A few months ago my son woke up on a Sunday morning with clear signs of pneumonia. He has a history of such issues and I knew right away that a trip to the ER was needed to get control over his breathing before things became critical.
When I told my girls (ages 10 and 11 at the time) we would need to go to the hospital instead of church, you would have thought I had canceled their birthday trip to Disney World. They were not just upset, one of them started crying. I have to admit, I sat there a little bewildered. Is she really crying because we have to miss church?
I managed to find a way to drop the girls off with a friend so they could make it that morning, but the memory of their reaction stayed with me. I found myself thinking of myself as a child and remembering a less than favorable response to church. In fact, I am certain I never once cried when our family was unable to attend church.
Maybe you can relate. Perhaps your children (or even you) have less than pleasant feelings when Sunday morning rolls around. Is there anything you can do to help turn that around? Are there specific strategies to help your kids love church?
How to help your child LOVE church
I’m not going to pretend to have all the answers, but I do think there are many intentional ways we can encourage our kids and lay the foundation to help them truly love attending church. I’m sure you do some of these already. I hope you’ll read them and pat yourself on the back, as encouragement is something we all need. And I hope you find something new to implement along the way too!
Teach them that church is not boring.
I grew up thinking of church as a place to do fun things with my friends. I believe this impression of church came from the message I was sent in the pew: “This is boring and over your head. Let me entertain you with these coloring books, crayons, etc.” Maybe you know a kid like this.
I was that kid, entertained while in the pew and seeing little value in the sermon itself. Not only did I walk away from the church in college, I had almost no biblical truth in my heart to hold onto when times got tough in my life. Friend, does that shock you? After 18 years of attending church 3 times a week, I had very little to fall back on! That should shock and concern you as a Christian parent.
The truth—> Church is enjoyable and we don’t need to be entertained to want to go.
Oh what a mess this type of parenting has caused in our nation! Don’t you see it? Teens are walking away from the church because it’s not entertaining enough and we’ve not given them tools of faith to compel them to stay. We’re making church about friends, activities, and wacky youth group games so much so that they have no ability to see church for what it’s supposed to be.
So many people today are only satisfied if there is a gadget in one hand and a senseless movie on the screen. If we want our kids to be serious about God, we’re going to have to stop entertaining them to death. And we’re going to need to do a better job with the message we send about church. (More on this topic here.)
Help them develop relationships with the church.
You’ve heard it said: church is the people- not the buildings or programs. But do you act that way? Does your family have deep relationships with people in your church? Do your kids have these relationships?
Every time I meet a single mom who says she has no support, my heart breaks. This is the job of the church, to care for and stand fast with people who are hurting. I want to get angry with churches for dropping this ball, but a little digging usually reveals it’s not so much the church after all.
These single moms usually aren’t plugged into a church. They aren’t making an effort to build relationships. They feel judged, unloved, or as if they don’t fit in. This isn’t unique to single moms, either. In fact, I think many Christians feel this way. They keep the church family at a distance and wonder why no one cares for them. They are careful to get involved, but then wonder why their kids don’t want to go to church.
The truth—> If we are involved with our church and building relationships, our children will long to be with the people they love.
Do you see the irony in that? Get involved. Go to Sunday School or small group meetings. Be there when the doors open. Go to special events. Stay late. Come early. Enjoy God’s people and get to know them. They will love you not judge you. And if for some reason I’m wrong about your church, the fix is simple. Find a new one.
Of course, we have to be careful not to make this our only tactic. If we are relying on friends and relationships to help us enjoy church, we have missed a big piece of the puzzle. We will need much more to motivate us than that!
Focus on spiritual growth.
There are so many things to consider when picking a church. We look at size, music style, location, dress code, and more. But we need to be focused on something far more important: spiritual growth.
The truth—> If our church is helping us grow spiritually, we will long to come back.
Our spiritual growth should be the primary goal of going to church. If we are growing, we will desire more of God, making it our heart’s desire to come back again. This is what we want for our kids. We want them to see how church helps them deal with the daily trials of life.
Make sure your church is truly helping with this. Not all churches will feed you and help you grow. Don’t be hesitant to look elsewhere if you find your church isn’t doing this.
Church is not a spectator sport. In fact, the whole thing is a disaster if we don’t step in. I was once in a church that refused to ask people to volunteer. The elders felt asking was putting pressure on people and made them feel uncomfortable. The result was having to ask a local college sorority to send over volunteers to run preschool and elementary classes. There simply weren’t enough people to do it.
