Parenting Teens: to church or not to church?

When my husband first turned away from Faith, my greatest fear was how it might affect my young children. I was a vicious mama bear, and I refused to listen to him at first, partly because of my inability to realize how to pass down my treasured tradition of church-going to my littles without Dad in the picture.

I also grieved the loss of those nightly devotionals he would read with the boys, and I grieved for the 3 year old little girl who hardly had the chance of daddy devotional time.

Once we learned to sit in the tension and grow in our marriage, I also learned how to sit alone in the pew. A new tradition developed—single-momming it on most Sunday mornings. Eventually, he even helped me get kids ready, and eventually, he would come to church once in a while when I asked.

Fast-forward now, with three teens and a tween. And I will admit a more sober-minded fear niggles within me again. More than once have I heard, “Why should I go to church (or youth group)? Dad doesn’t go.” And I am sad to admit that more than once, I have left the teen at home without a fight.

But the other day, I moved past my complacency and decided to engage a little deeper. The conversation went like this, after his initial above rebuke:

”You are a human, and that consists of body, mind, and spirit. How are you taking care of your spirit?”

“Well, Dad doesn’t, and he’s fine.”

”Well, Dad has for years, and this is a season.”

“Then this is a season for me.”

”You are only sixteen. I am your mom and its my responsibility to help you cultivate your spiritual life.”

I think there was an eye roll, and I think he used needing to study as an excuse to not go to youth group. But, he showed up to youth group anyway.

I don’t really know if it will make a difference. I am not sure I handled it well. Forcing a kid to church or youth group might give him all the more reason to “break free” of those norms once he‘s on his own. Honestly, I tread so lightly because of having experienced my adult husband finally “break free”. I don’t want robots who do as I do until they aren’t under my watch anymore. But I would be remiss to not point them in the right direction, to give into their teenage whims, and to just hope for the best.

My greatest prayer is that whenever they step into a church, no matter how often, that God will use the time fully—prick their hearts, lure them to Him in a pure, sweet way, and grow their hearts toward a love for Him. So that, when they are on their own, in this great big confusing world, their hearts will guide them back to the places of God, where there is light, love, and assurance in Truth beyond human explanation. And they will fall in love fully then.

That is my prayer. It’s a whole lot of depending on God to do the work within them. But as a mom, there are only a couple of important things I can do for my children as they grow. Love their father on earth with all my might, and depend with all my strength on their Father In Heaven alone.

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