Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Mom, I don't want to go to church

After posting on my "theme for 2014: surrender" in January, I have some follow up observations.

This is how I ended the post: "right away I was faced with having to Surrender something to God - or otherwise fret over it and try to control it.  My 12 year old daughter has developed a bad attitude about going to church with us, and when I questioned her more about it, she said she has no interest in the Bible or learning more about God or Jesus."

This is my struggle: facing a bad attitude every Sunday when I tell her it's time to get ready to go to church. She's bored there; she wants the time to pursue her own interests instead. I tell her that sometimes I don't like going to church either, and I try to be honest with God about that.  I admit to him, okay, I'm bored at church, but I don't want to be; give me a heart for worshipping you; give me a heart to look to your people today instead of myself and what I want.  I believe we should give a special time to God for worshiping him and learning about him with other believers. God gives us so much, I believe it's not too much to ask to give him and his people a couple hours of our undivided attention.

She's not impressed by my thoughts on this. Lately I've just wanted to give in, let her stay home. It's hard to face arguments about it every week; it threatens to drain my own enjoyment and worship at church. I don't like conflict. I'm not even going to try to talk about the difficulty of doing Bible study as part of our home school.

Why not just give up the fight? Why not let her go, stop controlling her? Completely surrender her?

Ephesians 6:4
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

I think there's an important balance here, in this verse. We can't just give up having them do certain things because they don't like it, just like we don't let them stop going to school. God says its important to discipline and instruct them in His ways, which includes gathering with other believers.

But the other side of it is, don't exasperate them, don't provoke them.  I know I get exasperated when I feel like I'm being ignored. So I've been praying for patience to listen to my daughter and her complaints and her arguments.

Sometimes I even remember to use the powerful communication tool of repeating back her words, e.g. "so what I hear you saying is....[rephrase her arguments]... did I get that right? I want to understand your point of view." Even though she still has to go to church, I think it helps her frame of mind to know that I'm listening and valuing her frustrations about it.

But while I'm trying to patient and understanding on the outside, on the inside I'm fretting and crying with frustration. I've shared this frustration with my prayer group and I am strengthened and encouraged by their prayers, and also relieved when the older ladies share their own struggles with their children... I'm not alone. My husband also stands firm with me on this issue. It doesn't bother him like it does me; I'm more prone to fret on this than he is (he frets about other things, like the kids' safety).

So what it really boils down to is, fretting.

And God tells us not to fret... not to be anxious. To cast all our cares upon him. To surrender our fears to him. Ah yes, that theme of surrender, again.  Truly it is a daily thing.

Here are three things that help me keep my perspective (along with prayer, of course).

1) Remembering that I was adamantly opposed to the Bible and church for many years.  I resented when others tried to force their beliefs on me. I still remember how it feels. I still remember how I respected the Christians who were firm in their belief, and accepted me just as I was even though I disagreed with their beliefs. I will always, absolutely, accept and respect and love my daughter no matter if our beliefs remain different the rest of our lives.

2) The second thing is from Mere Christianity, where C.S. Lewis talks about the importance of church:
Enemy-occupied territory—that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us all to take part in a great campaign of sabotage. When you go to church you are really listening-in to the secret wireless from our friends: that is why the enemy is so anxious to prevent us from going. He does it by playing on our conceit and laziness and intellectual snobbery. I know someone will ask me, "Do you really mean, at this time of day, to reintroduce our old friend the devil—hoofs and horns and all?" Well, what the time of day has to do with it I do not know. And I am not particular about the hoofs and horns. But in other respects my answer is "Yes, I do." 

3) And the third is this blog post I found,  http://adammclane.com/2010/10/18/when-your-kids-hate-church. I am cutting and pasting it on this blog to have a copy in case this post ever disappears (because that has happened before - I've gone back to find encouragement from an old post and the link leads nowhere!).  Attribution and full credit to Adam McClane.

My kids don’t get excited about going to church most Sundays. That’s putting a nice bow on it, isn’t it?
Let’s take the pretty bow off for the sake of this post.

They hate going to church.