Can you imagine your child in Sunday School being taught by a local secular college student who had free time on Sunday morning to volunteer? The attitude from church members should have been one of extreme shock. This is our church, a church of over 5,000 members and no one can possibly teach the 2-year-olds? We should have been ashamed at how we mishandled what God trusted us with. But instead, the comfort of people was made a priority.
The truth—> Getting involved in the needs of the church will help our children feel a sense of ownership.
Christian, we SHOULD feel uncomfortable if there is a need in our church we can fulfill, but aren’t doing! God calls us to step up and help this church thing function. No one is called to sit on the bench. Your kids included. The more times they attend a church workday or help out in the nursery, the more they will feel the need for their attendance.
Of course, we do have to be careful not to be busy bodies at the church and must remember there are seasons when health or circumstances keep us from being active. We can’t take it to the extreme. Everyone has a part and we all have other duties God has called us to. But we can all find ways to be a part of what is going on. If we don’t, we are missing the biggest blessing of the process.
Praise your church.
This one might seem odd, but it’s crucial. Have you ever talked with your kids about why you chose the church you are attending? It’s likely that you drive past half a dozen other churches on the way to yours. Why? What makes you keep coming back?
It’s helpful for your kids when you talk about why you go to church and what you love about it. Especially since your attitude can sometimes send the opposite message. Don’t let that happen. Share specifics on why you attend this church over another one. (Not in a negative or judgmental way- just in a way to help them see why you love it.) One day your kids will need to choose a church and now is a great time to help them see what makes a great church so great.
The truth—> Teaching kids why we love our church gives them reasons to feel the same way.
In the process, you’ll help them articulate what they love about the church in their own hearts. You’ll be amazed at what this can do for their faith as well as their desire to attend church. (By the way, I’ve written a resource to help with this. You can read more about it here.)
Consider their needs and desires.
It’s no shock to you that kids are different. My two oldest kids couldn’t be more different than one another. The oldest will go into a sermon and write 4-5 pages of tiny notes. Her sister? Generally comes out with a handful of words and several drawings. I’ve got to be honest. This drives me nuts! I’m much more like my oldest and it’s easy for me to claim that one cannot get anything out of the sermon unless it results in 4 pages of thoughtful notes.
The truth—> Being sensitive to the unique needs of our kids will help them feel successful at church instead of frustrated.
We have to be careful not to put our kids in boxes like this. Of course, I expect both girls to be able to talk to me about the sermon when it’s over, but I need to be willing to allow them to process the info in a way that is most meaningful to them. This is also true for my son. At the age of 8, he is still attending children’s church. My oldest was next to me in the pew by the age of 5.
If I had my way, we’d sit together as a family. The trouble is, my 8-year-old seriously struggles to sit still. And honestly? This is a distraction for all of us. I am fortunate enough to attend a church that takes children’s church very seriously and sees it as a way to prepare kids for “big church.” (You won’t find them out playing soccer during church.) I had to learn to be ok with my son attending children’s church because it worked better for him and for the rest of us.
Be honest about feelings.
Sometimes we don’t feel like going to church. Yeah, I know we don’t want anyone to know that, but we have to stop hiding. It’s true about you as much as it’s true about me. There are hard days. It might be our own struggles, circumstances, or stresses of the week. Perhaps we are a little under the weather and just want to stay in bed. Or, ahem, maybe we stayed up too late the night before.
The truth—> Showing our kids how to cope with feelings equips them for the storm.
Sometimes we are thinking about a death or circumstance that makes church hard. I’ve experienced many of these. One is Father’s Day. It’s a day I’ve always hated. It brings great pain into my heart and I’ve walked out of so many services as a result.
Whatever the reason for our feelings, our kids need to see that sometimes it’s hard. They need to see that we aren’t always a spiritual fortress and they need to understand how we deal with those days. We can’t fool ourselves into thinking they won’t experience them!
Are you guilty of any of these? What else have you found useful in helping your kids enjoy church? Share your thoughts!
Through practical tools & Bible-based resources, Kim Sorgius is dedicated to helping your family GROW in faith so you can be Not Consumed by life’s struggles. Author of popular kid’s devotional Bible studies and practical homeschooling tools, Kim has a master’s degree in education and curriculum design coupled with over 2 decades of experience working with kids and teens. Above all, her most treasured job is mother and homeschool teacher of four amazing kiddos.