Christian Articles Archive

I Won't Force My Kids to Go to Church

by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson

"I won't force my kids to go to church."

I've heard this before. I used to let it pass, but no more. I care about kids too much. Why? I ask.

"I was forced to go to church when I was a child and I resented it. For a long time after that, I didn't go to church at all. I'm not going to do that to my kids."

Do you make Jason and Jennifer to come to the table when it's mealtime?

"Sure."

Aren't you afraid they'll hate eating when they grow up?

"That's silly."

Do you force Jennifer to make her bed?

"Of course, ever since she's been old enough. We make our bed; she makes her bed. Should we let her grow up to be a slob?"

Free Will

I smile. But aren't you violating her sense of free will by making her clean her room? Shouldn't you let her make her own decision about that?

"When she gets out on her own she can leave her room sloppy if she wants, but as long as she's in our home she can learn to make her bed."

It sounds like you're making your kids toe the line.

"They know we love them, and it's for their own good! I don't want anyone coming up to me and saying, 'Your kid is a spoiled brat.' You can tell a lot about a child's parents by how the child acts, you know."

The Importance of Education

Would you let Jason drop out of school if he wanted to?

"Not if I had anything to say about it! If my kids don't get a good education, they won't be able to get a decent job down the road."

I feign surprise. That doesn't seem fair.

"Fairness has nothing to do with it. That's the way life is. They may not understand it now, but they will when they're older."

You mean you're forcing them to go to school?

"You've got the picture."

Now let's talk about church.

"I told you, I'm going to let my kids make up their own minds about what church they go to. That ought to be their decision."

Just like going to school is their decision?

"That's different."

What's the difference? You seem to really care that Jason and Jennifer grow up right. How can you teach them about life and leave them entirely ignorant about Jesus? You're acting as if you were an atheist.

The Power of Example

"Now don't get me wrong. I believe in God. But my parents made me go to Sunday school. They said, 'You have to go.' So they'd get me dressed and drop me off and say, 'We'll pick you up after church.'"

Why did you quit going?

"Oh, you know. When I was 12 or 13 I just stopped going."

You mean since Mom and Dad didn't think God was worth the effort for themselves, you decided that church wasn't a thing real adults do?

"I never thought of it that way."

Our children will resent church if we make them do what we don't do ourselves. You've taught them to hate hypocrisy, I'm sure. I've found that we can drive our kids or we can lead them, but only leading works in the long run. If you come to church with your children you send a message loud and clear: God is important to our family. If you send them to church by themselves they get that message, too. Kids aren't stupid.

"Yeah, I guess you're right."

By the way, do you consider yourself a Christian?

"Sure, I guess so. You know, I learned all about Jesus when I was a kid."

You've got an advantage over your son and daughter, don't you.

"How do you mean?" 

Responsibility

They'll never have a chance to learn what you learned as a child, will they? By your neglect, you're helping to damn their souls. 

"I'm doing no such thing!" 

Oh? You take responsibility to see that they get an education, but not that they come to know God? What if they never receive Jesus as their Savior? What if they miss out on heaven? 

"That wouldn't be fair." 

You accept the fact that education is linked to getting a job. You don't ask employers to change their rules to accommodate Jason and Jennifer. But when it comes to God, you're going to call His rules unfair? Be consistent. You are responsible to lead your children in the ways of God. No one else.

"But how about their own free will?"

When they are children, God expects us parents to make right decisions for them so when they are adults they will know how to make right decisions for themselves.

"Won't Jennifer and Jason have a chance to decide for themselves when they're teenagers or adults?"

Maybe, if you set an example of faith that points them in the right direction. Some people do come to Jesus as adults, but too often not until they've experienced an awful lot of hurt and pain. You are responsible now; they are responsible later. But what you do now will affect them forever.

"So what do you recommend?"

Two Choices

You have two choices. Don't expect them to trust in God unless you will set the example for them. Bring them to church with you. Give their faith a chance to sprout when they're young so it can mature as they grow.

"You said there were two choices."

Yes. The other one is doing what you are doing now. Nothing. They'll never know what they're missing.

"Never?"

Maybe "never" is too strong a word. Let's say they may not know until it's too late.
 

Copyright © 1985-2014, Ralph F. Wilson. <pastor@joyfulheart.com> All rights reserved. A single copy of this article is free. Do not put this on a website. See legal, copyright, and reprint information.

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