Forcing Kids to Go to Church
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Join us in another episode of the Foundation Worldview Podcast as host, Elizabeth Urbanowicz, explores the controversial question - "Should I force my children to go to church?" This episode dives deep into the biblical basis for attending corporate worship, discusses the importance of understanding and teaching the true goal of the church, and provides practical advice for parents navigating this sensitive issue.
Note: The following is an auto-transcript of the podcast recording.
Hello friends, and welcome to another episode of the Foundation Worldview Podcast where we seek to answer your questions so that you can equip the children that God has placed in your care to carefully evaluate every idea they encounter and understand the truth of the biblical Worldview. I'm your host, Elizabeth Urbanowicz, and I'm thrilled that you've joined me for another episode today. Now, today's question is short and sweet, but we'll have to see if my answer is short and sweet as well. Today's question says, "Should I force my children to go to church?" Such an interesting question and an important one for us to think through.
Now before we dive into that question, if you have a question that you would like answered on a future Foundation Worldview podcast, you can go to FoundationWorldview.com/podcast to submit your question. Also would ask that if you found the content of this podcast beneficial that you would like and subscribe to make sure that you never miss a future episode, and also ask that you would consider writing a review so that we can help as many people as possible find this content and equip the kids in their care to carefully evaluate every idea they encounter.
Now, this question about should we force a child to go to church is a really important one for us to think through. And now you have who have followed this podcast for a while, you know that I'm always asking the question and trying to get us to ask the question, what is the goal? So the question here is, what is the goal or the purpose of going to church? Why do we go to a corporate worship service every Sunday? Well, I think biblically, there's a couple reasons why we go to corporate worship on Sundays, and the first reason is to fulfill the command to not neglect meeting together. Hebrews 10 25 commands us to not get in the habit of neglecting to meet with one another as some are in the habit of doing so we're commanded to meet together as the body of Christ.
Another biblical reason is we are called to fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. And as we go to a corporate worship service, that is the goal that everything that takes place during that service would fix our eyes on Jesus. In the New Testament, we are also told that we are members of the body of Christ. Specifically in 1 Corinthians 12, Paul gives this detailed analogy of us as different members of the same body and how the members need one another. And this is something that we just don't have a great understanding of, especially in the West because we're so individualistic and we think life is just whatever we make it to be, and we create our own destinies, which is completely unbiblical. So we are the body of Christ, and meeting together reminds us of that reality.
So I would say the goal of meeting together on Sundays for corporate worship is threefold. It's to fulfill the command to meet together. It's to fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith through worshiping him, and it is to be an active part of the body of Christ. So these things are vital in the life of a Christian.
So going to church on Sunday, worshiping corporately together is not just something that we like to do. It's not just a tradition or something, some part of our cultural heritage. It's actually something that we are commanded to do, and it is a vital part of the life of a Christian. So if that's the purpose of going to church on Sunday, and we realize that it's vital, then we should ask ourselves, okay, would we give up on requiring that our children adhere to any other vital component of life while they're still in our homes?
Would we think, ah, you know what? I'm not going to force my child to eat because you know what, that's his or her decision. No, we'd never do that because we know that eating is essential. And so we make sure that our children have a balanced nutritious diet. Would we give up on requiring them to sleep? No, because we know that the human body cannot function for more than a few days without a proper night of sleep. Would we give up on requiring them to shower or brush their teeth or any other form of hygiene? No. We know that staying clean is part of staying healthy, and so we wouldn't give up on any of these things.
So why would we give up on requiring them to be involved in the body of Christ in the way that we've been commanded to do so? Now, if you have an adult child living with you, that's a completely different story and you need to figure out what it looks like for them to be an adult but still be under your roof. But when we're talking about children, we are still in charge of shepherding them and growing them. And so just like we would never give up on making a child eat, sleep or shower, we should not give up on making them go to church.
So the short answer to the question is, yes, you should force your child to go to church with you while they are still under your roof. That should be a requirement, and this should be done with wisdom because how we approach something awfully greatly impacts the effectiveness of it.
So first, we want to make sure that our children understand the goal. Why is it that we go to church every Sunday? Because if they don't understand the goal, they're going to have an incorrect understanding of why we're making them do this. Why we as a family go to church. I experienced not the desire not to go to church, but some frustration with a certain element of church when I didn't properly understand it.
As a teacher and someone who is now a curriculum writer, I am passionate about brain research and understanding how God designed the human mind to learn so that I know how to best transform the way that a child thinks. And so for a few years, I was really frustrated by the fact that we have sermons during the corporate worship time. And I know that might sound silly, but I was really frustrated just because I know from brain research that humans do not learn best and most effectively by simply listening to something once. And many people don't even learn very well nowadays by listening. They have trouble with auditory processing. So I was just frustrated and I was like, "oh, why do we have a sermon? Why is the pastor just preaching at us? Why aren't we having time to interact with this? Why don't we go over this stuff again and again and again? If we want people to be transformed, this is not the way that it happens."
Well then I was visiting my sister and brother-in-law one week and their pastor made a statement that completely shifted my understanding of why we sit under the preaching of the word of God. The pastor said during his sermon, he said, the purpose of a sermon, the purpose of sitting under the faithful preaching of God's word, is that Jesus Christ would be magnified and our eyes would be transfixed on Him. And I thought, "oh, I have been understanding the goal of a sermon completely incorrectly," that I had this idea that the goal of a sermon was personal growth and transformation as if it were a motivational speech where that pastor's phrase made me realize that that goal was not correct, that I wasn't to go and sit under the faithful preaching of God's word each week so that I could learn how to be a better Christian or my life could be transformed.
