By Katie T. Kennedy, Crosswalk.com
As culture shifts away from the church, parents wonder if they should force their children to attend church. The cultural influence on our youth is strong, and parents must make hard decisions to protect their children and develop their faith.
So, is it wrong to force my child to come to church?
Why Do We Go to Church in the First Place?
We need to remind ourselves why we go to church in the first place. What is the purpose of attending church?
We attend church to worship God. As a believer, it is our duty to worship God. We are there to give thanks, worship communally, and praise the Lord. Being at church is not about us; it's about God. As sinful humans, our fleshly temptation is to make things self-focused. Attending church is one way we acknowledge the truth; Jesus is the centerpiece, the Savior, not us. Hopefully, we learn while we are there, but even that comes second to our duty to worship.
The New Testament is filled with examples of the apostles teaching in the synagogues. Why did they do this? To spread the gospel, help people understand what Jesus did for us, and help others grow deeper in their knowledge of Christ. "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God." (Colossians 3:16)
We have a duty to worship God in community with other believers, to praise, pray, participate in the sacraments and sing to His glory. "They devoted themselves to the apostles' teachings and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayers." (Acts 2:42) It is right and good to hear Biblical preaching weekly as a re-orientation to the truth of Jesus being our Savior. It is appropriate to be growing in our faith and knowledge; church attendance and worship are some of the ways we do this. The first commandment tells us to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind (Matthew 22:37). Worshiping God in church with other believers is one way to show our love to Him.
Consistency Is Key
When it comes to parenting, consistency is key. It's also important to model healthy behaviors and communicate clear expectations with your kids. Let them know your family goes to church every Sunday, and articulate what time they need to be ready. If you are not consistent with this pattern, it will open an opportunity for push-back. The constant modeling of healthy behaviors is impactful in each area of life. Most of the time, our actions are more impactful than our words. We might tell our kids, "Do as I say, not as I do." That typically doesn't work with kids, nor adults. If you are going to ask them to do something, make sure they see you modeling the behavior yourself.
We attended church as a kid. I'm not sure I got much out of it, but I did learn the rhythm of attending church every Sunday. It was ingrained somewhere deep inside of me. Sunday morning we went to church, Monday through Friday I went to school, and Friday night was pizza night. I knew the rhythms of my week, and it brought order to my life.
Aristotle said, "In short, the habits we form from childhood make no small difference, but rather they make all the difference."
The habits we teach our kids in childhood are extremely important. If you remain consistent with your church attendance, hopefully, your kids will quit asking, "do I have to go to church?" They will realize we go to church every Sunday. Don't shy away from the why questions. Feel free to engage their curiosities and discuss why your family attends church.
You are Responsible for Your Child
God put you in authority of your children. God is sovereign over all, including the children He has put in your household. He placed them under your care and is giving you commission to raise them up in the ways of the Lord (Proverbs 22:6).
You are responsible for your child's education, teaching them manners, and preparing them to be on their own eventually. Teaching them to attend church on Sunday is part of that training. Is your child always going to want to go to church? Absolutely not (and sometimes neither do we). Do they always want to go to school, brush their teeth, or clean their room? No. Nor should you shame them for having these natural feelings. This provides an opportunity to talk about how we must fight daily against our fleshly desires. Fleshly desires represent the fallen nature of our current world, the one we learn about on Sundays.
Not only will attending church teach them good habits, feed their soul with the truth, but it will give them opportunities to get better connected in their Christian community. Get your child engaged in Sunday school, youth group, and opportunities to help serve in the church.
We all feel more committed when we have responsibility. Have them hand out bulletins, greet people, help in the nursery, assist in the younger kids' Sunday school, or make food for another church member. If they have responsibilities, they will better understand part of why we go to church. When we include them as part of the church body, they see firsthand how everyone must pitch in to make the church run. They need your leadership to get them there; then, God can open opportunities for them.
Bringing Your Child to Church
Just like you teach or send your child to school so they can learn to read and write. As Christian parents, it is our job to teach our children about God. In fact, I would argue it is our most important job. How can we do that effectively if they don't attend church?
Our children are being bombarded with messages from outside influences in this world. We need biblical teaching to bring us back to the truth every week. We need to remind ourselves we are here to glorify God, not ourselves. We need to be fed the truth about the sacrifice Jesus made for us. We need a pastor to speak Biblical truths into our heads every week. The Bible is the only truth we can fully depend on. The world is changing around us at lightning speed; God is the only constant. The Bible's message never changes. This can help us and our children work through many complex questions and decisions.
School can be challenging for kids in many ways. The church should be a safe place to bring your children where others care about them and speak truth into their lives. The church community can model what it means to care about each other, take care of each other, and hold each other accountable. If your kids never see what it means to be a part of a church, if they never witness firsthand how the church works, why would they ever want to be a part of one?
Our children's brains are not fully formed till their early to mid-twenties. That is not a criticism but a fact. God put children under the care of an adult because they need help making decisions. Their brains are developing, and their bodies are changing rapidly. They need leadership and guidance. It is our job to provide this for them. Kids don't always see the big picture. It is our job as their parents to keep the long view in mind and constantly grow their knowledge, first and foremost in Christ. Attending a solid biblical teaching church weekly is crucial to growing their faith. And who knows maybe, just maybe they'll spend eternity in heaven, and you'll hear well done good and faithful servant from the Lord. Keep at it, mom and dad. It might be hard at times, but your kids are worth the effort.
Katie T. Kennedy lives in Richmond, VA. She is married to a wonderful husband Jonathan and they have three girls. She is a writer, blogger, and employee of the family business. After a mid-life spiritual transformation, she discovered her love of writing. She loves to travel, read, be in nature, cook, and dream. She would love to connect with you online at www.katietkennedy.com, Instagram or Facebook.