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!

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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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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.

AT 17, your son is feeling, and rightfully so, he should have the right to make some major decisions for himself. Been through this myself. I would hope and pray that your faith is strong and remember that "raise up a child in the way of the Lord and he will not depart" And it does work. He may not follow in your exact foot steps, but he has the foundation on which he can build his adult life and he will follow as he has learned as a child. Now is the time of life when kids have to explore for their own answers. Just keep praying for him and be ready to respond to his needs and questions. If he has been faithful this long, he will not stray far.
Good luck and God's blessing to you and you family.

H., you have laid the groundwork for your son's spiritual foundation and now you should let him continue on his own journey. I think you will be pleased with where he ends up:)

Wow, there's quite a bit of advice already. If this is the only major act of independence that your son has exhibited, I congratulate you on creating a great place at home. I agree that religion is important, but have you had a conversation with your son to find out why he's developed his attitude about church attendence not being very important? Coercion isn't the best route. If he can't be lovingly persuaded to attend church with the family, perhaps a family discussion about religious topics can substitute for formal church attendence. (Each member of the family can share what they learned at church or read in the scriptures.) This way, your family is together, and sharing. If there are other serious rebellious issues at hand, laying the law in the household does provide structure, especially for the other members of the family.

K.

H.- it is totally part of "accepting Christ" and the discovery for some young adults. They must decide for themselves. However, this is when it is very important for us as parents to show the love of Christ and continue to guide our children. Truly, he is NOT 18 yet and he lives at home, and it is NOT AN OPTION to stay home, as this is what we, as a family do TOGETHER. Continue to pray for your son...through this time, and "discovery" that God would reveal Himself to him. Not a lot of info...but, just a few thoughts from me.

It sounds from your request that you are Catholic so I suggest going to Catholic.com. They have great resourses for teens including a book about exactly why mass is so important. You're right in that you can't force an almost adult to do anything. Sometimes teenagers feel like they have to reject something in order to become their own person. Hopefully, it's a phase that he'll outgrow as he learns he's already been given such a great gift. Once he realizes this, he'll have a stronger faith since it's on his "own terms". He'll know exactly why he's Catholic and not be a luke-warm one. In the mean-time, pray, pray, pray that the Holy Spirit will provide lots of opportunties for him to stay in touch with his Catholic faith. We also have to remember that God does everything in His own time for reasons we can't understand. Keep the faith and your son will know exactly where to go when he's ready.

L.

You definitely can't force him into a relationship with God or force him to like church. But if you're concerned about his example, then he can definitely be told "While you're living here, church attendance is not optional." He'll have the option to move out soon, and he'll have his opportunity to make his own choice then.

I don't know...it is difficult. Most kids, wheather catholic or protestant have this issue, I believe they need to be challenged to grasp "what's in it for me". Moving more toward a more personal experience w/Christ. There were some Charasmatic Catholic youth groups in the East valley...Mesa I believe that did possess a very exuberent group. Also church camps - even if you get him a job there as a "youth in leadership" job there. Another concept of reenergizing teens Spiritually is letting them put it into practice - they need to see the practicality of that. Such a thing, if your family is serious about their committment to Christ, might be short-term family missions. Does anything sound like a possibility ? I have read your final discussion w/Brandon. I am a protestant, but I still think that he should continue going to church...somewhere. The scripture that says the we should NOT forsake the gathering together with other Christians. I don't view us as catholics vs. protestants - but rather both as "The Body Of Christ". We should ALL help each other. If the rituality turns him off, then plug him in to an other Catholic or even protestant church that WILL allow this walk with Christ to continue. Don't let this valuable/formative time to be wasted, and possibly give satan a foothold. Not that he isn't a good kid...but there are a number of "good kids" that do go arri. At this age it is challenging for them, and especially for us as parents - but we never stop fighting for our kids, no matter how old they might be. But certainly easier at this age than later.

I absolutely would not guilt him about not wanting to attend and I also wouldn't worry about it too much. He is at the age when teens start to pull away from the church for a few years. If he has a solid base in his faith he will go back when he's ready. He could be wrestling with some faith issues himself and may not feel comfortable sharing them with you. Statistically, a lot of previously church going teens pull away from the church during their college years and often don't go back until after college or until they start a family of their own (and want their kids to have the same experiences they did).

