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In any adult conversation about religion, we often hear people make the comment that the church is losing its young people. I often wonder exactly what people mean by this statement. It seems to me that people do not usually expect that it will be taken literally, but rather intend to express the conviction that somehow the church has failed to appeal to young people.

The truth of the matter is that the church has no young people to lose. God has entrusted children to the care and nurture of their parents, and not the church. St. Paul places the responsibility for children exactly where it belongs when he writes to the Christians in Ephesus, "Parents, do not treat your children in such a way as to make them angry. Instead, raise them with Christian discipline and instruction." (6:4). Solomon, in his wisdom, advised us to "Teach a child how he should live while he is young, and he will remember it all of his life." (Proverbs 22:6).

It is not the responsibility of the church to decide at what hour your teen must be in. It is not the priest who tells your child what TV program he may watch. The church does not choose the friends your children bring home and play with at school. If you do not come to church as a family on Sunday, the best and most enthusiastic Church School teacher is of no use to your child. No church can teach a child to pray in a meaningful way, when that child comes from a home that is barren of prayer and faith in God.

It is not the job of church or school to give children a sense of values and moral direction. It is the job of the parents to whom they belong. The gift of faith is not acquired in a sixty minute Church School lesson or a youth program activity. Rather it is the result of careful nurture, living example, and faithful living on the part of concerned and devoted parents. It is true that every day children are lost. But it is important that we place the blame for this tragedy exactly where it belongs!

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