Raising Kids with or Without Church

Updated on January 12, 2014
E.M. asks from Brooklyn, NY
38 answers

My husband and I have very similar histories with church and religion in our lives - we both grew up going to church every Sunday with our families, both decided during our teen years to dive deep into Christianity rather than being "Sunday Christians" (this is long before we knew each other - we met in college). The more we studied and learned and got into religion, the more we were both turned off of it. Too many things didn't add up, too many aspects seemed politically-based throughout history, mistranslations, inconsistencies, etc... I could go on but that's not what this post is about. Suffice it to say that neither of us are religious at all as adults, though we have a strong respect for the power of faith and spirituality (all forms).

That said, we both strongly value what our religious upbringings taught us, and the church communities that were such a big part of our entire childhoods. Christianity is such an enormous part of our culture and history in this country (like it or not), that to not have had church in our lives as young people seems like it would leave a big culturally educational gap in our life experiences.

So, that leaves us wondering how we want to raise our kids. Do we go to church, pretend we believe and encourage our kids to believe too? That feels hypocritical. Do we go to church, tell the kids we don't believe but that this is important and so we are going anyway? That feels exploitive of the church, and probably confusing for the kids (at least when they are young). Do we go to lots of different churches of lots of different religions in order to teach our kids about the concept of God and faith and spirituality and then let them decide what they want to do with it when they are old enough? Do we just not go to church and not give our kids that experience?

How have others approached this, especially if you have also had a similar spiritual/religious transition in your life?

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answers from Boca Raton on

It's like deciding you don't like the ocean (it's contaminated, it's dangerous, it's cold, etc.) so your kids never get to even see it, much less jump in. They can't drive themselves to the beach.

I would try to find something that's close to your own spiritual beliefs and test it out. Then if it's OK take the family along. You don't have to agree with everything. I'm Catholic and my husband detests the Church. He and my younger son attend a non-denominational church that they love. Often times I go with them. I'm just glad my husband found something that nourishes his spirit. And my son has gotten so much out of it too.

I think your instincts are correct - there might be a gap if they don't at least get the opportunity to explore their faith lives. This is really up to the parents - nobody else has the power to make it happen.

Good luck.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I was raised Catholic. My husband was raised Jewish. We are agnostic-humanistic-spiritual. We've found a Unitarian Church that is non-denominational/not a heavy Christian based "flavor", but is very social-responsibility oriented. We live in Texas, where going to church is almost a "given". I decided I wanted to give my son a "path", and community, etc. In a weird way, I wanted him to not have to deal with the "why don't you go to church" situation as a 6 year old. We enjoy our church very much. Feel free to PM me if you have any questions.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

I thought of my sister and her husband as I read your post. My sister (who is actually my half sister) and I were not raised together. She is older than me, and moved out of my house when I was 2 and went to live with her mother. While I was raised going to Church every Sunday, she rarely went to Church. As an adult, she is agnostic. Her husband was raised in various faiths due to his mother's changing philosophies. He is now also agnostic. They have two children who are now 13 and 9 and have raised them to be good kids with values and morals without religion. When their daughter started middle school, she made some friends who are church-going. They invited her to come to their Church, and she did. She is now a member, and my sister and bil are fine with that. They are also a vegetarian family, but have always told their kids they can eat meat if they choose to (like at a restaurant, or someone else's house). The kids have never wanted to.

My husband and I are raising our kids in the Catholic faith. They attend Catholic school and we go to mass regularly. It is important for us to raise our kids the way we were raised. We've imparted our morals and values onto our kids, and feel they are good kids as well.

My sister and I both have great kids with great values and morals. Some of our teachings are different, but the end result is the same.

If you are really not a believer, I would not recommend taking them to Church and pretending you believe. So much of sharing a religion with your child is actually sharing it. You won't be able to effectively teach them the tenets of the religion if you don't believe it yourself. As your kids get into their middle school and teen years, just let them know that you support them if they wanted to join a Church. Since so many Churches encourage their young people to evangelize and try to gain new members, I'm sure the opportunity will present itself.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Tampa on

Sounds like you need to find a church that works for you ... maybe a non-denominational or unitarian or something along that line.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I can only share my own experience as a mom.
When I was young, I was raised up as a Jehovah's Witness. We left that fellowship when I was 8; in my early twenties, I started going to a Christian church, was baptized, etc. Over time, I felt my spiritual needs weren't being met and since then, I'd say I identify most strongly with the 'secular humanist' label--- I believe that we, as people, have an obligation to do well by each other, to help each other when and as we can. (In a nutshell.) Spiritually, I'd say I'm more agnostic than atheistic, believing that this journey is not yet concluded in my life.

My husband was raised Episcopalian and went to church weekly until he was confirmed, then he stopped going. He is an atheist.

