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Church, When Kids Don't Want To Go

sad boy

Parenting experts report, “Many teens start slacking off on youth group and church attendance” (Cline & Fay 193). For some parents, nothing can be quite as painful as watching a child lose interest in church, even though most children go through this as a normal part of adolescence.

Sometimes—because we truly want what’s best for our kids—we begin to demand that a child or teen go to church or participate in church activities. Often these demands seem to alienate children even further from religious activity.

The focus on families in the church can increase the struggle for parents who find themselves attending church without their children. But you’re not alone. Keep saving a place on your bench: Many children avoid church because of a temporary conflict or the desire to catch your attention and make their statement.

Relaxed Encouragement

As long as the absence from religious observance is not accompanied by self-destructive behavior, parenting experts encourage us to handle the refusal with a relaxed but encouraging attitude.   
“By encouraging their children to go to church without demanding it, [parents] are recognizing that a kiss demanded is not a kiss received, and church commanded is not a church believed” (Cline & Fay 194).

crying toddler boy

Think of yourself as a missionary called to convert your child. Think of tactics a missionary would use: building a relationship of trust, inviting consistently, praying together, and so on. Think also of tactics a missionary wouldn’t use: forcing, bribing, or coercing.

Love, Love, and Love

Children will be more likely to return to full religious activity if they feel loved and supported—regardless of their choice to attend church or not.   
Ultimately the choice to return has to be their own. If our children are not receiving the positive influences the church has to offer, the positive influence of family becomes that much more important.

angry boy

Many religions that require great sacrifice and effort (the Amish and the Orthodox Jews, for example) acknowledge that conversion must be a choice made by children independent from their families and other outside influences.

Generally it is more effective to simply let your child know that you’d like her to go to church, rather than emphasize how much she needs to go (Cline & Fay 194). Continue to invite her: “I’d love for you to come with me tomorrow.” She might surprise you and accept the invitation.

girl lying on top of woman and man on couch

Concern for our children often turns us quickly to the Lord. Through meeting these challenges, we can grow closer to our Savior and build our own testimonies.

Parenting experts have these comforting words for struggling parents: “But have faith. Disliking church is most likely a stage” (Cline & Fay 194). Even when a child wanders, we can continue as an “example of the believers” (1 Timothy 4:12), inviting our child to join us in our church activity, thinking of ourselves as missionaries called to teach them, and trusting in the Lord.

Like Alma the Elder and King Mosiah (Mosiah 27), we can ask for and anticipate the Lord’s hand in guiding our children to a greater good, even if it takes time.


Cline, Foster, & Jim Fay. Parenting Teens with Love and Logic. Colorado Springs, CO: Pinion Press, 2006.