What If Kids Don’t Want to Go to Church Because of Their Parents?
What if parents aren’t teaching their kids that faithful attendance in a local church body is a priority, and that is a reason we see church attendance dropping?
I watched a short clip recently with Carl Trueman in which the scholar made the observation that one likely reason we are seeing a drop in church attendance is that parents are simply not teaching their kids that it is a priority. Trueman said:
“The church is losing its young people because the parents never taught their children that it was important. I think that applies across the board. It applies to family worship, and it also applies to whether you are in church every Sunday and what priority you demonstrate to your children church has on a Sunday. If the sun shines out and their friends are going to the beach, do you decide to skip church and go to the beach? In which case, you send signals to your children that it is not important.”
Trueman was answering questions on a panel when he was asked why churches seem to be losing their young people. That answer is a keen insight into our current culture where so many things seem to take priority over faithful church attendance. And while this could end up being a very long post in order to address all the critical aspects of that reality, I want to stick with a narrower answer.
I’ve watched with concern over the years as well-meaning Christian parents allow many things to interrupt church attendance. Everything from sports, dance, boys and girl clubs, to chasing hobbies and recreations has taken priority over faithfully gathering with God’s people. It’s become a sore subject though; any mention of how these hobbies are interfering with church attendance is met with accusations of legalism. Legalism?
Hold on. Let’s recap for a minute. From the first verse to the last in scripture we are encouraged, even at times commanded to be a faithful part of a local body of believers (see Heb. 10:25). Some would argue that there isn’t a list of verses explicitly stating that we need to be in church each week. And they would be right. But the reason there is no such list of verses is because the Bible assumes we will faithfully attend. Because the Bible makes it clear that we cannot live the Christian life separated from active engagement in a local body of believers, there is no list of verses telling us to do this. The Bible simply cannot imagine that we would attempt to live life apart from faithfully attending church.
Ironically, or perhaps unsurprisingly, the people that often hurl accusations that they don’t need to be part of a local body in order to live the Christian life, are often the same people that also say they don’t need to read their Bible each day, spend time in prayer (aside from praying for the food), or tithe. Often these are the same people that find something to complain about when they do attend church, find themselves church hopping because they “aren’t being fed,” and are stagnant in their spiritual growth.
A lack of passion for the things of God will produce a lack of priority for the things of God. This is clearly an epidemic in our culture as many nominal and cultural Christians have become evident in our churches. The effect this has on our children can be devastating, as a recent article makes clear:
“Maybe the reason why our children have no love for Christ is due to the fact that we as parents do not show any love or passion for Christ, evidenced by how we prioritize our time both on Sundays and during the week. When television, sports, school, hobbies even family itself are elevated to a place of idolatry and replace the vital Christian responsibilities, then we tell our children that Christ is secondary to all these things. We tell our children that it is not necessary to take up your cross and die to yourself daily in order to follow Christ. We tell them that you only have to live for Christ when it’s convenient for you. We tell them it is okay to sacrifice time with all-satisfying Savior if something “more fun” or “more important” comes along (sarcasm indicated by quotation marks if you didn’t catch that). And this sounds like a clear path to apostasy if you ask me.”
An old saying rings truer every day for busy Christians, “if Satan can’t make you bad, he’ll make you busy.” That sums up the life of most believers today. We are so busy that dedicating time to God, even 2 hours each week to gather with His people, is not practical. But that reality is an indictment on our priorities. We’ve created many idols that we devote our time, energy, and resources to and they each retain a higher place than God in our lives.
You can call this legalism all you want. But the truth is that many Christians, I would call them nominal or cultural Christians; do not devote themselves to the things of God because they have not been redeemed. They are trying to live a religious life in their own power and that is a very difficult undertaking. The lack of effort and zeal comes because being religious is tasking on the soul when the soul has nothing to feed it. In the end, the lack of commitment is a sign that something is wrong. Maybe it’s ongoing sin in the believer’s life, maybe it’s the need for accountability, maybe it’s that the person has never been redeemed and therefore is not undergoing the sanctification process.
You cannot, parents, expect your kids to revere and prioritize things you do not prioritize. Do not be surprised when your kids walk away from the church if you do not instill the absolute importance of faithful participation in the local church. Your kids will prioritize what you teach them to prioritize. If that’s sports and hobbies then you can expect them to put those above all else.
For the sake of your kids and their eternal future, impress on them the need to be in community each week. Don’t just tell them; show them by your faithful participation how imperative it is to gather with God’s people. This is one lesson we cannot afford to neglect or get too busy to teach.