I would just make a point to tell him that the invitation to go to church is always open and leave it at that. I know from personal experience that the harder my mom pushed me to go to church, the more I didn’t want to. I didn’t mean that I didn’t have a relationship with God or believe in Him and all his glory. As soon as she let up, the pressure was off and I could worship and love God on my terms, not my moms.

H.,

I know what your son is going through. When I was his age I felt the same way. I was brought up in a catholic home and my mom made us go to church until we were old enough to tell her no. As I was growing up I always felt that what I was learning was not what I believed. I continued to go to church and listen but I never felt that I should have to do the things that were asked of me.

Your son needs to find his own way in the Lord. Let him make the decision. It may hurt that he does not want to attened wit hyour family but making him go or guilting him into it could push him from God. My mom continued to do that to my older sisters and I, and they no longer attened church or even know God. I married a great man and he let me have the freedom to choose what I wanted to believe and now we have a church we go to and love it. My children are growing up learning about Jesus and their relationship with God.

It is not about religion its about the relationship. Speak to your son and maybe you can help him to find an alternative church to go to. He may feel that he has a great relationship with God and he does other things to build this. Whatever you do do not turn your back on him. He may have different beliefs then you do and may not practice the same way. My mom will not even speak to me about my choices and did not even attend my baptism.

Talk to him and see what you can do to keep him in a good relationship with God. Help him to find a different way to practice.

Good Luck!
M.

Yikes - this is gonna be long!
My hardcore take on this would be that everyone in the family, living in the home, goes to church. Period. It's a part of living in the household and being a part of the family. No guilt involved. It's just how it is.

But the reality is that your son is for some reason saying church is unnecessary. Why? What's at the core of that? And I would then look to you and ask why going to church is important to you.

Example - for me going to church is important because it is a time of worship with other people. One hour out of my weekly life to give to God and worship with like-minded people is NOTHING compared to the blessings I have in this life. Yes, I pray to God daily and have a spiritual connection with Him outside of going to Mass, but going is a sign of respect and love and is the least I can do. It is so easy to get caught up in the BS of every day life that going this one hour to Mass and worshipping with others is an important way of showing love, appreciation, etc. Also, while my relationship to God is personal and important - it is not all about me. I pray for others - in my family, in my life, people I don't know - who need prayers. And it's easy to get cut off from that and making it all about ME versus being about loving and caring about others as well.

I would talk to him in depth about that. Maybe also have him talk to the Youth Ministry Leader so they can explain why it's a good thing to keep worshipping in a group.

I heard a story once and I know I'm not going to repeat it well here. But a priest went to visit an old man who refused to attend Mass. The old man said he could pray just fine at home and didn't need to be around other people. It was a cold night and the priest asked to light a fire in the fireplace. So he did. But he only lit one stick and let it burn. The priest and the old man watched as the stick burned quickly and brightly but put out no heat and then fluttered out. The priest then built a nice big fire...explaining "The stick is one person. Praying to the Lord. But a group of sticks, all coming together and praying/worshipping, burns brighter and longer, so the Lord hears and feels us in a much stronger way."

my oldest son just turned 13, so i've no experience with here. however, i'm just going to offer my opinion. ;)
i think when children are little, you are the teacher/leader, then later, you become their coach (which is what i think you should be now), then later, during their adult life, you can finally be their friend.
i think by now he's kinda old enough to make his own decisions cause forcing him isn't going to make his heart follow. it may create resentment/rebellion. i don't know.
on the other hand, if he's living under your roof while you're paying his rent/utilities/food, then he has to abide by your rules.
which ever way you go, i do feel for you and wish the best for you and your family. never stop praying for him. proverbs says to train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it. if he strays for a while, he'll come back later.

I"m thinking you must be Catholic since you're calling your church service "mass." Growing up Catholic, I also lost interest in going to church. Frankly, it bored me. Your son is right....you don't need to attend church to have a relationship with Christ; however, it's good to have a church family to share and learn from. You cannot force him to attend and guilting him will only make him resent you and the church. He's pretty much an adult and unless he goes with an open mind, he won't learn anything anyway. You might want to encourage him to find a church that does interest him. I saw that you're in Glendale and I don't know of any churches in your area, however, if he a attended a non-denominational Christian church, it may be more appealing to him. If you instilled good Christian values in him, he will remember them and go back to church when he's ready. Most teens go through this. All I can tell you is not to force him. Good luck.

