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.