Making your child go to church…

When you are a pastor, it’s a good idea if your child goes to church with you. I am sure everybody understands that the pastor tries to set an example for other parents.  After all, if the pastor can’t get her or his kid to church, all the other parents are off the hook too.

Getting children to church when they are young, is not a problem, at least it wasn’t for me. My young son accepted it as a normal part of the routine on Sunday mornings. Since I was in the pulpit and single, there were several families that would have him sit with them. He was loved and cared for by many.

Fast forward to the teen age years. It was my experience, that getting a teenager to church is where the real challenge lies. The junior high years were not too difficult, because there were several cute girls at church that were always interested in him. He loved the attention.

At about 15 and 16 years of age, there was a bit of rebellion. He wasn’t so sure that he believed all that church stuff… and I said that was okay. God would still be waiting for him, if he changed his mind. That lasted a couple of Sundays.

It happened that my son loved to have breakfast at McDonalds. When he was elementary age, we started the ritual of eating at McDs before church. When the girls became less interesting, he still liked McDs. He knew that if he missed church, he missed breakfast… so sometimes that was a motivation to attend too.

As he became an older teen, I appealed to his reasoning. I explained to him, that all week, he and I were doing separate things, he with his friends, I with my work. Worship was one family activity we did together… once a week. I was no longer in the pulpit and I enjoyed sitting with him. There were times, when this 17 year old would lean his head on my shoulder and go to sleep! Yes… right during church! I was a bit surprised… but loved it. There were choir members who loved it too… they probably wished their teenagers would do the same! Since I missed so many times of sitting with him in church, it was a precious, tender time.

When my teenager was too tired to go to church, there was one final principle that I held to. I understood being tired and needing a morning to sleep in. However, if he was too tired to go to church, he was too tired to do anything else that day. The days that he didn’t go to church, he couldn’t go to friend’s house, a movie, etc. It didn’t last for more than a Sunday or two. Sleeping in to miss church meant sleeping in and missing other activities too. Before long, he was back to attending church and knew the day held many more opportunities.

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