Should I Make My Children Come to Church?


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Should I Make My Children Come to Church?

21 September 2016 Hits:4705

This week on my Facebook page I asked parents to give me feedback on this question: “If your children don’t want to come to church should you still bring them along?”  I went on to say, “I realise that there are many views on this and each parent(s) make their own decisions. How have you handled this one with your children? What has been the outcome?”  What followed was a very honest and respectful discussion that will form the basis of what I hope will be an informative and helpful blog.

As I expected, the comments were many and varied and reflected some strong opinions along with some gentler approaches.  Some parents answered the question with a definite “YES” – “My house. My rules. Kids don’t want to eat vegetables. Do you make them? They want to stay home from school and watch YouTube. Should you let them? No. When they turn 18 … different story.”  I tried the “under my roof” approach with Gigi (our eldest daughter) a few years ago.  Her response was to suggest that she’d get a caravan and park it in the driveway so that she wouldn’t technically be “under our roof”.  She’s an awful lot like me J.

Another parent commented, “I think the most influencing factor on my opinion is that the Holy Spirit doesn’t have a forceful nature; he doesn’t “make” us do things. Being a Christian and attending church is a heart level decision and if parents are forcing their kids to come purely based on the “my house, my rules” way, then I can see it having a negative impact in the long run. ”

Some parents reported that this has never been a necessary question, “I’m so glad I’ve never had to face this because [my son] loves coming to church”, while others described stories of rebellion and resentment: “My brother and I were made to go to church twice on a Sunday, Tuesday prayer meeting and Friday Bible study – every week while we were under their roof. Going to church was the most important thing – came before family. I wasn’t allowed to join the guides as it was on Friday. My brother has moved away from Christianity and his main reason is the way we were raised.”

Parenting children is a minefield of challenges at the best of times so hopefully what follows will be some helpful things to consider when it comes to raising your children to develop a genuine faith in Jesus:

  1. Exercise a lifestyle of worship at home

A children’s pastor at a large Melbourne church wrote, “I believe the church experience, when presented in all its various expressions within the home, will make ‘big’ church more attractive for the entire family. From my years in children’s ministry, the children who engage in the Sunday program the quickest are the ones who have already started to exercise a lifestyle of worship at home.”  This man, who I highly respect, raises what I consider to be the most important issue connected with this question, that is the responsibility that Christian parents have to “instruct [their children] and teach them the ways of the Lord as you raise them” (Ephesians 6:4).

A pastor friend of mine who has been in Christian ministry for over two decades observes, “for the most part parents delegate out the responsibility for their child’s spiritual growth to the church.”  The church should be partnering with parents to assist them with their responsibility.  This means that Christian parents must model what it means to be Christian in every part of life by having a genuine relationship with Jesus.

  1. Make it a conversation rather than a command

We’ve had a number of discussions over the years with our kids about church and we’ve always tried to make it a conversation rather than a command.  We explain to them why we want them to be part of church with us – it’s what we do as a family.

We have healthy, age-appropriate discussions on questions of faith, morality and ethics.  We’ve listened when they’ve had problems such as finding church (youth / kids’ min etc.) boring or irrelevant.  We’ve helped them make friends by befriending the parents of the kids they like.  One of the best things we’ve ever done is a Bayside family missions trip to Thailand four years ago.  Our kids made great friends with the other young people on the trip and those friendships have endured.  And we spend time in prayer for our children asking God to help them and us.

A young man at Bayside Church wrote, “I was given the option from the age of 14 and I still go to church, and very strong in my faith. If my parents would have forced me I would have felt like it wasn’t my decision to believe.” 

A mum wrote, “Usually a one on one chat sorts it and he’s happy to attend.”

  1. Choose a good, local church

I emphasise “local” here.  I appreciate that some parents love travelling a long way to go to an exciting mega-church but this can tend to be an event rather than a community.  The likelihood is that other people are travelling an hour to get there (from the opposite direction) and your kids will make friends with theirs – and you’ll live two hours away from each other.  There’s nothing like being part of a church in your local community and getting to know people who live nearby.

Once you’ve found a good church stick with it.  Resist the temptation to church hop and becoming a Christian consumer.  Get involved as a family and make it the best church it can be because you’re there.

  1. Make church a non-negotiable for the whole family

Joshua uttered the immortal words, “But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”  We have a habit of gathering with our church community as a family on Saturday evenings.  Because Christie and I are the senior leaders at Bayside Church we are usually at two or three meetings each weekend.  We don’t expect our kids to be at every service – one is enough. We do our best to work around social events by dropping them off at a party after church on Saturday evenings.  Sometimes they’ll miss church if the party starts earlier.  It all works on a case-by-case basis and also depends on their attitude and helpfulness around the home during the week.  But most weekends church is a non-negotiable for our family.  I wish it were for all Christians.

