Should I make my teenager go to church?

 Should I make my teenager go to church? 

This is a question I’ve been asked before and while I’m not sure I’m qualified to answer it I’ll try my best knowing I could be wrong and could change my views on this as I grow in wisdom and in parenting.

Let me paint the scenario based on conversations I’ve had with people.

You’re trying your best to raise your children in a way that points them to Jesus. Your kids may or may not have realized their need for Jesus and called on him to save them through a relationship with Christ.

Hang with me…..

For years you have attended church with said children in tow. Or perhaps you haven’t been going to church for various reasons but now you’re ready to attend.

But there’s just one problem…..

The kids.

They’re teenagers now and they give you major attitude about going to church. They won’t get out of bed on Sunday mornings. They argue and plead to stay home. It’s an all out struggle and you wonder if it’s worth battling.

So do you force them to go to church or do you pray like crazy they will just one day desire to go?

If I force them to go to church won’t they end up hating church and God? I certainly don’t want to be responsible for that.

These are common questions and very real scenarios.

Let me start by saying a word about the big picture of the situation – only God can put inside of us a desire to respond to him. We can’t force that heart response on anyone. It will always be a work of the Holy Spirit that draws our children (and us) to Him. We don’t have the power to turn anyone’s heart towards Jesus. And we can’t “mess up” God’s plan for us or our kids. This can either be totally terrifying or completely comforting. The more we understand who our God is the more comforting his sovereign control over all things, including our children’s spiritual growth, becomes to us. Of course we all have a free will and a sin nature that brings on natural and spiritual consequences that play into the mix of things. There’s a tension there and something we won’t completely understand until we get to heaven.

Knowing that God is ultimately the drawer of every soul to himself is also the fact that he has sovereignly placed us as our kids’ parents to guide and lead them towards Jesus Christ.

How will we steward that God-given role?

We’ve all heard it said before and it’s true – it’s got to start at home. Modeling faith at home is where it starts. Modeling what walking in the Spirit looks like. When we mess up we confess in humility and apologize. We model what it looks like to go to church not because we have to but because we get to. Allowing our kids to see us engage in Bible reading and prayer will help them see what it looks like to have a daily devotional time. Talking about how we see God at work while having dinner and in the carpool line and over ice cream reveals to our children that a desire for God doesn’t just show up on Sunday mornings. It’s a way of life that weaves itself through everything.

This is where it starts but even in starting here doesn’t guarantee our children/teens will desire to be in relationship with Jesus or want to go to church and participate in spiritual disciplines.

So what then? 

Disclaimer: I’m making an assumption you are attending a healthy church with healthy leadership and there’s no apparent reason for your child being resistant to church other than they “just don’t want to go”.  I would try to find out what they’re most resistant to – maybe you can understand where they’re coming from and offer guidance. Is that even possible with hormonal teenagers? I’m not sure. But try. If you need to root out a deeper issue going on that could be related to your church then make the time to check into that. Maybe your child deals with mental health issues or disabilities that make attending church (or other large group social settings) really hard. I’m not talking about that kind of a situation in this post. I’m talking about the grumpy teenager simply not wanting to go to church because they want to sleep in on a regular basis and declare it’s too boring to go to church anymore.

For me personally, I believe that attending church for Christ-following parents, falls under your household “way of life’s”. Every family has their “way of life’s” or their non-negotiables. In our house we don’t____________________ and in our house we will _______________________. They don’t have to be  written out on a cute chalkboard to realize you already have family values and “way of life’s” in place and at work in your family.

Make going to church one of them.

Even if my kid hates going to church and complains the whole way and looks mad the entire time while being there?

I think we let our kids know that part of living under our roof includes the privilege of attending church – even if they don’t see it that way.

Right now our tween and teenage kids like going to church. Do they have a choice in going? No, they don’t and it’s not because they’re “pastor’s kids.” It’s because as their parents we know how life-giving the local church can be and we don’t want to rob them of this.

Helping them form a habit of being involved in church now will hopefully direct their heart in such a way that they continue this privilege when they leave our home. I can only pray and ask God to do these things inside of them.

Our daughter is in that awkward stage of almost being old enough to go into the youth group but not quite. She’s still in the children’s ministry and she is so ready to be in the youth group she can hardly stand it. We’ve had some good conversations about her being a part of the group that she feels she’s ready to leave right now. We’ve had to work through some attitudes as she doesn’t always want to attend her age group activities. It’s not a reflection on the teachers or the program. It’s just where she is in her heart right now and I’ve seen so many other kids go through this at the 5th-6th grade level.

We let her stay in the adult service this past Sunday instead of going to her age group activity just as a one and done kind of thing. And of course she’s now begging to stay from here on out. But we’re not letting her. We acknowledge and validate that it’s hard being the oldest in a group and understand her wanting to move on but because church isn’t all about her or anyone one person but a community of people, we are telling her to respectfully stay where she’s at. She can still learn with a sweet attitude if she is willing while waiting for what’s around the corner and when given opportunities to step up and lead she can do that. And in the meantime I am praying that the Holy Spirit will help her be content where she is and that she’ll learn some neat things while being there.

But for now we will enforce what we feel is the right and best for her not necessarily having everything wrapped up in a cute box with a neatly tied bow. And we can only trust the outcome with our God who knows our desire for our kids to walk with him and love him.

I know that not everyone will agree with this method. I’m not saying it should be this way for everyone. Some would say as long as she’s getting instruction then let her stay in the service. But we are committed to her being a part of the group because we so believe in the God-designed concept of church community that if we let her bail then we’re teaching her that church is a self-serving buffet. You can pick and choose what you like best and attend. And while we don’t make our kids attend every single outing and event offered we do want them to be at the majority of the activities since they’re a part of the group. It’s easy for me to say this right now because they genuinely love their church and want to be there. I attribute this to the grace of God at work in them and to a church committed to serving and teaching well. But if we ever go through a stage where either of the kids don’t want to go to church just because they’re tired of it they will not have a choice in going as long as they live at home.

This is where finding a church that fits your family and your goals for a church is so important. Once you find a church, knowing that no church will be perfect, then decide to plug in and make attending a non-negotiable. You will be surprised at what God does in your life as well as the life of your kids even if they’re not convinced it’s all that great right now.

Lord – help us as Christian families to never give up on your brilliant plan of the local church community. When it gets hard and we want to check out and when our kids beg us to let them stay home will you help us push through the inconvenience of going. Help us to extend grace to ourselves and others when they need an occasional Sunday at home to regroup. Help us not to judge others when they don’t come but to look for ways to encourage other Christian families to join the community of believers so that we can all work towards a common goal of bringing you glory and taking steps closer to you and each other. We can’t do this without your help. And for any grumpy teenagers stubbornly refusing to attend church we ask you’d soften their hearts and until you do that give their parents wisdom in knowing how to handle their own personal situation. We ask you would give guidance in how to expose that teen to your word and your body of believers. In Jesus Name, Amen.


  1. I’ve nearly raised 4 children and they’ve been in church all of their lives. Never once have they resisted going to church. Matter of fact, 3 of my 4 are worship leaders now in the main service. Now they’ve not wanted to go to youth sometimes on a Friday night (and I let them stay home) but not church. I’m the one staying home some days and they look at me like, “Mom, you better get your butt in church!” I am a blessed mama.

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