What is a parent to think when a child or a teenager declares they hate church? Is this a sign that your parenting and disciple making have failed? Does it mean they are simply bored or has someone bullied or offended them? Should we ignore the comment and chalk it up to immaturity?
There is no pat answer. In fact, the answer, “It depends,” is most appropriate here. The reason should be fairly obvious. Your child’s reason(s) for not wanting to go to church any longer will determine what you should do about it.
The first task for a parent of an unwilling church goer is to put on your sleuth hat. We must discover the root reason(s) for their reluctance.
Trying to detect what is going on in your child’s heart is not easy, but not impossible…most of the time. It requires some understanding of your child on your part and it involves dialoguing with him or her. Your best friend is the simple question, “Why?” and its cousin, “Tell me more.”
Let’s just focus on the most likely response you may hear:
Children under the age of 6 may find it particularly difficult to make much sense of the sermon. For older children, this is still a major obstacle. A child’s knowledge of the Bible and its teaching may provide hooks for them to use to better understand the sermon. However, we can do something prior to Sunday. We can talk about the verse or topic that is going to be preached during the week, the night before, or even Sunday morning.
Sitting in church for long periods of time can be a challenge for children. The younger they are, the more likely this is true. Children can learn to sit still, but it takes time—and for some children it may take more time than others. Here the parent must hold true, as it will challenge our own patience and wisdom. All the hard work will pay off in the end.
However, boredom may not be the real reason for hating church.
“They don’t like me!”
Believe it or not, bullying and other poor behavior happens at church as well as at school. If a child is being kept out of child-formed groups (cliques) or is made fun of, he or she may hate going. Who wouldn’t?
If you have reason to believe your child may have been mistreated, then you may want to reach out to the Children’s or Youth Director or the equivalent at your church. If you have names of children then talking with parents may be an even better route to go. Whatever you do, don’t discount your child on this point without checking into it. There are times when the problem is more perception than reality, but you don’t want the one time that it’s true be the time you ignored your child.
There are other reasons a child or teenager may give. We will address those in a future post.