We need to see many families make a complete shift in the current individualistic mindset towards church.  Most Western Christians see church as something to attend – or not.  People “go to church” – or not – rather than seeing church as a community of believers you “belong” to and are an active part of.

A mate of mine who’s an agnostic wrote, “I think kids can learn some good life lessons in going to their families’ chosen church, and I’ve witnessed the amazing community feeling that Bayside offers.”

Another said, “Going to church is a family event, just as much as having dinner together. Both are important to ‘us’ as a family and not negotiable.” 

A single mum in our church community said, “My kids as toddlers didn’t want to go to church and especially hated kids groups. I kept bringing them despite it being extremely difficult. I stood by the word, especially Proverbs 22:6. It took a while but now I can’t get them out of church. Lol.  As teenagers and preteens, they feel that Bayside is home and know it’s a huge part of our lives. I’m so happy God gave me the strength and support to push through and keep attending during the tough times. Now we are reaping the blessings.”

  1. Don’t beat yourself up if your kids have walked away

Even a casual reading of the Bible shows that many of God’s kids rebelled against Him too – and He’s the perfect parent!  If your children have rebelled – or just walked away from their faith and the church, rest in the fact that you did your best and you did what you believed to be right at the time.  Entrust your kids into the hands of a loving heavenly parent who still has their best interest at heart.

So much more could be said, feel free to comment, share and interact on this topic and let’s help each other be even better parents.

Rob Buckingham

Senior Minister

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6 replies on “Should I Make My Children Come to Church?”

Kelly Goodsirsays:

Hi Rob,
A great objective read that reflects respectful relationships at the centre – regardless of age. I particular love the distinction between conversation not command – even though my child is only 3.5 years I have always valued his thoughts and opinions on matters that concern him and us as a family – to be heard is an important part of connecting with others and expressing value to a person – the outcomes are not always what we/they want but being invited into decision making is vital. A great post


I have this fear about the authority I hold and my conduct towards my children and their attendance at church. I believe I was quite religious with my first two children and of feeling I had too overcome the devil in this issue. When really I just needed to walk in the fruits of the spirit.
My oldest two are no longer attending church there is an 7 year gap between my first two and last two. Unfortunately being a single parent as well with the other parent a non practicing christian adds a bit of ‘fuel to the fire as to why not to go to church. ‘. Maybe I resent some of what Christians encourage in the church as in my house my rules and that I felt that my duty. Now I’m really needing new tactics as I believe this position is futile and destructive. Would love further discussions on this matter.

Annette Harleysays:

Both my children grew up in your church and at the age of 18 years old for both they made a choice and very glad to say they still go to church, but they were given a choice and that choice was their own, so glad to say, now my three grandsons believe and pray every night. My daughter is 30 this year and my son is 27. Don’t push your children guide them and they will find god a friend for life

Andrea Do Santossays:

I had stopped going to church regularly due to illness these last few years and have been attending a more traditional service as I have been able. While I found peace and sojourn there my son couldn’t relate to the service so I didn’t force him to come along. Meanwhile we have been having some issues at home, the usual ups and downs of a young boy entering into his teenage years but as an unwell single mother this has worried me a lot. By “coicidence” a friend from my son’s school invited us to their church and my son surprised me by engaging in worship (first time!) and by happily announcing to the church leader we’d be back every week!! Part of his attraction was his school mate being there but I also saw in my son some of those seeds from his childhood, my own commitment to make God part of our every day life through prayer, Bible reading and sharing experiences of the Lord working in our lives and his own joy and familiarity with a church family from the time when we did attend regularly, seeds that had grown into young stalks of faith in my son. The church offers a great kids ministry and there’s a nice group of boys my son’s age. While I had been happy plodding along with my occasional attendence what I see in this new church is an opportunity for community and the spiritual structures and supports for my son and I to partake in and participate with the Body of Christ. The fact my son was beaming when he said this was our new church let me know we are at the right place!


Hi Rob
Great topic and some practical suggestions. Important topic actually.
I will probably need to read this each week for another 10 years!
Thank you and God bless you


We don’t want to church hop and have been in our current church for almost 10 years now, but it is a small church in a country town and there are no other children my sons’ ages (13-17)so they have no Christian friends and because we homeschool they have no friends at all (they do sport but aren’t “close” to their team mates). They are starting to get bored with church even though they are all involved in service at the church. How can we help them be more excited about church and their faith? We have daily devotions at home and I am often having spiritual conversations with them but I wish church was more exciting for them and they had more opportunity to meet with on fire young people who would challenge them. There are no overseas mission trips available for youth in our church and inter-church youth functions that mean travelling away are not appealing to them. Thanks for your advice.

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