Church: When a Child Does Not Want to Go

 

By Ron Hindbaugh M.A.

 

Most parents want their kids to grow up with established spiritual values. They want their children to have faith, understand religion's message of love, and develop a personal relationship with God. The parent intuitively knows that obtaining such a spiritual foundation requires work at home supplemented by what is taught in church by others who have built a meaningful spiritual base for themselves. Thus, attendance at church becomes an important experience for the child.

But children do not always want what the parent thinks is best for them. Parents may be able to assure that attendance at Church is a regular routine for their small child but when the child becomes older they may rebel. The child has a mind of his/her own and many times will listen to others who do not value a strong spiritual base on which to conduct their lives.

This can present a real problem to the parent. If the parent forces the child to go to Church the friction that ensues will definitely not be in concert with the Church's teachings and there is no assurance that the child will gain anything anyway when mandated to attend. If the parent respects the child's request to stay home while the rest of the family attends church the problem of supervision and family unity becomes an issue.

The following are some suggestions that may be helpful when facing this dilemma.

1.  Let you child know that your beliefs are important to you. Practice your beliefs by living in a manner consistent with your beliefs. Your child should not be given the power to stop you from living a Christian/religious life.

2.  The Church should not be the only place where religious practices occur. In your home, bless the food and don't be ashamed to bless the food when you eat out. Have family prayer regularly. Read the scriptures as a family on a regular basis. Establish a weekly meeting with your family that is devoted to the study of your beliefs and of living spiritual principles.

3.  Make sure your children know that you have faith in them as well as faith in a Higher Power. Petition this Higher Power often on their behalf.

4.  Attend Church regularly when your kids are small, making it a regular part of the family routine. If you are on vacation attend Church or hold your own Church Service so that the children see how important worship is to you.

5.  When you feel your children are old enough to care for themselves at home, give them a choice. If they choose not to attend Church indicate this is ok with you as long as they receive some instruction in responsible living. If they choose not to receive this instruction, indicate that you will not be able to give them privileges that require responsible adult behavior. (This will include things like driving the family car, staying overnight with a friend, using the family tools such as a power saw or sewing machine, etc.)

6.  Keep in mind that your children need to obtain their own religious values. These values are not obtained by lecturing or by any type of brainwashing or force. You may have a strong desire for your children to believe as you do. But desire on your part is not enough. There must also be a desire on the part of the child for spiritual attributes. Respect the right of your child to develop their own belief system. It may or may not end up being like your own. (The more your children see that your belief system works for you, the more likely they will be to adopt a similar belief system as their own. This is true, even if discovering what gives life meaning is difficult for them.)

7.  Recognize that there are those who choose to belittle religious thinking. See these influences for what they are, but give them little recognition. In fact, fight for the right for others to believe as they choose and do not become a person who belittles those who have not chosen to utilize religious teachings to guide their thinking. If you take this approach, your children will learn to give an equal hearing to all belief systems. Have faith in the strength of your position as a seeker of truth.

Church attendance is important. But more important then being a Person in Church is being a Church Person. It is not what we do or accomplish in life that is important but who we become. Wise parents do not force church attendance on their children but wise parents do show them the power of attending church. The child who observes his/her parents benefiting from church attendance will come to see church attendance as a means to becoming a spiritual person who is at peace with themselves and the world.