8 Ways to Ensure Your Kids Won’t Hate Church

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My son gets to hang out in my office quite often. I love that he loves it. Maybe his love is rooted in the toys and candy I keep in the bottom drawer, just for him. But maybe it’s because he just genuinely loves me. I’m banking solely on #1 at this point in his life.

This week, though, my wife was out of town, and Rex had to go to work with me all day.

I had to jump on a conference call, and the movie he was watching was a little loud. I asked him if he wouldn’t mind putting some headphones on. Then he gave me this look.

He’s got the sass of his mama. :)


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One of my goals of fatherhood is to raise a son that doesn’t hate church. It’s not a given reality that my son will grow up loving the Church. As a pastor’s kid, he’s got an uphill battle ahead, especially considering the pastor’s kids I knew growing up. Right now, he’s loving Longhollow, where I’m on staff. But we’ve got a lot of years ahead of us, and I’ve got a lot of work to do to keep us on this path.

My child loving the church his whole life isn’t a given…and neither is it for yours.

Should you ‘force’ your kids to go to church? Or let them choose?

Should you let them go to the main worship service with you when they want? Or put them in the kids area?

Let them wear what they want? Or dress them to the nines?

Here are some intentional actions I’m taking to keep my son from growing up to hate the Church.

8 Ways to Ensure Your Kids Won’t Hate Church

1. Make small group a priority in your life.

Every week, my wife and I go to small group. We help Rex understand how important it is for mommy and daddy to do this, and that through it, we become better parents.

2. Go to churches with amazing children’s ministries.

Check (Grace Community Church) and check (Long Hollow). Without ministries intentionally investing truth, and fun, into my child’s life, why would I expect him to want to come back?

3. Give your family your best time, not just your leftover time.

I don’t want to always come home tired and frustrated and burned out. It’s easy in the church world to give others your best consistently, and forget that your family is your priority. Whether you’re a volunteer or on staff, giving others your best is easy to give your best to others, because they “need” you and constantly affirm you. When you give others your best, you create resentment in your family.

4. Don’t make church attendance an option for your kids.

Our son never has the option of ‘bargaining’ his way out of going to church. Just like he never bargains his way out of going to bed at night or buckling up in his car seat. It’s not that we ‘force’ anything. We just never give him another option. “How dare you force your kids to go to church?!?” Really? Don’t you ‘force’ your kids to go to school? To go to bed? To eat dinner? To go to the doctor?

5. When I’m home, I’m home.

I don’t want him to think that daddy has to “work” all of the time. I want him to know that when I’m home, I’m really home, not just distracted by work. If you don’t work in a church, it might be different for you, but the principle is the same. Don’t be so distracted by ministry that you neglect the ministry right in front of you.

6. Live out your faith at home and at church.

I’m nowhere near perfect in my life, but my faith is real and active at home and at church. We talk about spiritual things at home, read our Bibles, and pray together consistently.

7. Make prayer a regular part of your public, and private, life.

We don’t just pray at church, or when other people are watching us. We pray together as a family even when it’s not what we ‘have’ to do. When all you do is pray at church, and for others to see, you create an unhealthy, hypocritical dynamic for your children.

8. Don’t rip your pastor in front of your kids.

I don’t try to hold our local church, or any, on a pedestal of perfection…but I also guard my words carefully so that my son doesn’t grow up with a jaded view of the bride for whom Christ died. I don’t want him thinking everybody is perfect, but I also don’t want him growing up not trusting anyone.

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. – Proverbs 22:6

Do your kids enjoy church? What about you? What did your parents do to help you not hate church?





Christ follower, husband, father, writer, small groups pastor at Saddleback Community Church. Communications director for the Small Group Network.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Joanna

    As a pastor, I am with you on most all of these. Especially the fact that weekly worship is not optional. I never get complaints/bargaining from my now-teenagers on Sunday mornings, because going to church is just what we do. I’m not sure it crosses their minds that there are other options.

    The only one I would push you on a little bit is that a church has to have a great children’s ministry. The church I serve is small–50ish on a Sunday. We have multi-age Sunday school, join with other churches for Bible school in the summers. Not a very flashy or professional program. But my children know that the people at church love them–like crazy. And that trumps programming any day. (And if you are lucky enough to have both great programming and a deep sense of loving community, bonus!)

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

      A great children’s ministry doesn’t have be flashy. Sounds like you’ve got a great one there!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/RoarWithHim Daniel Bodkin

    This has really good points. I believe the biggest impact will be from the father being a man of God at his own home and not just in front of people at church; this is what our generation needs. We need men to rise up as Holy Spirit filled fathers who pray for their children and their wives, teach their children the Word, and mentor them. We have to turn things around in this fatherless generation in order to turn the hearts of this generation to God the Father. When the head of the house burns for God, the rest of the house will burn for Him. For children to not hate church, we need to teach them how to recklessly fall in love with Jesus, to pray in intercession and in the Holy Spirit, to thirst for His Word, and to burn for Him in all that they do. Their fire will change a lot of what is dysfunctional in the church and allow the Lord to have His way in what He is pouring out in these last days.

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

      Good stuff, Daniel!

      • Jan

        I liked church most of the time as a child, we continued during teenage years. left in young adulthood because of poor exegesis, repeating the same hymn every week, shouty preacher, making me feel depressed, also felt lonely.
        This is true, it may be painful to you, people need to feel involved, included, listened to, sometimes small responsibilities can be given to teenagers/young adults so that they feel they have something to do. also why can’t
        a minister get enthusiastic about telling us to reach out to the poor, a step of service. Also young adult have a lot on their plate, trying to find a job, so much stress, sometimes they just want an ear.

  • Jeff

    These are great! Wish I would have found this BEFORE I did a Parent Seminar at my church =) Would love for you to check out my series I did on “How to Build a Spiritual Home” on http://www.jeffbeckley.org…You may find some of those things helpful as well. (Please don’t see this as self-promotion, just thought it was relevant) Thanks for posting, and as a father of two little ones in heaven, I prayed for you and your wife, and of course that little baby, this morning. God bless.

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

      Great work in that series, Jeff! Seriously, great work!

  • Jack

    My 17 year old daughter hates going to church. She always wears a frown in church, but she does not anywhere else. She never wants to look up versus or go to church activities. I believe I taught her close to the list you gave and I don’t know what went wrong. She even frowns in youth group. I just don’t know what went wrong.

    • http://www.benreed.net Ben Reed

      Hey Jack, I’m so sorry to hear that. Have you asked her what’s wrong? Why she seems sad and frustrated in church?

      How does she answer that?

      I’m praying for you, and for her, right now.

  • jan

    I liked it as a child, young person but hated it as a single female. Out of date hymns, repition of the same hymn each week. sermons that were not relevant to me or topical to anything happening in the world. Just plain boring, preachy and couldn’t ask questions. no other single males that I wanted to date, neither did I have many friends, so basically was a waste of time.