You have gotten a lot of good responses so far. Your son likes his relationship with God, but feels gets nothing out of going to the church that you have chosen for the family. Maybe he will find another place he likes better, later. He may have to find himself first, and friends that are like-minded. He may drift away, and then come back for some familiar comfort. Do not despair.
As for an example to his siblings, well as that song by Sting goes..."if you love someone set them free". (More an example of your reaction...and unconditional love). You might say to them later, that people change, and change again. Their brother may return someday. (The prodigal son??)
I am not even a church goer at all, but when a parent places such importance on something like this, it is hard to to feel a rejection on some level. I sympathize. Good luck!

I think it is very important that you don't force him to go. This could create an even deeper seperation for him in the next few years as he is getting ready to head out into the world on his own. It sounds like he isn't seperating himself from God, just church. And that is a normal response for any teenager that is trying to figure religion out for themselves. God created us with free will because he wanted us to choose to follow him--I would let your son do the same.

I did not grow up Catholic so I don't really understand how fear and guilt relate to a relationship with God. No church I have ever been to has based their teaching on guilt. That is a dangerous road to head down and it is not what Jesus was here on this earth to create. It makes people feel alianated and may result in a complete seperation from God.

Love, love, love is the only thing that can successfully get your son through this transition. God loves him whether he goes to church or not. Loving and supporting him in this time of self-discovery is the best thing you can do for him.

WOW! No shortage of advice here. The Bible says in Proverbs 22:6 "Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is older he will not turn from it". He is still in training. He needs to go to church with the family. And I don't care how many people tell you church is not important, IT IS! The Bible is very clear about church. He will most likely not go to church for a while when he leaves your home, but he will return in God's time. Until that day just pray for him.

There was I time when I decided not to attend church. I was much younger, though. I found my way back about 5 years later, stopped attending again in college and now as a wife and mom, attend regularly.
I agree with you that church is important, especially at his age. Soon, he'll be going off on his own (college or work) and he'll have to make some hard decisions in life.
All I think you can really do for him is pray that he finds his way back. But then again, do you think he's "lost?" I mean, do you think he has lost interest in God or just in church?
If it is just a church thing, I agree with him that he doesn't need church to have a relationship with God. Especially at his age. Yes, it's better for him to attend church, but if his relationship with God is still strong, then I think it is ok for him to discover whatever he feels he's missing by attending church.
Maybe give it a trial period. Summer is approaching, so maybe let him make his own choice from now till August. Then sit down as a family in August to reevaluate.
Yes, the younger siblings look up to him. My sister looked up to me and she still chose to go to church. Also, when I went through my rebel stage at about 16, I later found out my sister had been doing the same naughty things BEFORE I did. So even though he is a role model for his siblings, his siblings also have a mind of their own. And if it comes down to "Big brother doesn't have to go, why do I?" Then just remind them that his is 17 and they are not.
Good luck!

My husband was forced to go to mass and now he is 47 and totally against the Catholic church. He says with our son spirituality comes from within and he should make his own choices.

I grew up going to catholic school and had to go to church every sunday as long as I lived under my parents roof. I have one older sister and two younger brothers and that was expected of us all. When we got out on our own 3 out of 4 of us tapered off for a few years going to church just here and there. Now that we are older (34,33,30,27) 3 out of four of us all regularly go and volunteer at church. I feel it's the greatest gift our parents could have given to us. If we had the choice we would not have gone either and if you give in to one you will have to deal with all the rest when they get older and want to sleep in or lay on the couch and watch tv( I have a 15 yr old stepson)
Good Luck, pray for guidence.

"Train a child up in the way he should go..." You are so right about this phase being hard (my oldest just turned 20). You worry every day that there is some HUGE life lesson you forgot to give them. Your son is at an age where it is hard to see him as an adult or a child but it sounds like he thinks for himself. Talk to him as an adult and express your concerns without demands or guilt. Hold on to your confidence in God and His ability to take care of your child. God got you all this far - why would He abandon you now?

Your son is almost 18 and is old enough to make his own decisions. He will believe whatever he wants to, whether he goes to church or not. Guilting him into doing something he does not want to do will not set a good example for your kids, and may push him further from family activities. Try to shift your role from " supervisor " to " consultant" as teenagers enter adulthood and let them spread their wings.

