A parent can force their child to go to church until they reach a certain age. While there’s no specific recommendation, it’s best to let your child make this decision for themself, which usually happens around puberty. Forcing an adolescent child to go to church can have far-reaching consequences.
Faith is a core component in the lives of many people. As a religious parent, it’s only natural that you want your children to follow in your faith-filled footsteps – but what if they don’t want to? Can parents force their children to go to church?
No God-fearing parent wants to hear their child say, “I don’t want to go to church,” but these are words that we all might be on the receiving end of one day. If you wind up in this situation, everything you need to know about handling it with grace will be found in today’s article.
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Can Children Be Forced To Go To Church?
Parents can force their children to go to church in the same way they can force them to go to school, brush their teeth, eat their leafy greens, and do their homework. Truth be told, it’s a case of “my house, my rules” at play.
For as long as your child is under your roof, you can dictate what they do. Within reason, of course. This approach to parenting is acceptable when it comes to other aspects of children’s lives, so why is it considered such a controversial approach when it comes to The Church?
“Force” is a tremendously strong word that comes with many negative connotations in today’s day and age. But the reality is that parents are forced to make their children do things every single day.
As a parent, you’re in charge of fulfilling your child’s needs – physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Sometimes meeting their spiritual needs means forcing them to go to church.
Up until a child turns a certain age, you can force them to go to church without the fear of facing any moral, social, or ethical backlash. After all, all you’re trying to do is provide your children with a firm faith-based foundation upon which to build their lives.
But when your child reaches an age where they’re capable of making their own decisions, asking their own questions, and coming to their own conclusions, it’s in the best interest of the family unit to respect their right to religious freedom.
According to article 14 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, all children have a right to freedom of thought. And conscience. And – you guessed it – religion. And while there is no law prohibiting parents from forcing their children to go to church at this point, just because something isn’t illegal doesn’t mean we should do it.
Why Doesn’t Your Child Want To Go To Church?
As much as you may want to deck your kid out in their Sunday best and drag them to a morning service, you need to find out why they don’t want to go to church. Sure, it could be a case of kids being kids and finding the act of going to church boring, but there could be more profound issues at play.
Some reasons why your child may not want to go to church could include:
- Another child at the church could be bullying them
- They may be frustrated that they aren’t finding the answers to their specific questions
- They may be feeling overwhelmed by academics and want to use that time to study
- They may not have any solid social ties to the particular church or youth program
- They don’t believe in God and therefore feel that what they learn in church is irrelevant to them
While you may not know what the reason may be, there is definitely a reason. And as a parent, it is your job to find out your child’s reason for not wanting to attend church. Only then can you try to remedy the situation.
What Does The Bible Say About Forcing Kids To Attend Church?
As is often the case with life’s questions, the answers can be found in the Bible. In the pages of the Bible, we are told that it is our responsibility as parents to encourage our kids to love God and share the Gospel with them.
It’s not easy fulfilling this responsibility when a member of your family unit doesn’t want to soak up the spirit on Sundays.
Here are some helpful pieces of scripture that can help you decide how hard you want to push your child to go to church:
- Exodus 20:12
- Colossians 3:20
- Ephesians 6: 1 – 2
- Deuteronomy 6:7
- Proverbs 13:24
- Proverbs 19:18
- Proverbs 22:6
- Proverbs 22:15
What Are The Pros and Cons Of Forcing Your Children To Go Church?
Sometimes you may feel that you’re forcing your child to go to church, in the same way that you force them to get out of bed on a cold morning. Other times you genuinely force them in the true sense of the word as they have made it abundantly clear that going to church is not something they want to do.
But going to church plays a pivotal role in the spiritual life of many families. And if you were to approach this matter in a Biblical manner, your children should obey you. It’s as simple as that.
Many benefits can stem from forcing your child to attend church. For starters, you’re fulfilling your commitment to the Lord by raising your children to know and serve Him.
One particular verse, Proverbs 22:6, commands us to “Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
This verse essentially means that what we teach our children now will stay with them well into adulthood. For many, a foundation of faith is all they want for their children. And children are sponges that absorb all the information we put in front of them, so what they learn at church is what they cling onto as they grow older.
On the other hand, forcing your child to go to church can have highly negative consequences. When they get older, they may associate going to church as a type of chore or abandon their faith altogether – neither of which any parent wants.
What Can You Do If Your Child Doesn’t Want To Go To Church?
Although the Bible instructs followers to gather together, if your child honestly doesn’t want to go to church and you don’t want to risk them losing their faith, there are ways around this.
- Incorporate prayer, praise, and worship into your home life
- Educate your child on how to read the Bible, interpret, and understand its words from the comfort of their home
- Encourage your child to listen to the Word through podcasts and audiobooks
- Subscribe to religious YouTube channels
The Church is incredibly important, but so is the long-term relationship your child stands to have with God. The quote “Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car” rings true in this instance.
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At the end of the day, you’re the parent. And this means that you can force your child or children to go to church when they don’t want to. But faith is a fragile thing, as is a child’s mind, so it’s best that you approach both with caution.
The recommendation? Handle what you can and give the rest to God. Talk openly with your children about why you want them to attend church and get to the bottom of why they don’t want to.
After earning his Master of Social Work from the University of Toronto, Stuart gained experience working with families in community mental health settings and in the child protection sector. Since becoming a father himself, Stuart now works in private practice offering psychotherapy services. FatherResource is an opportunity for Stuart to share what he learns on his journey as a father with a larger audience.