“Do I have to go to church?”

This question presents an interesting dilemma from the parent-teen perspective. Someone in our blog community shared this story with me. As you read it, consider how you might handle the situation.

Yesterday my daughter asked if she had to go to church. She said she was tired and needed some unscheduled downtime.

After asking her some questions,

it did seem like the issue was more about her time-management skills (too many activities and social events and time spent texting) than about anything specifically at church, which she generally seemed to like.

But her question led to some conversations

about whether or not church was required in our family or optional. My analytic daughter (who will almost certainly go into the sciences) asked, “So if one of us decided we didn’t believe in Christianity at all and we didn’t want to go anymore, would we have to go?”  And of course she kept pressing for an answer, even though I had never really thought that scenario through– or talked about it with her dad (who was conveniently not present at the time so I couldn’t get his opinion).

Eventually I said, “If the reason not to go was that you don’t believe it, we wouldn’t force you to go. That wouldn’t feel good. At the same time, if it’s a matter of just going when you feel like it and skipping it when you would rather sleep in, that wouldn’t feel good either. So the answer kind of depends on the deeper reasons. In this case, let’s talk about how you could prioritize your time so you have that downtime you need.”

churchI’m not sure what we’ll do

if one of our kids really decides to opt out. Most likely they wouldn’t say they didn’t believe in Christianity at all, but simply that church wasn’t a priority at this point in their life. Hmmmm…

After that conversation, the issue seemed to pass.

My daughter hasn’t asked again about having to go to church. But we have had some conversations about what she likes about the experience of attending, and whether she’s going for her own sake or ours. We’ve talked about other families who have different rules and what their reasons might be.

She did, however, opt out of youth group this semester.

In thinking through her time-management and current activities (some of which she shouldn’t drop mid-school-year), she decided something had to go. Together we decided two things. One: She would not have to attend youth group if she didn’t want to. Two: She would have her phone taken away at 10pm on school nights, which would allow for better sleep.

Tweetable: Teen’s question, “Do I have to go to church?” led to a very thoughtful discussion with her mom here. Click to Tweet

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