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When your kids are young, it is easy to get them to go to church on a weekly basis. You are the parent, and what you say goes. End of story. However, as your kids get older and learn to be more self-sufficient they may be less willing to submit to your authority. Whether they have too much to do every week, are experiencing a crisis of faith, or have some other rationale, church may no longer be a high priority in their lives.
You can continue to put your foot down and engage in a weekly battle with your children over going to church. However, this is exhausting for everyone, may do both short-term and long-term damage to your relationship with your kids and is unlikely to put them in a frame of mind to receive the teachings of the Gospel with grace.
Instead of taking a hardline, because-I-say-so stance, try to foster a dialogue with your children to find out what impediments are keeping them from church and how they can be overcome, as well as demonstrating to them why attending church is important and how it is relevant to their lives.
1. Listen to Your Children
Just as it is impossible for a doctor to diagnose and treat a disease without finding out about the symptoms, you can’t effectively encourage your children to go to church without finding out what’s drawing them away from it. For example, if it’s a crisis of faith, you don’t want to talk about scheduling issues. As you listen, show respect for your children’s points of view, and don’t make judgments.
2. Look for Ways To Involve Them
One reason why kids may lose interest in church is that they don’t feel actively involved in the service. Look for an age-appropriate ministry in which they can participate. If your child has a musical gift, perhaps he or she could join one of the ensembles or perform solo. They can learn hymns new and old through multimedia channels from The Way International.
3. Find a Nurturing Environment
Church should be a place where children feel safe and supported. If they endure bullying or mistreatment from other kids, youth leaders, etc., the healthiest choice for your family, even though it is a drastic step, may be to find another church to attend.
4. Answer Their Questions
As kids grow up, they may have questions about their faith or begin feeling doubts. Addressing doubts in an open, positive discussion is an opportunity to grow in faith. Don’t deny your children this opportunity by shutting down their questions or refusing to listen to their doubts. Instead, have an honest conversation in which you acknowledge the difficulties they are having without judgment, explain your beliefs, and affirm them with joy.
5. Know When To Let Go
As long as your children live under your roof, it is appropriate to require church attendance of them. However, eventually your children are going to grow up and leave home, and whether or not they attend church will no longer be your responsibility. Don’t try to force the issue through nagging, guilt-tripping, or passive aggression. If you’ve done your best to foster a relationship between your children and God, trust that they will follow the right path once they are on their own.