From my personal experience, I would encourage you to let your son make his own choice regarding church, especially if he is being respectful and filling his life with other positive things. I was very religious as a teenager, but now that I'm an adult I have done a lot of heartfelt searching and thinking and have come to the conclusion that I no longer believe in the religion I grew up with (or any religion at this point). It completely devastated my parents and has been one of the most painful things we've all gone through. I hated disappointing my parents, but I have not rejected morals even though I have rejected religion (I consider myself agnostic). My mother's initial response when she found out was to cry herself to sleep for 3 nights in a row. I love my mother's email to me after she found out and I encourage you to take a similar approach if maintaining the relationship with your son is your priority:

"Dearest Daughter (and Son-in-law too), I'm writing this letter to make a confession and an apology. I'm choosing to do so via e-mail rather than in person, because I feel I can be more fluid in writing. A few months ago I asked your sister about your "church" activity. It was totally wrong of me to do this and I promise you it won't happen again. I have not, nor will I, discuss your feelings with anyone else. So I ask that you please forgive me. I love you both so very much and I realize I need to show you more respect. I know I can sometimes be rather persistant regarding my opinions, so I will try to be more considerate and sensitive. I have complete confidence in your personal goodness, your wisdom, and your desire and ability to discern truth. I appreciate the wonderful marriage you have, your devotion to your children, your self-discipline, your integrity, your kind service to your siblings, and especially your goodness to me and your dad. I don't ever want you to feel ostracized or criticized for what you do or don't believe. My whole goal as a mother is to lift, encourage, love, and serve all of my children as best I can. Please be patient with me as I continue to learn. With all my love, MOM”

My email response:
“Mom, Thank you for the sweet email. Apology accepted :) Thank you so much for your willingness to be openminded. I really appreciate it because I know this must be hard for you. I must admit that it's a very uncomfortable topic, and reading your gracious email was quite a relief. I was pleasantly surprised and impressed. You still love me! It's not conditional :) Thanks for clearing the air a little. I think there's not really much to discuss regarding the issue and that not much productivity would come from hashing things out, but I do think that a mutual respect for each other's beliefs is the best approach.
To quote your email--"My whole goal as a mother is to lift, encourage, love, and serve all of my children as best I can." I just want to assure you've done an exemplary job of meeting your goal. Thank you for your confidence and respect and understanding for me and DH, and thank you for all the help you offer and give to make our lives easier. You are such a sweet mom and have such a good heart. I wish everyone was as lucky as I am. Please know (as you already pointed out) that DH and I have a wonderful healthy marriage that brings so much joy to both of us, and that we are earnest and sincere and no matter what will be good people that you can be proud to call your children. I love you!"

I wish you luck as you navigate this difficult, confusing territory.

I think one of the greatest things you can do for a teenager (speaking as a former teenager) is to trust them and let them make their choices. Forcing and guilt will work in the short term, but long term you are telling him you don't trust him.

This said, I don't think that means you have no input. I would sit him down at a time that both of you are in a good mood and have time to openly talk. Let him know that you feel he needs to make his own choice on this because he will live with the results of his choice. Also let him know that we create ourselves (not find ourselves) and that who he chooses to be is up to him. I would also share with him how you feel about God and that you are pleased with many of the choices that he has made and that because you know it is important, that you hope he will continue to include God in his life.

He may not chose to keep with your same faith, he may. But you really need to believe and trust in him. Unfortunately this is the part about parenting that sucks. The part where you just hope you gave them everything they need, and let go.

As far as younger siblings go, if they feel the need to distance themselves from church, have a similar discussion, although I would temper it with the realization that they are not as old and still need time to develop before they can handle the responsibility that comes with that choice.

He is not 18, you are still responsible for his actions. He goes to church. I know once he turns 18 he is considered an adult. He has one year left of you making that decision.

You need to explain that if he continues to live with you after 18 he will have more options. Like not going.

H., You can most certainly force an "almost 18-year-old" to do anything you want as long as they live under your roof. Your son is not in charge, YOU are. Remind him that he can make his own decisions once he is an adult out on his own. Point out that he is a role model to his younger siblings, and his behavior encourages them to do the same as he does. I would put my foot down on this one.

You cannot force him to walk the same path as you. Not in his heart... keep that in mind. You certainly can guilt him, but is that rally what you want? A surly, angry person who does not want to be there and is resentful?

