All parents know children go through various stages (and attitudes), and sometimes a child might say he or she wants to stop attending church. What is a parent supposed to do in that situation?
I remember a time when a particular church member was upset because her teenage son didn’t want to attend church anymore. She said to me, “I am so upset he doesn’t want to go to church, but I can’t make him go if he doesn’t want to.” Well, yes, you can.
Let me assure you that preacher’s kids are no different from other kids. Just like other parents, my husband and I have dealt with this issue in our own home. We did not give our children a choice when it came to church attendance. Because they were under our authority, they were expected to attend. It wasn’t because they were the preacher’s kids. It was because we are Christian parents who believe in church attendance.
However, nowhere in the Bible does it specify it is mandatory to attend three services per week. So when our children became old enough to drive and get a job, we loosened the rules to match the new situation. They were expected to attend Sunday morning worship. Because youth group activities were held on Sunday evenings and Wednesday nights, they were to attend one of those nights so they could be a part of the youth group. The other night was optional.
If your child or teenager loses interest in attending church, here are some tips:
- Talk with the child to find out why he or she doesn’t want to go to church. It may be a phase of childhood, but don’t automatically assume that is the case. There could be some legitimate reason. Maybe he or she feels left out or doesn’t care for the style of the Sunday school teaching or doesn’t like the music. If the problem is one of those things, maybe other children are feeling the same way and your child has revealed a weakness in the church that should be addressed. Make sure the issue isn’t something more serious, such as bullying. If that should be the case, address it immediately.
- After you know what the issue is and are working to fix it, or you now know your child is going through a phase, then make your decision. A minor child is under your parental authority. Just as you would make any other decision you feel is in his or her best interest, you have every right to require church attendance for those who live under your roof. At different points, our college age children were living with us, and church attendance was a condition of living at home. My husband used to say to our kids, “As long as you live in my house and eat my food and drink my water, you will follow my rules.” He said this about other things as well. As adults, our children laugh about it, but they haven’t forgotten. Actually, our twenty-six-year-old daughter provided the exact quote for this article.
Children, even teenagers, do not know what is best for them. That is why God gave them parents. Ephesians 6:4 says we are to bring our kids up in the training and admonition of the Lord. Our children need the biblical teaching provided in a church environment. They will need it to fall back on as they launch out on their own. Attendance should not be an unpleasant experience, and if it is, you may have a bigger problem than just your children not wanting to go.
Maleah Bell is a freelance editor and pastor’s wife. She and her husband make their home in Middle Tennessee.