Read Part 1 for suggestions 1-5.
Somewhere along the way in our parenting, one or more of our children will likely express the above sentiment on any given Sunday. Yesterday’s post presented five suggestions for addressing the issue. Today I would like to present five more. Again, keep in mind that how you apply each may look very different depending on the age of the child—but the basic principles are the same.
6. Consider if any of your words and attitudes toward the church have contributed to your child’s perception.
Our words and attitudes make a great impression on our children. What we say aloud and the tone in which we say it often turns up in our children. If I, as a parent, establish a pattern of verbally criticizing the sermon, or the singing or other things related to the church, should I be surprised if my children don’t want to go to church? Ouch! I must ask, “Is my child’s negative attitude toward church in any way sparked and fueled by me?” If so, I need to confess this before the Lord, repent, ask His forgiveness, and commit to guard my heart and words in the future. I should also humbly confess to my children any sinful attitudes or words they have observed in me.
On a similar note, more times than I care to remember, by the time our family got in the car to go to church, I was barely on speaking terms with them! A real Sunday morning meltdown. Too little sleep the night before. Couldn’t find my Bible. Arguing with my husband during breakfast, etc. All things that started in me and came to be expressed through me. This can sour Sunday morning for the whole family. If that becomes the pattern, our children may come to associate going to church with mom or dad’s “bad attitude.”
7. If the classroom experience is proving unworkable for your child, look for alternate ministry and learning opportunities during that time.
We had a child who really didn’t want to go to Sunday school at one time. After talking to him to get at the heart of the issue, we went and observed the class and noted some serious, legitimate concerns. We talked with teachers/leaders in order to communicate our concerns, and also to get their perspective. After careful consideration, we decided that this particular classroom situation could not be resolved in a manner that was beneficial to our child. So we decided to let him opt out of that class. However, we made clear that simply “hanging out” during the Sunday school hour was not an option. He must invest that time within another class or ministry of the church. We helped him find a suitable option and he thrived.
8. Understand that your child’s own heart condition may be at the root or a great contributor to the problem.
This is one that is hard for every parent to hear, but we must hear it: Our child may hate church because he or she is not a believer and is dull or even hostile toward spiritual things. No amount of denial, no amount of wishful thinking, no number of excuses can serve to cover-up this heart-breaking reality. As parents, our first instinct may be to demand change in the program: Make the classroom more fun. Make the youth group more entertaining and “relational.” Have less serious Bible teaching to allow more time to hang out. Before pondering any of these seemingly helpful solutions, we need to understand that changes such as these are not going to ultimately deal with our child’s heart issue. Furthermore, making Sunday school more fun or entertaining often serves in encouraging an unbeliever to happily continue along the path of unbelief as he or she feels comfortable within this more casual environment.
9. Pray, pray, pray!
Never underestimate or underutilize the power of prayer. Pray with your child and for your child.
- On Saturday night, pray with your child about his or her Sunday morning experience. Dads: consider praying a “Saturday Night Special” blessing for your child using the booklet and blessing cards titled, A Father’s Guide to Blessing His Children.
- Before your child enters the Sunday school room, pray with him or her.
- Commit yourself to praying for your child’s heart toward the Lord.
- Commit yourself to praying for your child’s teachers and the other students in the class.
- Pray that the church as a whole—with all its members and ministries—will grow in displaying a beautifully attractive picture of what it means to love, honor, and cherish Christ.
10. God is sovereign, so never, never, never give up!
When a parent first hears the words, “I hate church. I don’t want to go!” it can be shocking and heart-breaking. Also, for utterly selfish reasons, it can be really frustrating for the parent. One more hassle to deal with. Out of fear or inconvenience it is tempting to throw in the towel and give up, “Fine, we just won’t go then.” Please, don’t take this option. Consider…
- You and your children need the church. Your children, whether believers or unbelievers, need this means of God’s grace in their lives if they are to flourish.
- Often, and by God’s grace, this negative attitude toward the church lasts for a season of time (even if it feels like forever!). Weather the storm, keep praying for and encouraging your child to weather the storm, too.
- Without realizing it, your child may be absorbing more spiritual benefits from the worship service and the classroom than he or she, or you are aware. Seeds of faith are being planted, unseen to the human eye.
- God is ultimately sovereign over your child’s heart.
Here is a final, encouraging word from a recent article by Nancy Guthrie:
…anyone who’s been a parent for long knows parenting requires a lot more than simply following the right steps to success. To raise a child toward godliness, we need much more than the good advice parenting experts have to offer. We need what only the Scriptures have to offer.
We need the commands and expectations of Scripture to keep us from complacency, and the grace and mercy of Scripture to save us from guilt. We need Scripture to puncture the pride that rises up in us when our child is doing well and we’re tempted to take the credit. And we need Scripture to save us from the despair that threatens to sink us when our child is floundering and we’re tempted to take all the blame.
While we have influence and responsibility, we don’t have control over our child. We can teach our child the Scriptures, but we can’t be the Holy Spirit in our child’s life. We can confront sinful patterns that need to change, but we can’t generate spiritual life that leads to lasting change. Only the Spirit can do that.
What we can do is pray for and parent our child the best we know how. We can keep trusting God to do what we cannot
(“Divine Words for Desperate Parents,” www.thegospelcoalition.org)