How can we raise children who enjoy going to church? How can we keep the conversation open to understand our children in this area?
It was a two-day retreat for the high school students.
A very cold retreat, I might add. (On September 11th it got down to 23 degrees here in Kalispell, Montana.)
The guest preacher had been talking about finding joy in the Lord instead of just doing the church routine and the Christian school routine. We broke into small groups, and the conversation eventually came around to motive for going to church.
It’s hard when my parents make me go to church, said one of my guys.
A valuable question was raised: How can you go to church for the joy of it if your parents make you go?
What if you got home from this retreat and your parents said they now felt you were old enough to make the decision for yourself about whether to go to church or not. Would you still go? I asked.
There was a collective gasp, and they gave that question some serious thought.
I was sitting there looking at students who had been churched and Christian schooled, and I could imagine it would be easy to grow weary with the expectations of all of it. At the same time I was thinking like a parent, wondering how parents could help their kids not just do the church thing out of obligation.
My own two kids, one 20 and one 17, have never balked at going to church with us. In fact, they have enjoyed it and have been sad when they couldn’t go for some reason.
How in the world did we manage that? Was it something we did? Or are they perfect, as I have suspected? (That’s proud momma talk there.)
So I’ve been chewing on this question for a while and would like to make the following observations:
What Environment Would Make a Kid Want To Go to Church?
- My husband and I look forward to going to church. We both love Christ and find great joy in singing to our Lord. We both highly treasure the Scripture and can’t wait to open our Bibles. Even when we’re exhausted or busy, we will not miss connecting with our family of believers. For us, church is a rich experience and a worthy place to invest our lives. Maybe our kids have learned to enjoy church because they’ve watched how much we enjoy worshiping the Lord and caring about the body of Christ.
- When our teenagers went through the church doors, we handed them off to youth leaders who highly valued them and very quickly mentored them into places where they could serve. My son, at 17 years of age, is leading the singing in youth group and has taught the Bible lesson there on more than one occasion. The youth leaders treat him like an adult. The expectations are set high for him, and he is thriving in that environment.
- My husband is a pastor, but no one at our church has ever expected our kids to be perfect because they’re pastor’s kids. My daughter and son have had so much room to be flawed people who have been accepted and loved by their church family. We carry that grace from our home to church life, too. Our kids hear us apologize when we mess up. We forgive them when they mess up. So much grace.
I grew up in a tiny church in Wyoming, and I can see how the above three elements were true for me. My parents enjoyed church. My church family there highly valued me and encouraged me to take on leadership responsibility, but they also seemed to overlook my failings. So I looked forward to going to church.
*Let’s talk about this –what do you think helps a kid enjoy going to church?
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Christy Fitzwater is a writer and pastor’s wife living in Kalispell, Montana. She has a daughter who is married and a son in college. Christy writes to help people know God, and you can find her new book about becoming blameless on Amazon. Or follow her devotional blog at ChristyFitzwater. You can follow Christy on Instagram here!