Currently I have families who a) drag their teenagers to church b) leave them home each Sunday c) worship with their teenagers or d) send them to our High School ministry while the parents go to worship. For those parents with kids who don’t want to go to church, I frequently am asked for advice on “getting them there”.
I really do think that each family is unique and must choose what response is the best fit, but here are a few observations;
1. Teenagers follow people before they will follow a plan.
It is so easy for the family of a teenager who doesn’t want to go to church to withdraw as well. I have seen some great parents be very proactive about finding mission trips and fellowship opportunities that fit their kid. This is the best way to connect with the leaders and other students. Sunday morning or weekly programs don’t have the time to be as relational as trips and retreats are. Always call the youth minister and let them know the situation so that can help make the trip a great experience for your reluctant child. It is too easy to give up on church after church when something goes wrong. I am encouraged by parents who turn over every rock to find the right people and experiences to encourage their teenagers in the faith.
2. Teenagers Choosing Church:
I know several families who have let their teenage children choose the church the family will attend. The parents say “it is so important that our kids have a good church experience that we can adapt anywhere”. When I was 16 I actually told my father (pastor of the big Presbyterian church in town) that I was switching churches so I could be a Methodist. My father’s response was “that is fine Nate, I hope you become more involved there!” What??? That is NOT the response I was looking for. My dad called my bluff. My dad “learned me” a good lesson about ecclesiology that day.
3. A Balanced Response
I have heard statements like, “while you are in our house we will go to church, but we will not force you to be involved in everything”. I know of a family with a teenager who doesn’t believe in Christ, but he is willing to go to worship with his family and even have good discussions about the sermon. These parents get an A+ in my book when it comes to response. They basically said, we aren’t going to force you to “believe” but we would love for you to join us as a family and discuss what we experience.
4. The Para church ministries like Young Life do a great job of presenting Christ to students who don’t want anything to do with church. Once kids “get” Jesus, they will often “get” the need for Christian community, Worship and the Scriptures.
Quick Responses to Common Complaints:
A. Church is Boring: Sure. With some kids I don’t fight this battle right away because Church is boring when it is all about us. Our shallow understanding of worship has caused the entertainment craze in our churches. My other response is that God is not boring, only certain people who teach about God can be boring. I am not for entertainment, but I am all about spirited and passionate teaching.
B. It is too early: This one doesn’t work for me anymore! There are church services at every hour of the day in most communities!!!
C. What other tips or thoughts would you add to this post?