What guidance does the Bible provide?
"I'm not going to church." Maybe you have heard that from your teenager, or maybe you are wondering if that day will come. It's important to be ready to respond with godly wisdom in those moments to be able to have a fruitful conversation that opens up an opportunity for growth and understanding. In countless places in the Bible, we read about the importance of being a part of the church community. One of them is found in Hebrews 10:24-25 (NIV) which says, "24And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another--and all the more as you see the Day approaching." One of the main points we are taught here is that to become the incredible people God created us to be that we need to be in a position to encourage and inspire others to love and good deeds. It also makes the point that we need others to do the same for us. In our lives that are so filled with ups and downs, so many moments of confusion and struggle, it becomes clear how badly we need a healthy community around us. It is also not hard to see that we all want to count, we need to be able to make a difference in this world, and one of the primary places to discover our purpose is in community. It is in community that we discover our gifts and passions as we serve one another which helps us discover how God has wired us. When Jesus was asked what the most important thing to live by in life is he said in Matthew 22:37-39 (NIV) that there are two things, "37"'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' 38This is the first and greatest commandment. 39And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" These verses again point us to the fact that life can only be truly experienced in community because it is not possible to love others and to grow in our love for God on our own.
Things to think about:
As your child expresses their desire to stay home often, we wonder if we should force them to go to church or if we should just let them stay home. Before you make that decision, you need to realize that there are other options. First, you need to try to understand what is causing your child to want to step away from the church community. As our children go through adolescence, it's important to remember that they are striving to take on more independence. They are no longer just learning from you as a parent; now they are making more of their own decisions about the things that their parents have decided previously. This reality requires a change in our response as parents. So, it is important in this process to ask a lot of questions. To strive to understand what the root cause is behind this new behavior. As you ask questions, you will begin to discover why they don't want to go to church, what misconceptions they may have about going to church, and any possible adverse experiences that are making it difficult to go. As you calmly listen and strive to understand their perspective you will be better equipped to have a good conversation where you can address what they are struggling with. Ultimately, through the conversation, we want to help them see that attending church is about being apart of a community of broken people who are striving to help each other to find healing as we grow to know and love God. We want to help them see how the church is a place to ask their honest questions, to talk about their doubts, to challenge their beliefs, and to help others do that same. This moment is also a prime time to be more open with our kids about our faith. We need to live out our faith journey honestly in front of and alongside our children. This means talking about our struggles at times with going to church and what we have discovered along the way. The truth is, we all at times have struggled with not wanting to go to church, it is a natural feeling to have, so don't be afraid to talk about times when you have gone through that and why you decided to continue to go. Make sure to share consistently why the church is important to you and the purpose and community you find there. As they have found in recent research, young people with parents who share about their faith journeys tend to stick with their faith after high school (Seehttp://stickyfaith.org/articles/silence-is-not-golden).
What do I do now?
Here are some good questions to dig into why your child wants to step away from church:
- Why don't you want to go?
- Why do you think we go to church? Why do you think it is important to me?
- Has anything happened at church that has made it hard to connect with people or trust? Tell me what happened.
- Do you feel like church is a safe place to ask questions and to discover what you think about God? Why or not?
- When we go to church, what do you think your mission is? How do you think you are doing fulfilling the mission to love and inspire others to be great people? Explain your answer. Read Hebrews 10:24-25 and Matthew 22:37-39 to get ideas of what God things our mission is when we are together.
- Do you have a group of friends that you have connected with? If not, what do you think is standing in the way?
Want to go deeper?
- Blog post: What should I do when my kid says "I'm not going to church" http://fulleryouthinstitute.org/blog/im-not-going-to-church
- Blog Post: Why is it so important for parents to talk about their faith and some ideas on how to have those conversations.http://stickyfaith.org/articles/silence-is-not-golden
- Blog Post: A helpful article with more scriptures that point to the importance of being in a church community.http://christianity.about.com/od/whatdoesthebiblesay/i/churchattendanc.htm