Rather than try to force him to do anything, try asking him to just be kind and do it as a favor to you. I think he is right - Church has very very little to do with one's relationship with God. However, it is valuable because of the community. It's not about going to heaven or whatever - it's about having time together as a family and a group. Perhaps he is old enough to understand and respect that.

If not, then let it go for a bit. Let him find his path. Church can be dead boring at a certain age, but as one gets older it can turn back into a something comforting. Making it a punishment can sap all the future joy out of the experience (been there, done that, left a church because of it).

Good luck, and I hope you do not have too much angst.

My family stopped attending church a while ago. We each have a wonderful relationship with God. We allow our children to make their choices...with guidance(depending on the age).

The major reason we stopped attending publicly, is the inconsistencies in what the church as a whole was/is teaching became very clear to us. (We now have an entire seminar series helping people build Peace of Mind. It was discovered and built out of one question: How can a God of Love Rule by FEAR??

It may be your son is seeing inconsistencies and even askign the same question and wants to feel free to love, honor, and worship God in a way that God has called him to.
My father commented to one of my girls recently...you look far happier than you have looked in a very long time.
I wanted to jump up and say...dad it's because she is free to love God without putting her OR God in a box.

My family is happier and healthier than we've ever been.

I would suggest that if church is where YOU are....then that's cool. But allow your son to be who he is, to learn and discover. Listen to what he learns...the insights God gives him may be far beyond what you could ever imagine.....and they'll make sense.

Just something to think about!

Hi H.,
Your family sounds amazing, esp. your son who is quickly becoming a man.

It sounds like you raised him to have strong values: good for you! Those values and morals will stay with him, everywhere he travels and will guide how he discovers his own future.

You say you are concerned the precedence this may set for your other children; but how awesome for them to see you accept/respect your son's adulthood and teach them that they will also have to make many choices as they grow older (if you know your son still prays, so do they!), and know that Mom will still love and support them (not "guilt" them - lol) You are a great Mom recognizing this is probably not an easy decision for him.

Make sure your son always knows he is welcome in your home and church, and enjoy watching him find his way. His freedom will bring him to the right choices in life :)
t

Sorry for the late reply ---- but I have not been on here in a while. I was raised Catholic and I know how important a "family' experience can be for you. In that light, I hope that I am not being too forward. I am an adult leader at our church --- Sagebrush Community on Coors Rd. We have separate worship for adults, teens, and every grade school age. If you would like me to intro him to our group -- I would be honored.

Kurt

H., that's a tough one, but I think you already know the answer in your heart. While you could guilt him into going (a mom thing, not necessarily a Catholic thing as some have suggested), you want his faith to be based on his choices. It sounds like his faith is strong or you would not have him as your other son's first communion sponsor. I would remind him of a few things as he makes his choice. First of all, as a sponsor, his "obligation" does not end at his brother's first communion. He is there to help guide his brother/siblings and be a role model, whether he goes to church or not. Remind him that he was chosen for that role because you know that his faith is strong. Remind him that you have faith in HIM as a person of faith, whatever his decision may be. As a compromise, and this worked with my sister and brother (I wasn't much of a rebel! :) ), I would ask him to attend church with you on days of particular significance to you. This doesn't have to necessarily be holy days of obligation, just days where you all being there as a family would mean a lot to you (in my family, that was Easter, Christmas, and days where we were having mass celebrated for someone in our family who had passed away). Whatever you do, try not to make him feel bad about his decision, and try not to feel bad about it yourself. You haven't done anything wrong, nor has he. He is just exploring his self and his faith and your openness to that will only help him know that faith is a wonderful and nurturing thing. Eventually, I feel that he will realize how much the act of going to mass and being active in the church community can add to his faith and his life. Hang in there! I'll pray for you. You are doing a great job!

Hi H., I will give you my 2 cents. I was raised in a christian family, going to church several times per week and went to all private schools, including college. I think as a family you guys have been consistant in going to church and your son has a good foundation in his beliefs. However, he is getting to that "adult" age where he is able to make his own choices. I don't think I would force or guilt him into going. I would just encourage it, invite him when you guys go, and keep a good example for the younger kids. I don't think actually "going" to church makes your relationship with God any better or worse, but I like the fellowship and think its good for the kids to have friends that "believe" the same things they do. Does your son have any friends at church? If so, I think that would make him want to go, but really, he is getting old enough to decide that on his own. Not sure if this helps or not but I hope you find a good solution for you! Best of luck H.! F.

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