38 answers

Teenager Doesn't Want to Attend Church with the Family.

My eldest son no longer wants to attend mass with the family. We swtiched to the Sunday night "teen mass" (jazzier music, relaxed dress code) in hopes of enticing him but he said he doesn't feel like he "needs to attend church to have a relationship with God."

He is acting as his little brother's First Communion Sponsor and attends classes with him but says he "is out" when that obligation is over.

I did not see this coming. I could guilt him into going (I'm good at that) but I don't think I should force an almost 18 year old. I just worry about the precident this sets for his younger siblings.

What should I do? I truly believe there is merit in being part of a church community, fellowship and hearing the word of God taught. I do think he believes and I do know that he prays...is it enough to let my young man find his own path or do I force him to walk the same one as the family? When do you let them decide their own path?

I thought toddlerhood was tough but this "almost adult phase" is the most difficult of all and has me second guessing myself at every turn! Please advise.

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Thank you so much for all your thoughtful and insightful respones!
My husband and I had two frank discussions with my son. My husbands main concern was that he loose his relgious and (almost as important to my husband) his cultural identity. My husband is a lovely and devout Irish Catholic man.
My son was able to express his discontent with the mass. I understand where he is coming from now. He made it clear that it has nothing to do with his faith or belief but only his desire to worship in this particular way. He is not comfortable with the ritual, pagentry or commands of the mass.
As a family we were able to decide that he would attend with the family on Holy Days of Obligation, important masses to our family and "once in awhile just for the heck of it". That leaves him free to worship in is own way as he develops his own path.
We involved his younger siblings in the discussion. They expressed their feelings about church (all positive for now thank goodness). My second eldest was particularly upset because he is an alter server and feels Brandon is rejecting what he does at church by rejecting the mass. Brandon agreed to try and attend the days that Colton serves.
Anyway, it was difficult not to resort to my "mother guilt" but he has a fine mind and a fine spirit and I have to trust that he is choosing a path he is comfortable with. Like one mom said, if this is the worst thing I have to deal with in regards to this young man consider myself lucky! (and I do!)
Thanks again!

Featured Answers

From my own experience as a teen, my thought is to let him off the hook for a while. If it's important to you that the family attend services together on certain holidays, ask him to commit to that and then he can make the choice to attend weekly services as often as he wishes. Keep the door open, but give him some room. Forcing him will only make things worse.

More Answers

I just wanted to add from my experience. I had an Italian catholic father so I know the guilt one can put on a child! He didn’t even need to say a word to me and I was in the car going to church! First I wanted to let you know that some faiths encourage the youth to go out and sow their seeds in an effort to let them see the outside world and make sure this was the faith they wanted to stay with. I was raised catholic, went to school from Kindergarten until graduation. Saturday night mass was our time and if I was doing something on Saturday night I was up at 7am to go then! My mother was raised Lutheran but converted when I was in first grade. My parents were very involved in out parish, my mom was part of the church carnival, Christmas bazaar, poker nights ect. She spent more time at that church then at home most night. When I went to college I spread my wings and was not so active, sleep was more important I had had enough of the constant church I needed a break! Once out of school I went to church again more out of habit then a draw to be closer to God. One night I received a call that my parents house was on fire and I needed to get there fast. Once I got there I saw the devastation and saw my father crying on the step of our neighbors home. My mom, still missing. That morning I clung to my faith, I prayed I hoped and nothing worked. My mother passed away in that fire and there my father sat a widow. I don’t blame god for what happened. I also don’t like to hear the BS that it was God’s will and he wanted her home.. That would be fine but no one should suffer in a fire to be taken to heaven. That day I went to our church to make funeral arrangements and to see if they could help my father out. He was literally blown out of the house with a t-shirt and shorts. The church charged me for the funeral, gave him nothing even though he gave weekly to them. They suggested Red Cross… Honestly we were not asking for money or at least money we would not pay back, but no banks were open at the time and he had no credit cards or ID to get anything. Meanwhile the Methodist church down the street and the Lutheran church close to them offered him anything including a bed to sleep in and food from the food closet. Churches my father was never a member of offered this yet the church he was baptized in offered nothing! It was then that I realized that it is not the building you go in and sit and listen for an hour that builds your relationship with God.. It is what is in your heart. So I guess my point is, at 18 let him follow his own path. He might return and he might not. But it is his choice and pushing him will only make him rebel and possibly make him loose faith all together. Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

It's sad that you'd even consider 'guilting' your son to do something that he doesn't want to do.
At 18 years old, he is officially an adult even though we don't have formal ceremonies in our society.
You should be proud of your son for who he is and the fact that he has developed the maturity to support his brother in something that he is not passionate about.
As far as community, that resides in the people in your township and should not be based on religious beliefs.
Please support your son by letting him make his own choices! It'll definitely keep your relationship in tact.

