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September 1, 2023

This month’s Pastor’s Perspective is delivered by Daniel Gillenwater, Church at Eastern Oaks

Parents, another school year has begun, and hopefully, all the school supply shopping has been completed by this point. The pencils, crayons, and glue sticks have all been purchased. If you have older children, maybe you bought a compass, protractor, or scientific calculator, you know, those really important supplies that your child will NEVER use again for the rest of their life! When my children were younger, they didn’t really care about pencils, pens, or paper. The priority was the backpack. Every new school year necessitated a new pack that adequately reflected their favorite characters. Between my two children, we had everything from Paw Patrol to Disney Princesses. Having a cool backpack was the one school supply that mattered most.

As the new school year is underway, I encourage every parent to ask one question, “What matters most?” As you raise your children, what is your biggest priority? What matters most to you, your student, and your family? Is it academics? While good grades are important and quality education is valuable, getting all “A’s” means nothing if your child is not walking with the Lord. Are sports your priority? I enjoy competition, and young people can benefit greatly from being part of a team. But again, this is meaningless if they do not have a relationship with Jesus. So many things will compete for your student’s heart and mind this school year: grades, sports, girlfriends, boyfriends, clubs, cell phones, social media, etc. However, most of these things can be summarized by Ecclesiastes 12:8, “Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher; all is vanity.”

Unfortunately, most students are not yet mature enough to correctly identify what matters most, which is why God gave them you! You are their guardian, their protector, and their example. Believe it or not, you are the greatest influence in your child’s life. As God’s word says in Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” The answer to “What matters most?” is quite simple. A relationship with Jesus matters most. If you’re not a follower of Jesus, feel free to contact me. I’d love to talk to you about this. If you follow Jesus, let me offer two activities to place at the top of your priority list this school year.

First, commit to a local family of believers. You and your family need a church home. Within the local church, you learn to walk daily in a relationship with Jesus. You learn to live like Jesus, serve like Jesus, and love like Jesus. Your spiritual education in a Bible-believing church will benefit your family more than anything students learn at school. As we read in 1 Timothy 4:8, “For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for this present life and also for the life to come.” Find a local church and commit to being there whenever the doors are open.

Second, begin the practice of family worship. I cannot exaggerate the importance of the local church, but Sunday and Wednesday should not be the only time your children see you open your Bible, pray, or worship the Lord. This should be something you do as a family throughout the week. If it truly is your top priority, it should be a priority every day. And don’t let the idea of “family worship” intimidate you. We’re simply talking about family devotions. Start by gathering your family together for 10-15 minutes each day. Simply read a scripture, pray, and sing a worship song together.

There are many essential things in life; nothing matters more than a relationship with the Divine Son of God, Jesus Christ. This school year can be one of joy and peace for your family. The secret is to put Jesus first and follow Him.

Pastor Daniel Gillenwater a Montgomery, Alabama native and is the Senior Pastor of The Church at Eastern Oaks where he has served since December of 2004. He received his Master’s and Doctorate degrees from Beeson Divinity School. Pastor Daniel has been married to Hanna for 19 years and they have two children, Lydia and Ford.

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