Throughout their childhood, my two kids attended Sunday school and youth groups offered by our church. We enrolled them in vacation Bible school in the summers and Awana Clubs each fall. Our daughter voluntarily and wholeheartedly sang in the youth choir year after year and performed sweet solos in the holiday programs. At church, they both made friends and found mentors while enjoying and benefiting from all of their activities.
teens and church
It wasn’t just my kids who were immersed in church activities. I attended Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS), a parenting group in partnership with the local church, and Community Bible Study (CBS)—a non-denominational, Christian Bible study that rotated between churches within our city each year. At both MOPS and CBS, my kids took part in the phenomenal children’s programs taught by caring, wise, and older women.
All along, my husband and I worked to immerse our children in God in ways they liked and could comprehend from the get-go. We did it on purpose, for a purpose—to raise up our children in the way we would have them go. But church didn’t stick with our kids. By the time they became teenagers, neither one had any interest in regularly attending church or any type of youth group anymore. Their travel sports began to eat up our weekends. When life got too busy we eventually became a CEO family for a time—church attendees on Christmas and Easter only.
“I don’t Want to go to church”
I’m not sure God really stuck with our kids, either. Or rather, I’m not sure they stuck with God. Currently, our teens don’t have any interest in talking to their dad or me about theology or religious practices. But they’re questioning their beliefs—including how they interpret spirituality—and they’re not interested in our input right now. They already know what we think. They’re exploring what it means to adopt these personal concepts for their own, as opposed to believing in and practicing what they’ve been taught by us and others we’ve involved in their spiritual growth.
When I was growing up, my mom and I only ever sporadically attended the Catholic church. Mom signed me up for CCD classes —short for the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine and also known as catechism. These were intended to provide religious instruction to children attending secular schools. When it came to CCD, one year was enough for me. I just wasn’t into it. I think the rigid doctrine coupled with the rote repetition of words and concepts I didn’t understand thwarted any chance of me forming a relationship with God when I was younger. It all went right over my head and bored me silly. But hey, I was nine.
finding your internal compass
There were short-lived points in high school and college when I dove back into religion. But it wasn’t until I became a mother that I felt an undeniable need to get close to God. It was as if an internal compass, long defunct, sprang back into pristine working condition upon giving birth to our babies. It magnetized me towards my own true north. I spoke to my husband about feeling reawakened to God. I felt an inextinguishable urge to bring our children up in the church in a way that would encourage them to engage in and enjoy the experience. He agreed, and together we found a church to call a second home for our family.
But there’s a vast and important difference between believing in your chosen faith and just going through the motions of someone else’s beliefs. I’m okay with this stage my teens are going through because I don’t have much interest in forcing our own religious beliefs or spiritual practices on them. Pressuring them into attending church when they’re questioning every aspect of the experience might cause more harm than good. I’m okay with their questions. I remember my own timeline for wanting to get closer to God and be part of a church community again. I can’t wait for the same to happen for my children. And I will respect their choices if they end up differing from my own.