Bibles For The Nations

What Do I Do When My Teen Doesn't Want to Attend Church?

During my teenage years, my Christian friends persuaded me to attend service at their respective churches. Thus, I participated in worship services in a few congregations before settling on one.

Surprisingly, in contrast to everyone’s initial assumptions, I did not choose the church frequented by my best friend. The ambiance in her church failed to evoke a sense of warmth and togetherness. A sentiment most insecure teenagers ardently yearn for.

In essence, teenagers are more likely to be innately attached to a place or remain a part of a community where they can experience the comforting warmth of unconditional love, and acceptance, a profound sense of belongingness and kinship.

Changes During Puberty

When dealing with teenagers, we must take into account dramatic shifts in their physical, cognitive, and emotional functions. Thus, feelings of insecurity can creep in, as most teens are racked with self-doubt and low self-esteem, making them vulnerable to the condescending comments of people around them. Their insecurities can be easily provoked and exacerbated by any form of criticism. 

Parents and the church must then be cognizant of these abrupt transformations that can push kids off the edge. These life transitions can cause stress, isolation, and discomfort that, if left unabated, can lead to severe emotional and mental issues for some adolescents. 

Acknowledging the physiological upheavals and the psychological impacts of these changes on their mood and behavior is crucial to ignite teens' enthusiasm and fervor in attending church regularly.

We must do so because the more we acknowledge and understand these changes, the better equipped we become in influencing their behavior and line of thinking.

Acceptance Does Not Mean Approval of Reprehensible Behavior

“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6, KJV

Showing them unbounded love and acceptance is not akin to being tolerant of their obstinate behaviors.

Nonetheless, it is possible to maintain a strong bond with your children even while voicing your disapproval of their morally aberrant actions and attitudes. Given this, modifying their behavior without resorting to vicious language is the key. Failure to do so will make them feel utterly demeaned and despised, which can galvanize them to rebel and skip church more frequently than necessary. Or worse, eschew attending church altogether.

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.” Colossians 3:21

Pastor Jack Hibbs on Raising Children

During an interview with the actor and evangelist Kirk Cameron, pastor Jack Hibbs advocated the urgency of imposing discipline on children when they misbehave. He also advised parents not to be friends with their children but instead adopt a role of parental authority to transform children's wayward behavior. 

He further stated that parents must wield their influence with a firm yet nurturing hand, enabling them to guide and adopt corrective measures in chastening their children while refraining from resorting to severe punishment that may incite defiance and rebellion.

Pastor Jack also asserted that parents must extend grace and mercy from time to time, provided the child is remorseful of his mistakes.

By exhibiting goodwill and compassion when children should be castigated, parents are modeling the character of Christ. Children would then have a comprehensive appreciation of God’s inherent nature. A recognition that the Almighty is not solely a disciplinarian but also a merciful and gracious God. Having such a positive perception of the Almighty will bring children closer to Him.

The Love of Christ Is Not Yet Etched Deeply in Their Hearts

In our spiritual journey, our love for God can fluctuate from fervent to indifferent. The same is true for teenagers. Nevertheless, spiritually mature people will persevere in attending church regardless of how they feel. In contrast, teenagers often end up skipping or abandoning the church even when faced with the most trivial excuses or the slightest provocation because they have yet to reach a level of maturity in their faith.

Church attendance is also correlated with people’s passion for Christ. Ideally, a teenager’s keenness for participating in church services must be spawned by the love they have for Christ, not just by the promptings or incessant demands of parents.

Thus, parents are duty-bound to instill the love for Christ in their children's hearts.

We can do so in a myriad of ways. One of which is by carving a few minutes in our day to engage children with the Scripture, fostering a lively discourse about the Almighty.

“These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.” Deuteronomy 6:6-9, NIV

The Pastor's Impact

According to a study, “a majority of teens indicated that they most admire and emulate those with whom they maintain a personal connection, friendship, or interaction.”

And their most common reason (26%) for emulating certain people was their personality traits.

As a teenager, I vividly remember how my enthusiasm and zeal for attending church waned because of a character flaw our pastor had. (I would rather not divulge what that unsavory character was.) On the other hand, I also recall being so enthralled by the teachings of a pastor from another congregation who I looked up to because of his genuine affection for the people in the church. He also had this knack for delivering a sermon that resonated with the young.

The relevance and insightfulness of the pastor’s teachings often resonated with me, and by the time the service ended, I found myself craving more.

I was just 14 years old at that time, and yet, the heartfelt teachings of the pastor about Christ moved my spirit in ways I could not put into words. Considering how long-spun preachings can bore me to tears, the pastor’s ability to sustain my interest in his drawn-out sermon was no small feat.

Thus, it illustrates how a conscientious pastor who teaches about God’s words in a way that resonates with young people can motivate the latter to immerse themselves in the teachings of Christ. As a result, teens are more inclined and invigorated to attend church consistently. 

Watch a Faith-Based Movie Once a Week

In our modern age, when the entertainment industry is bombarding children with inappropriate content, encouraging children to watch films that extol traditional Christian values should be the norm in our homes.

Watching faith-based movies can draw children closer to God. I should know because it was a movie about Christ that made me love God more profoundly. 

When I was a child, it was customary for our family to gather together and watch the movie Jesus of Nazareth every year during Lent. It’s a poignant and life-changing film by Franco Zeffirelli (1977). I recall crying buckets of tears as I watched that sobering and tragic scene on Calvary Hill. The sight of His lifeless body, drenched in blood, moved me to tears. As young as I was, I felt a profound sense of gratitude for the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross for me.

Thus, should you aspire to cultivate an enduring and profound love for the Almighty in the hearts of your children, you may find it helpful to watch Christian movies once a week with them. The sooner, the better. 

We can also schedule a few minutes of time in the morning and the evening for prayer and reflection on the Scriptures. As they delve deeper into God’s words, their understanding of the Almighty deepens. Consequently, they will develop an immense affection for Him, with their hearts and minds fully attuned to His presence.

Pray Unceasingly for Your Children

Never underestimate the power of persistent prayer to transform children's challenging behavior. As Christians, we have all witnessed how the power of prayer transformed people and changed lives. Nonetheless, patience is key when waiting for God’s response to our prayers.

Be reminded that the unwavering prayer of a parent is powerful. You will witness the gradual transformation of your child's character in due time–because a steadfast prayer that is aligned with God’s will ultimately yields the desired outcome. 

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Matthew 7:7-8, NKJV

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