My preteen rolled over and groaned as I woke her up one bleak, cold Sunday morning.
"Do I have to go to church today?" she moaned. "I'm so tired. I'll go to youth group tonight. Church is so boring!"
This scene's probably been repeated in your home as well as mine. With this complaint comes a host of other questions that need good answers. Here are four of the most common.
"If it's boring, why do I have to go?"
Surprise—boredom isn't a sin! However, we live in a culture that demands entertainment, and this attitude has dangerous repercussions for parents. We can unconsciously raise children who expect to be entertained—even at church. And because we fear they'll reject the gospel if they're bored, we make church optional.
Keep in mind, however, that school can be boring, yet we make our kids go. If we send our kids to school but make church an option, we communicate that education is more important than spiritual growth.
"I read my Bible on my own. Isn't that enough?"
Hebrews 10:25 says, "Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing." Proverbs 27:17 says, "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." Scripture shows us we can't grow alone. If we try, we can fall prey to heresy or give in to temptation. For example, my friend Sharon went off to college with her Bible and a desire to grow in her relationship with God. Overwhelmed with freshman activities, she found little time to seek out fellowship. Instead, she began hanging out with a group of students who didn't have much interest in spiritual things. Although she continued her own devotions for a time, her interest soon started to dwindle, and she began to make compromises. She began to sleep with her boyfriend. Over the next three years, Sharon spent a lot of time with an unhealthy party crowd. The summer after her graduation, I had a talk with her. Her boyfriend was gone, her life was a disaster, and she said to me, "Susan, I wish I'd sought out fellowship. I don't think I would have made such a mess of my life if I had. After four years of college I don't have any friends I want to keep up with."
We can't grow alone. Parents can't, kids can't. We need others.
"Can't I grow spiritually someplace besides church?"
Yes, your children can—and should. Teens especially need to be involved in a peer fellowship. But this shouldn't take the place of a regular commitment to a local church.
The church is the only place of fellowship that's there for you from birth to death—a place of mixed ages and diverse personalities. It's also the place where people with unique Christian testimonies can help us see how big God is and the vast ways in which he works. Most importantly, it's where people come together to worship the living God and Savior Jesus Christ. You may not always be able to find a parachurch fellowship, but in almost any location, you'll find a church. If your children have been raised with church as a priority, they'll be more likely to seek it out when they leave home.
"If I pressure my child, won't he rebel and go the other way?"
My friend Antley is a young father who serves on staff with Young Life, a Christian youth outreach organization. But he wasn't always so eager to serve. When he was growing up, his mother insisted on church. Although he hated it, he had no choice but to go. As a teenager, he'd often show up for church with a hangover from partying. He didn't become a Christian until he went off to college.
Antley recently told me, "Even though I didn't like going to church all those years, I'm glad Mom dragged me there. It amazes me what I learned there without meaning to. I'm sure Mom thought that everything was going in one ear and out the other, but it wasn't. Thank goodness she kept taking me with her and never gave up."
Your child ultimately will have to decide for himself if he believes in Christ. But remember, while he's under your roof, you need to make the decisions about church attendance.
Tips for the New Year
Motivated to make Sunday mornings a family commitment? Here are some ideas on what you can do to make it a reality:
Go to church yourself. Parents who drop off their kids at church and go home or out for coffee give the message "God's important for kids but not for adults." Make a commitment to become regularly involved yourself. But what if your spouse isn't a believer? Ask for his support in helping you get the kids to attend with you. Keep praying for him and loving him even if you have to take the kids to church without him.
Make Sundays special. Plan a special dinner after church or a family "field trip" in the afternoon. Serve Dad's famous pancakes for breakfast. Have a single parent and her kids over for soup and salad after church. It might be wise to gather the family together in a round-table discussion and get their ideas for making Sundays special.
Don't look for a perfect church. There isn't one. Instead, find one where the preaching is Christ-centered and biblically based, where there's an emphasis on worship and a commitment to youth ministry. Avoid the temptation to church-hop.
Pray. When was the last time you asked God to teach you how to worship him? This is a great prayer with which to begin a new year. Ask the Lord to show you where to become involved in your church. Ask him to give your kids a hunger to know him. And ask him to draw your family closer to himself and each other as you worship together.
Copyright © 1997 by Christianity Today/Today's Christian Woman Magazine.