QUESTION AND ANSWER
My children don't want to come to church. What should I do?
What seems quite clear is that children , before they reach 'years of discretion', need to be made to perform a number of vital actions, like brushing their teeth and washing. Such things quickly become routine and eventually cease to be questioned at all. The daily prayer time and going to church as a family are part of that bedrock of habit that every child needs. Our children 'had' to go to church with us once every Sunday from the time that they were able to sit still. There is a period from about 1 to 2 years old when this is very difficult unless your church has a creche with a sound system. Children come to enjoy church-going providing that they don't hear their own parents complaining about it!
But the real question is when years of discretion' arrive, and of course this will differ from child to child but, where there are a number of children in the family all must be treated the same.
My guess is that serious objections come when the child is exposed to irreligion at his or her secondary school, and at about 13 or 14 the issue becomes acute. At an earlier stage the parent can get away with the comment: `Yes, I expect your friends don't go to church; but we do.
Every family has different patterns, and we all g together'. When, however, teenagers voice IN, problem they must be taken seriously and the matter carefully talked through. One of oar children said to us: 'I need to get out before I can get in'. We agreed that he should cease to come with us. Within six weeks he had decides to come back to church with the family.
If the question is a serious one, it seems to m~ that one has to take the teenager seriously any allow them to make their own decision. It should be the result of a serious family conference wit adequate reasons being given. The best of al solutions is to find a church where there is lively youth group that attends church as crowd. There is often a church down the roar which has just what you need at this point, any the added bonus is that your child discover. friends in a peer-group who are committed Christians.
Having said all that, if your child has been helped to a living faith as a child, the issue probably won't come up.
John Pearce is Rector of Limehouse, London
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