my beloved grandparents’ at the opposite end of the city. The window looked out on a wonderful playground and a tennis court, where my friends and I would play football in summer and play hockey in winter. My friend Mishka [a diminutive form of the name Michael] lived next door. We went to the same school, attended the same football club, and would spend time together in the evenings. In addition, my friend attended a music school and learned to play the accordion. His parents wanted him to study at the Music Conservatory (by the way, he graduated from it later), so he had to have his accordion practice for eight hours every day without making any holiday breaks or summer trips to the country (in this case they would take the accordion with them). I would stay at my grandparents’ and could hear my friend playing music through the wall. So I would listen to him for hours and then, unable to contain myself any more, I climbed over the balcony (we lived on the first floor next door) into his room and said, “Mishka, stop your lessons! Come on, let us go and play football! All the boys are already on the playground!” However, my friend never went outside until his music lessons were over. But if somebody had said to his parents: “Why do you wear your boy out by making him play the accordion eight hours a day? He is deprived of the joys of childhood!”, they would have given a screw-loose sign at best!
All parents whose children seriously engage in sports activities (gymnastics, figure skating, hockey, etc.) or take music lessons (like my friend) know that it is a hard work requiring tremendous efforts, but their children do it without a murmur on a daily basis. And I agree that not all adults can cope with this work overload. At the same time, they are aware that only one in 1,000 children becomes a great athlete or musician. What of that? These parents make sacrifices without a moment’s hesitation; this is normal for them.
But when it comes to lessons at a Sunday school (once a week) or taking one’s children to the Sunday Liturgy for Communion, parents say with indignation: “You must be crazy! How can we constrain our kids to perform these burdensome duties?” In fact faith is much more important than muscle stretching. If a child is raised in faith, it will support and protect him through his life like a shield. Faith is not weakness—only unchurched people think so! This is the power of Christ Who has overcome the world (cf. Jn. 16:33), the power that can move mountains and make impossible things possible. Beyond all doubt, these people don’t go to church and don’t understand what they are talking about—this fact causes misunderstanding. These people should try and overcome themselves, force themselves to go to church for a couple of hours (instead of sleeping till noon), stand through the service, pray and see the happy eyes of their children after Communion. And their lives will be gradually transformed.