1 mom found this helpful

Hi H.!

Big hugs and lots of love! My two brothers, sister and both parents have all chosen to abandon their faith and my heart hurts for them every moment of every day.

But God allows us to accept or reject a relationship with Him. He doesn't force us into it and now that your son is moving into adulthood and expressing a desire not to go, it is best not to force him (in my opinion). I'm only a young mom myself, without teenagers, but I would think that by this time, you've been giving him some more independence and that, hopefully, he's been earning your trust. My husband would say that it is important to sit down with your son and talk to him about his decision, man to man (woman to man, parents to adult son), and ask to share your concerns with him and ask him why he is making this decision. Tell him that it is his decision. You love him and this is why you are hoping and praying that his decision is __________. But that you will love him regardless of what his decision is and that will never change, just like God will never stop loving and pursuing him.

And before you have that conversation, know what God says about having a church community. Know why you feel that church attendance is important, even crucial to your relationship with Christ. In the meantime, pray that his relationship with Christ remains strong and take heart in the knowledge that we are saved "by grace through faith and not by works so that no one can boast", so all he really needs is a real trust in Christ and acceptance of Christ's sacrifice, which only Christ can really open his eyes to. When that's real, the works (like becoming part of a church community) will follow as fruit.

I heartily recommend Focus on the Family's "Boundless" webzine and blog found at www.boundless.org and www.boundlessline.org. It was originally intended (and still largely is) for a single college-age audience and has helped me immensely in my faith and in applying it in real life. I would pass it on to your son and, if he is seeking a real relationship, he might take some time to read it and be challenged, encouraged, uplifted and strengthened in his faith. To be honest, it'd probably be good for you, too. :) I love it and I'm 27, married SAHM with two kiddos. :)

Keep the faith, sister!

PS: if you go to Boundless or Boundless line and type "church" in the search engine, you should come up with an abundance of articles on the topic!

That's a hard one H.. Being the religious person that you are, I hope you will turn to God and pray about the right thing to do. I'm quite surprised by how many people commented that church doesn't necessarily affect your relationship with God. I guess it depends on the church and the religion, but for me, going to church has a HUGE impact on my relationship with God. Going to church each week strengthens me spiritually and strengthens my relationship with God. Going to church gives me the motiviation to be and do good throughout the week. I love church. I could never live without that weekly spiritual upliftment and connection to God. For those that think they don't need church, maybe you just haven't found the right church for you. I know there are people who think that they do spiritually fine without church, but there are churches out there that can make a huge positive difference in your life. But anyway, I have a friend that is going through the same thing with her son. He is 17. She feels that if she allows him to stop going to church, that her younger kids will want to do the same thing when they are his age. They will say to her, "Well, you didn't make Matt go to church, so I don't have to go either!" It's just a bad example for the younger kids. My friend decided that she will tell him that while he is living at home, he needs to participate with the family and go to church. I myself, would probably do the same thing. But pray about it and have a lot of open communication with your son, and try to get to the bottom of why he doesn't want to go to church. Maybe there is another church that would serve his needs better?? But I wish you tons of luck! That is a hard thing to go through. Let us know how it all works out.

I know this is a difficult situation. The best thing to do is to consistently pray that God will give him the desire to develop a relationship with him. Maybe you could sit down at really talk to him about why he doesn't feel he needs to go to church. I pray that your son will soon realize how much he needs christ and church in the world that we live in.

Be Blessed

It sounds like you guys have come up with the perfect compromise. It seems like your son is doing a lot of great things and building his own individual relationship with the Lord. Some people never truly understand that one can never be forced into faith. Congratulations!

Hi Lindsay,

There are great books by Dr. Dobson on how to raise God fearing kids. He gives great advise. Also, keep praying and "Don't" stop. God is with you thru this and does hear our pleads. Keep the faith.

In Christ,

M. :-)

From my own experience as a teen, my thought is to let him off the hook for a while. If it's important to you that the family attend services together on certain holidays, ask him to commit to that and then he can make the choice to attend weekly services as often as he wishes. Keep the door open, but give him some room. Forcing him will only make things worse.

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