Yesterday, I sat in the car with a child who refused to participate. Not all Sunday’ are like that. But sometimes the feet literally stop moving and the tears start flowing. It’s hard to look in your child’s eyes and see them tearfully say “please don’t make me go,” and then force them to go.
I can’t stomach it. That is, clearly, not the type of relational connection I want my children to have with Jesus.
To my dismissive friends– it’s not just our church. It’s pretty much any church we’ve tried out. Trust me, we tried to blame the churches we attended. It’s not their fault. And it’s been going on for a very long time. Yeah, they even hated churches I worked at.
I don’t know any other way to say it. They hate going to church.
[Insert our painfully banging of heads against the wall.]

As a parent I could get lost in the emotions of this. I mean, how is it that mom and dad can have a first love… Jesus and his church… and our kids aren’t loving what we love?
This is where the rational side of our brains takes over and comforts us.
  • We don’t want them to fake it for our sake.
  • We want to raise independent, critical thinkers. That includes giving them the freedom to question us within the boundaries of our authority over them.
  • We believe Jesus wants to capture their heart, not their body. It’s OK if that takes time. Jesus’ offer to love the church stands the test of time, he is patient.
  • We recognize that there is a difference between rejecting Jesus and not liking the action of going to church. They don’t hate Jesus, they hate going to church.
  • We believe ultimately that it’s more important that the kids go to a church their parents love than one that the kids love and the parents tolerate. I find church strategies that try to hook parents with a McDonald’s approach to kids ministry often have equally crappy methodology elsewhere.
  • We recognize that some of the reason they don’t like church is that daddy used to work at one, like 60+ hours a week. And repairing the equation that church equals dad loving other people’s kids and making other people’s kids a priority over them will take years to repair.
  • We are willing to find expressions of church they might love. We’ve introduced Awana on Wednesday nights. It is is so developmentally appropriate for them that they are really digging it.....And this summer they will go to camp.
  • We are willing to look in the mirror enough to recognize that being compliant at church does not equate to loving church. When I went to church as a child, I hated it and swore that I’d hate it forever.
  • We aren’t going to give up simply because they don’t count down the days until Sunday. Their attitude towards church doesn’t drive us to make stupid decisions as parents. So it’s not like we’re going to stop going to church as a family.
  • We are willing to lose the occasional battle for the sake of hopefully one day winning the war. That’s a crude way of saying we don’t force them to participate. We expect that they will, but allow them some ability to say no.
Maybe I’m not supposed to talk about this? Maybe writing this makes me look bad? Or maybe, just maybe, my kids are normal?

I am so thankful Adam took the time to write about this... and was willing to be transparent about his heartbreak and concern.


  1. Hi, thank you for sharing your heart on this matter. As a sex abuse survivor who was molested at a church camp (and he attended my childhood church fo many years...and my parents never knew....) have you considered asking your 12 year old exactly WHY she no longer likes church? I can't get into my story here (other than to say God totally healed me from these wounds back in 1998 via the Holy Spirit and many months of meeting with a Christian counselor.....thank God my husband who is also a Believer has been very patient through the telling of the story, and my emotional healing)...at any rate....there might be something going on (not saying she is being abused) like bullying or possible abuse, or something in her Sunday School class or youth group? just a thought....I've always loved church as has my daughters BUT...they didn't always love going to Sunday school (in our former church). I started observing and listening to what was going on around us (we were in a small church at the time) and I discovered that they were being a bit bullied. by adults. who were implying that the girls should be homeschooled ( we were one of the only families...there were actually 3 families out of about 40, who chose public school for the children). I also started not wanting to attend even though i LOVED my Lord and Savior. Needless to say, we made a move after much prayer....and everyone is content and in a much better church for us emotionally, spiritually and mentally. (plus the Lord was starting to call us to commit to a church community in our own physical community). There is usually a root cause.....but I think you are being very wise in setting boundaries...expect that she will go to church but don't force participation in youth group activities or whatever. I will pray for her!! I also know someone who is going through this with their 15 yr old son and so I am going to direct her to your blog. this was very good!!

    1. This is a really good point I didn't think of, and I will certainly ask her about it. She's not in Sunday School or youth group, basically she just sits with us at church. So I dont' think it's that (she claims its just boredom... and I've been praying about ways to engage her more so it's not boring). But I'm still glad you brought it up, something to definitely keep in pray for protection! and with my other girls too who are still in Sunday school. I am so sorry to hear you were pressured at that one church about not homeschooling. It's such a personal choice. I would never have done it if I had felt pressured.