That the goal of me sitting under that sermon is that the name of Jesus would be magnified among the local body of Christ and that our eyes would be lifted up and fixed on him. And understanding that goal completely changed my understanding of the sermon during corporate worship. It completely changed my attitude towards it. It completely changed the way I listened to it. And so if our kids don't understand the goal of why we go to church that we're supposed to not give up meeting together, that we're supposed to fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith and worship him, and that we are called to be active members in the body of Christ, they're not going to correctly understand that and they might have a more poor attitude about having to go to church. So it's really important first that our kids understand that goal of why we go to corporate worship every Sunday.
You should also be asking yourself, are you as the parent making corporate worship a priority in your family? Because if your child has a soccer game or a baseball game or piano during a corporate worship time and you miss corporate worship for that game or that recital or whatever activity, what have you just told your child? Well, this activity is more important than corporate worship. This activity is more important than worshiping Jesus. This activity is more important than being faithful to the command to meet together. So we need to make sure as adults, that we are making sure that we are helping our kids understand that this is top priority.
Another thing that we need to do is we should actually dig in and ask questions about why our child doesn't like going to church, why our child doesn't want to go and say, I know that you don't really want to go to church with me and I want to understand why you don't want to go. Can you tell me some reasons why you don't want to go? And then in our mind, we need to determine is the reason that our child is bringing up, is it a legitimate reason that we can work on or is it a sin issue?
Like a legitimate reason might be that there's another child at church who's mean to them and who picks on them every Sunday as they go to the Sunday school class of the children's church time. If that's happening, of course they don't want to go to church, and that's something that we can address with them and talk with them how to handle that.
If it's a sin issue, then that needs to be dealt with. For example, does your child not like missing soccer games if your family is committed to going to corporate worship every Sunday, and then talk with your child about that.
So if we missed our corporate worship time, if we missed the service on Sunday to go to soccer, what are we actually saying? And having them think through that, that we're saying that soccer is more important than worshiping God. So we need to determine the difference. Is this a legitimate reason why they don't want to go to church that we can actually address? Or is it a sin issue that we need to help them see that their heart is hard towards God in this area?
And then moving forward, we shouldn't try to make church something that it's not. We shouldn't try to make church fun. The purpose of going to church is not to have fun. It is to worship God. It's to be obedient. It's to be part of the body of Christ, but we can explore. Are there legitimate things that we can do to resolve our child's desire to not go to church?
For example, does your child know anybody at church? It's hard being places where we don't know anyone. I always say when I'm speaking and talking with parents about the importance of being involved in the body of Christ, I say, if there are not a handful of people in your local body of Christ, your local church who you would call in an emergency at 3:00 AM without any hesitation, if there's not a handful of those people who you would call at 3:00 AM without hesitation in an emergency, you're not part of a church, you attend a church service that our church, our local church should be the body of Christ because it really is our family that we are members of the family of God.
And so if your family doesn't know people within your body of Christ intimately, start developing those relationships. Start having people over and practicing biblical hospitality. Start going over and serving others. Get to develop really deep relationships. And it doesn't just need to be with other families, with kids your age. Start having single people over. Start having empty nesters over. Start having widows or widowers over. Just develop these relationships. That's the amazing thing within the body of Christ, that there's this great diversity among us, but we have unity because of our common identity in Christ.
You can also start serving in church. Does your family just go to church and view the service as something that's ministering to you? Or do you actually reach out and serve? Are you actively part of the body of Christ? And then are you having a family devotional time in your own home where you're daily in scripture together so that your kids are being taught constantly from God's word and they're used to reading scripture together and praying and singing songs of praise? Because if they're not used to doing that at home, it's going to seem very strange to do that at church.
And you know what? As you really invest in the body of Christ, as you start practicing biblical hospitality and start serving and making sure you're having a family devotional time, I think that you might be really surprised at how much your children start to enjoy being part of the body of Christ.
I was just recently encouraged by the story that a family at my church told our small group, because our church has a philosophy of corporate worship that we think everyone should be worshiping together, that we need to be rejoicing in that unity amidst diversity in our church. And for that reason, once children in our church turn five, they graduate from the nursery. And there's no more childcare offered that all children five on up are in the corporate worship service together.
Is it a little noisy in our church? Yes. Are there frequently water bottles being knocked to the ground and things falling off the chairs? Yes. Sometimes. Are there kids talking and parents having to tell them to be quiet? Yes. But we're committed to worshiping together as an entire body of Christ. And this one family in my small group said that their son really had a difficult time with this when they became members of our church two years ago, because they came from a church that had a children's church time and there was lots of fun and games and music, and her son was used to being able to be with his friends all the time and be laughing and being active. And then he came to our church and he had to sit still for the whole hour long service. And that was really difficult.
And then they started to get more involved. And actually from the age of eight on up, kids can start serving in the nursery and in other areas. And he started serving. And one Sunday, as they were just a few weeks ago, as they were leaving church, her son turned to her and her husband in the car and said, "I just love our church." And she asked him why. And he said, I just love the people there. And because of the way our church does church, because we don't break people off into ages and stages and just try to entertain kids, kids actually know that they are vital members of the body of Christ and that we need them, and that completely transforms most of their attitudes towards being in church.
So the long and the short of this is yes, while our children are still living under our roof, we should make them go to church. That should be a requirement. We should make sure that they understand the goal of being there on Sundays. We should make sure that we dig into what is the issue, why do they not want to go to church? And then try to resolve that issue by getting to know people in the church, practicing biblical hospitality and start serving.
Well, that's a wrap for this episode. But as always, as we leave this time together, my prayer for you is that no matter the situation and circumstances in which you and the children in your care find yourselves that you would trust that God is working all things together for your good by using those circumstances to conform you more into the image of His Son. I'll see you next time.
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