You raise your children to know God. You raise them to love Jesus. You support them by faithfully taking them to church. With all your good efforts, though, there’s a good chance that, somewhere along the way, you will hear one of the following:

  • “Do I have to go to church today?”
  • “I don’t want to go to church anymore.”

Or you may hear a modified version somewhere in between the mild request to stay home to play Wii and the full-blown voice of rebellion. We have all on occasion “skipped church” for a Sunday, and I’m not concerned about a legalistic need to be at church every time the doors are open. I want to focus on the habitual plea of a teenager who doesn’t want to go to church.

Why does my teenager not want to go?

Let’s do a little evaluation and see if there is a root cause behind your teenager’s attitude?

  • Are you always at church?
  • Does your teenager think church is boring?
  • Does your teenager think church is irrelevant?
  • Could you own attitude toward church be part of the problem?

Review the essentials

Going to church is all about relationships. When you come to Christ, you also come to His family, His body. As individual believers, we are to live in a growing relationship with Christ and with other believers.

If you child has not raised this issue . . .

Great. I hope that doesn’t change. Just know that 70 percent of students who graduate and leave a church youth group stop attending church regularly during their young adult years. If you teenager really enjoys church, make sure its not simply because they get to hang out with friends, eat pizza, and go to camp. If that’s all there is to it, once they graduate and leave the youth group, they’ve got nothing of substance to hold on to. Go ahead and have “the talk” now about the importance of church.

When your teenager wants to go to church . . . but not yours.

My high school sons spent the night with a friend and went to church with him the next day. They came back elated about the church they visited . . . and they wanted to go back. Why? Why go somewhere that only had 25 students instead of the 300 at our church? Why drive 20 miles when we lived 3 miles from our church? The issue was relationships. They liked the friends they made, but more importantly to me, they connected with the adult leaders. The adults took time to know my sons and build a relationship.

I believe a family ought to share the same church family. I liked our church, but this new church was obviously providing my sons an opportunity to serve and was helping them grow spiritually. So what did we do? My wife and I like our church, but we were willing to visit the new church. Six years later, we’re still there. Our former church was very good, but our new church met a great needin the lives of my sons and in the life of my family.

That’s my story. I’ve known others who let their teenagers attend another church. In those cases, I suggest a parent ask some hard questions:

  • Why does my child want to go there? If they simply serve a better brand of pizza or have a cooler praise band, that’s not good enough for me.
  • Is the church Bible-centered and biblically sound?
  • Does this church help my teenager grow in Christ?

This article originally appeared in Living With Teenagers, now called Parenting Teens005075228