Should You Force Your Teenager To Go To Church?

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

Do you believe you should force your teenager to go to church?

A Matter of Choice

I cannot tell you as a parent what you should or shouldn’t do. Even though I’m now a grandfather, and all my children are adults, that still doesn’t qualify me to tell you whether you should force your teenager to go to church or not. That’s a matter of personal opinion, and it depends very much upon the age and circumstances of the teenager. There is never a one-size-fits-all rule for any parent and child. There are far too many things to take under consideration. One such consideration is when a parent doesn’t go to church but still insists that their teenager does. That can make it much more difficult for the teen to want to go to church. In this case, they look at it this way; “Do what I say, not what I do.” This form of hypocrisy makes it a hard pill to swallow for a teenager, especially if the parent or parents are not living anywhere close to a godly life. This might actually do more harm than good to force the child to go. For example, if a teenager is forced to go to church, they might subconsciously or willfully resist learning anything about God, as a way of getting back at their parent(s).


Giving them a Pass

I have read of examples where parents allowed their children to skip church if they “didn’t feel like it” or just didn’t want to go anymore. Some allowed their teens to stop going to church as young as 13 years of age. I think this is wrong. Children are not old enough to make decisions that are of such importance. What if they thought that way about school? What if they didn’t feel like going to the dentist? You see my reasoning, don’t you? With a “hands off” policy on Sunday mornings, all you’ll do is create a growing gap between the things of God and the things of the world, and you know which way they’ll gravitate too. Once they stop attending church, they start to drift away from God, and eventually, they may want nothing more to do with God. Nature abhors a vacuum, so whatever biblical knowledge is missing, will be filled up with the things of the world. Just like anything else in life, what is sown the most, is reaped the most. I remember hearing a man asked, “’Which of your two dogs is the alpha male (the dominant one)?’  He said, ‘The one I feed the most,’” so whatever they fill their minds with is what they will become more like. Our goal as Christian parents is to grow and become more like Christ, so we read His Word, listen to His teachings, so that we’ll know how to do that. In other words, what you think…you are! The same thing goes for teenagers. What goes in, is what comes out, so parents who defer to their child’s wishes about going to church, and especially at too young of an age, are telling their children, “Do what seems right in your own eyes,” and we know how badly that turns out (Gen 2; Prov 12:15, 21:2).

No More Pressure

Sometimes it must feel like the hardest thing in the world is to get your teen up on a Sunday morning to bring them to church. Perhaps your teenager(s) might not want to go to church because they feel pressured to be saved. Years ago, after a mother asked her young son if he wanted Jesus to come into his heart, the young boy headed for the kitchen. When he was reaching for a steak knife, his mother came in and screamed, “What are you doing!?” The young boy’s reply changed my life forever. He said, “I was going to let Jesus into my heart.” The young mother’s mistake is a lot of parent’s mistake. They try to coax their children into being saved, when it is God Who calls and chooses whom He will choose. And we don’t know what age God may call them. It’s not our responsibility to get our children saved. It is their response to His ability, although it is parent’s responsibility to share the gospel. But then, once they do, they must back off and allow God’s Spirit time to work in their hearts. God brings repentance; parents never do. Anything a parent can talk their child into, someone else can talk them out of; it must be the work of God (John 6:44).

Be an Example

I remember writing about teaching children the gospel, and an older mentor of mine reminded me of being an example as a Sunday school teacher. If you’re not living a godly example, then you’ll lose their respect and their desire to live a godly life might be diminished, but also, a very important element in teaching children about God is to remind them of His power and glory. Instead of using parents as the prime example, why not remind them of the mighty works of God. It’s no wonder that God commanded Israelite parents to teach them about the mighty miracles that God had done for Israel, and the wonderful works that Jesus did during His earthly ministry. What better role model is there than Jesus Christ? When you make out God to be as big as He really is, the Lord can be magnified in their eyes. That truly is God’s will, for He seeks to be glorified, including Jesus Christ, Who is God. Parents, teachers, grandparents, foster parents, you all (and I), have a huge responsibility in reminding them of all that God has done. Giving children the proper view of a very big God, should shrink their problems into smaller things. Everything is under God’s shadow. If their problems are that big, then their God is too small.


I cannot tell you what to do, and I am certainly no expert, but if nothing else, making your teenager go to church, especially if they’re still under age, is not a bad thing. Some parents let their teens choose when they reach age 16 or at age 17. Certainly it would prove difficult to try and force a legal adult to go to church, so how much more your own teenager if they’re 18 or older. That could do more harm than good. Besides, I doubt your child is going to let you force them to do anything if they’re an adult, and the last thing a parent wants to do is damage this relationship so badly, that they cutoff their relationship with their children, altogether. Pray for God’s wisdom in this. Each child is different. Seek the counsel of other Christian parents, church leaders, or older, more experienced parents and grandparents who have already gone through this. There is help out there.

Take a look at this related article: 7 Christian Family Rules for Teenagers

Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Gianeliz Rivera October 5, 2017 at 4:28 pm

Thank you so much. This helped me try to understand if my parents shouldn’t force me to go to church. To be honest, I wasn’t completely satisfied about your answer at first, but then I had to take it in and accept it. I really needed this message, thank you.


Jack Wellman October 5, 2017 at 5:10 pm

Thank you for the encouragement and may God richly bless you Gianeliz.


