“I don’t want to go to church!” “I don’t like church.” “My parents make me go to church!” Most parents, pastors, and children’s ministry leaders hear these types of complaints from time to time.
How should we respond when kids says, “I don’t want to go to church”? It’s a valid question. And we need to be ready when kids whine, “I don’t like church.”
Several times a year I teach a Child Dedication class. One of my favorite parts is embracing the tension between letting kids making their own choice and making some choices for them. In class, we cover Deuteronomy 6:4. This tension lives in the words “Impress them on your children.” What this verse unpacks isn’t quite applicable for the parents of babies in the class. But it’s a huge principle that parents need to carry with them as kids grow.
In more than 15 years of ministry, I’ve seen patterns emerge. There are almost always more 4-year-olds than 9-year-olds at church. There are almost always more 9-year-olds than 13-year-olds. And there are almost always more 13-year-olds than 18-year-olds. Why?
Simply, kids say, “I don’t want to go to church,” and parents don’t want to make them. I think most parents mean well. They don’t want to force faith on their kids in fear that their kids will reject it. When kids complain, “I don’t like church,” their parents don’t want to be the bad guys. They don’t want their kids to say, “My parents make me go to church!”
I Don’t Want to Go to Church: How to Respond
At TruthNotes.net, Ruth Meyer wrote a great blog titled “Why I Would Never Force My Kids to Go to Church.” She uses the same examples I’ve been using in my Child Dedication classes. Kids don’t always understand what’s best for them. And they don’t have the wisdom (life experiences) to make certain decisions until they’re older.
- If my child doesn’t want to brush his teeth because he doesn’t like it, it doesn’t matter. I know better than he does. He’s going to brush his teeth.
- If my child doesn’t like school, it doesn’t matter. I know better than she does, and it’s the law. She’s going to go to school.
- If my child doesn’t like vegetables, it doesn’t matter. I know they are healthy and that my child’s taste will change. We’ll keep trying them.
These things don’t make me a bad parent. They make me a good parent.
Church is no different. Kids will wake up and say, “I don’t want to go to church.” They may be like this for months or even years. It’s normal. Parents need to be encouraged to parent well through these phases. They know better, and they need to do what they know is best for their child.
Exception: I think there’s space for an exception. If you’re forcing a child to attend a church that makes Jesus boring… then maybe reconsider your church. Or see how you can help be the change to make ministry to kids relevant, exciting and relational. After all, when kids complain, “I don’t like church,” they may have some valid points!
One More Thought
Here’s a final thought from Meyer’s post:
Church isn’t a place you go to get pumped up about life. It isn’t entertainment like a movie or concert. It is literally a life and death matter. Eternal life. Just as a loving parent wouldn’t allow their child to wander in the road or to quit school, a loving Christian parent also does not give the option to their children about going to church, learning Bible stories at home, and praying together.
Do your kids always jump for joy when they hear you say, “Time to get up! Let’s get ready for church!” No. They won’t. Do they get excited for school every morning? Hardly. But you still make them go. Why? Because you are the parent and you know what’s best.
Even when they complain, you serve them healthful meals and limit their junk food intake. You set boundaries for their own safety when playing outside. You insist they go to school because you’re looking at the long term picture. And you are right to do those things. How much more so are you responsible for doing all you can to secure their eternal well being?
Communicate this to parents. Encourage them so they’re prepared when kids say, “I don’t like church.” Cast this vision when they have babies, when their babies become preschoolers, when preschoolers become elementary age, when those kids become preteens, and when preteens become teenagers. Stick with it because this is the only chance they get!