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[This is an excerpt from Sticky Faith: Everyday Ideas to Help Build Lasting Faith in Your Kids, by Dr. Kara E. Powell and Dr. Chap Clark. They come from different faith traditions than we do, so some of their language may be a bit different from what we would use, and some of their ideas may not work in our context. I hope, though, that this can be a springboard for wisely thinking through a situation many Christian parents face. Also, please feel free to talk with me if you are struggling through something along these lines--I probably won't have many answers, but I am a willing listener who cares about you and your young people. :) ]

About half of the time I share the importance of intergenerational worship with parents, I get asked, “Should I make my kid go to church?” Believe me, as much as I am an advocate for intergenerational worship, I’m not naïve about how teenagers feel about sitting through church. I felt that way a fair amount myself as a kid.

This is a tough question, one I wish we could discuss over coffee so I could ask more questions about your kids and family. But not knowing your specific family, let me say this: while your long-term goal is intergenerational connection primarily in and with a church family, the first hurdle is to help your kid to feel like they are part of something they are choosing and enjoy. Forced friendships do not work very well for adolescents. Depending on the issues your child is dealing with and why they do not want to go, perhaps you could consider the following:

  1. Make sure your kids know that, as important as church is to you as the parent, you respect their desire not to go. At the same time, let them know that being a part of God’s family is an important part of your family’s life.
  2. Find ways to connect your child to Christian friends in casual or organic settings. As these intentional relationships develop and deepen, your child will have a greater internal incentive to get involved.
  3. Find out what, if any, faith activities they would like or are willing to be part of. (I would do all you can to steer away from “making” them attend.) Perhaps a parachurch group, or a different church’s worship service, or a Bible study would help them feel more connected and involved. Sometimes a friend’s church or youth group will become a place where they can connect with a faith community.
  4. In the end, do your best to seek a compromise. Depending on their age and your family’s circumstance, ask your child to attend with you once a month, especially if they are plugged in somewhere else, and to do it out of love and respect for you and your faith. If they are attending a different church, you should probably offer to attend that church with them monthly also.