Lance October 9, 2017 at 10:15 pm

Jack – I’ve read a couple of your posts and have a question for you about church attendance.

The Greek word “kuriakos” or church only show’s up in the New Testament twice while “ekklesia” – which correctly translated means a “body or gathering of select people” appears in the New Testament approximately 115 times and was recorded as the exact words Christ spoke when talking about His people and His following.

King James made fifteen specific edicts pertaining to the Biblical translations of the KJV, and one of those edicts (edict number three) stated that this Bible was to use the word “church” in the translation and not the word “gathering.” Some speculate this edict was for greater control over the physical property.

So if a Christian is attending a regular gathering of other believers, say a small group, while also praying, worshiping, and reading the Bible on their own, is there really a need to attend a corporate Sunday “Church?”


Jack Wellman October 10, 2017 at 1:24 pm

Hello Lance. Do you take communion or visit the sick, the poor. clothe the naked, and so on (Matt 25:34-40)? Do you have church discipline and the sacraments and go out to share the gospel and make disciples of all nations (Matt 28:18-20). Most small groups do few of these things….besides, we cannot forsake the assembling of ourselves as is the manner of some. Why don’t you like gathering with the church? What troubles you about meeting together in a sacred assembly?


Liz May 5, 2018 at 11:44 pm

Hi my 14 year old daughter wants nothing to do with God.. she says being a Christian is Ruining her life. She has moved away from her Christian friend at church who is home school (Grace is in public school) she is listening to worldly music which she never did until she attended secondary. She’s been brought up as a Christian though me and my husband only found God in our late 30s just after having her, we to have been on a journey with God. It breaks my heart to watch my daughters personality change from happy to very sullen as she tries to fit in with her peers. I have Christian plaques which she wants me to take down so her “friends” van come round which I don’t mind however she says they ask questions and this makes her very uncomfortable. She was so sensitive to the Holy Spirit before she went to big school now she doesn’t want Jesus ..I am heart broken. I be been struggling to get her to church and she’s has become very lazy she no longer wants to attend and refuses to go. I keep praying and looking up stuff .. nothing is clear.. I’ve made her go to church but she seems to resent it even more and this scares me as it am I doing the right thing.


Jack Wellman May 6, 2018 at 5:39 pm

Hello Liz. I am so very sorry for your daughter’s personality change. You cannot take these Christian plaques down as you know, so that tells me she is hostile to Christ and the things of God. She may have never truly been saved because a person who lives this way over a period of time doesn’t seem to have what the Bible calls, the love of God (read 1 John chapter 3). I am praying right after I post this because only God can change her heart (Prov 21:1), so other than making her suffer privileges lost, like phone, Internet, video games, or whatever, you cannot do much else. Most children who become adults appreciate them bring them to church, but you cannot base your decision on how she feels. If she is 16, she may have a legal right not to go (depending on the state) but at 14, she is not an adult & cannot make those decisions. I would see if she would go with you for counseling. Probably not, but just love her, but be firm, and stand your ground. If she sees you and your husband cave in on this (no church, no Christian plaques), then that lets her know she can change your mind by her behavior, and so her behavior rules the home and not her parents. It’s hard, but we must be the parents.


Joe Bigliogo March 26, 2020 at 8:13 pm

Here is some advice from an atheist perspective, Matt Dillahunty’s to be specific. He says go to church as your parents ask. While there listen carefully and take lots of notes. List all the things you most object to and after church… proceed to ask lots of questions and if the answers are not satisfying… question the answers. After some time your parents may give up asking you to attend. if not the knowledge you gain about the beliefs can help you defend against various apologists and other obnoxious Christians in their attempts to impose this iron age messianic belief system on you.


Jack Wellman March 26, 2020 at 8:33 pm

By your own words you are juding those you accuse of doing the same thing, worshiping an “iron age messianic belief system” but you are imposing your own belief system, and that is there is no God. Something you cannot ever prove but do not believe in. Children are under their parents for good reason until they are adult and their parents are responsible for the before God and before society. Your own labeling (obnoxious Christians) has made your argument full of duplicity. Even so, I am glad you commented. Christians need to see both sides.


Lieutenant De Corone August 11, 2021 at 2:06 pm

Teenagers have to be free for choosing to be churchy or not.

Otherwise it is spirit and mind control and rape.

Oh archangel Mickael.

Oh Saint Yves.

Punish all the earthian church who abuse teens in their spirit or in their body or commonly both.


Jack Wellman August 11, 2021 at 2:40 pm

Hello my friend. The vast majority of churches do not abuse their youth. Most abuse comes from the home (93%). It is not mind control. Children need the morals and principles taught in the Bible so they will be better citizens. To let your children choose their own path is to leave them to the Devil, the world, and their friends. Any parent that does this is sinning and a negligent parent whom God will hold accountable for their neglect or hands off approach to things taught by God or Christ. They will learn…either from God’s Word or from the world. These parents will be sorry someday but when it will be too late. It is not about being “churchy” but about laying down a foundation of godly tenets for their life. I pray you repent of these unbiblical ideas for it’s contrary to Scripture, i.e., Proverbs 22:6. 6 Train up a child in the way he should go; …
Ephesians 6:4. …
Deuteronomy 6:6-7. …
Proverbs 13:24. …
Psalm 127:3. …
Deuteronomy 6:7. …
Isaiah 54:13. …
2 Timothy 3:14-15.


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