When we were pregnant, he suggested that church might be good for our family and that we could perhaps find an Episcopal congregation to join. My reply to him was "you are going to force our family and kid to go to church when you, yourself, do not believe in the divinity of Christ nor the resurrection?" We both reflected on the well-meant but inherent hypocrisy of that route and decided that we would not go to church as a family, but we would also raise our son in a more Freethinker style, and would NOT put the kibosh on him pursuing his own spiritual path as his curiosity led him to.

My main goal in raising my son is to help him to become an honorable, well-rounded citizen who has a sense of purpose and connection to his community. Church is one opportunity for him to experience this. (I should add, that over the years, our neighborhood has been our primary community as we help each other in times of need, actively caring for others.) I have made every effort to tell him about what I believe as well as teaching him to respect and value what others believe. Many of my friends are Christians, as is most of my family, and I want my son to respect that, not deride it as something 'less than' science. We do talk about science and superstition, and we also talk about how my friends' churches help them to do good works or think about important ideas like stewardship, hospitality and service. My message to him is that faith in God is how many people make sense of the world and understand it-- and their role in it, and their obligations to each other and their community. And thus, that faith does have deep value.

For myself, I actually spend quite a bit of time thinking on religious matters. One I am currently mulling over is Mary's impregnation and what it might have meant for her to have her motherhood chosen for her. I wonder what must have gone through her mind... so, although I do not practice a religion, I'm pretty constantly aware of it. And I am glad for those who feel they have a connection with God, glad that their faith is something of substance for them to lean on. I do appreciate that for them, and I enjoy our conversations on spiritual matters, I like hearing their opinions.

Personally, I think it's less about the religion you raise your children in-- instead, I believe it is how we as parents talk, treat and act toward others which sets the strongest examples of how to live.

If and when our son is interested (he's 6) in learning more about faiths, we will likely join the Unitarian church for his sake, so that he can receive teachings on a variety of religions, keeping the common thread in mind that it is through our love for each other that God's light shines, not by what we call ourselves but in how we act, speak and share.

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answers from Oklahoma City on

I think if you look at religion from a logical standpoint it might give you a little bit of a different ideal.

If religion was absolutely fake, just a made up thing by a bunch of controlling men sometime in the past to make a massive population bend to their ideals of what their society should be like...what does it hurt to live by it's standards today?

Pray about life situations, believe in the power of prayer...

If a person sits down, says their problems out loud, listens to themselves, takes time to listen to their heart/God/Holy Spirit what are they going to find out? Perhaps what the decision should have been all the time. They take time to ponder and dwell on a decision instead of making a rash decision.

Belief in a larger being/God/entity...having the ability to look at one's own life from a macro ideal what can they learn? They are not the only person in the world who matters, that there are others going through the same thing and what did they do about it, and find other solutions that they might not thought of.

Having faith. Living like there is hope in most situations, thinking more positively about life, and more isn't bad. Sitting on the hiney and expecting some deity to save them isn't a good thing in any situation.

If you take religion and think of it in a different way you might see it from a slightly different point. It doesn't have to be all about "get saved or go to hell". It can be about living a life that is respectful to others, charitable, patient, loving, kind, caring, and more...

If you truly do not believe in God or the Holy Spirit then it will show. There are so many religions out there that believe in different things. Look at some of them, perhaps take a comparative religion class.

There are obviously some churches that teach/preach certain things that are, in MY opinion, silly. I know, absolutely KNOW so don't think I'm just saying this, that telling a 3 year old she is going to hell because she has a temporary tattoo on her arm that is left over from a Head Start fall carnival because they think tattoo's are a mortal sin is wrong. Totally wrong. Sending that child out of a Sunday school class and not allowing them back in until that temporary tattoo is scrubbed off is silly and wrong.

Telling a child that is in the hospital with a throat so swollen they are unable to eat anything and can barely swallow anything, to the point they are considering a feeding tube, that has found tea soothing to their throat, something they can keep down and swallow, that they are going to hell for drinking tea...that's silly and totally wrong.

Telling a person that wants to dance that it's a mortal sin and they'll go to hell for lustful thoughts and feelings is wrong. Or that if they don't get baptized by sprinkling verses being dunked completely under water that if they die they can never go to heaven because they didn't get baptized in that churches ideal of what baptism should or should not be. Not allowing you to give your child a present to celebrate the day they entered the world, not wearing sleeveless dresses or pants of any kine, females not being allowed to cut their hair, no jewelry, no make up, no riding in vehicles, no electricity, and more.

Man made rules. Man changing a simple message of love and compassion to one of rules and dogmatic religious zealots. That's wrong.

So seek out a liberal church that is not dogmatic and has numerous rules you can't abide by without thinking they're abnormal.

Find a congregation that has similar thoughts to you and help your kids find their way.

I have had a close relationship to God in my past, I'm way off track and have been for a long while and miss that closeness, the feeling I have when I feel God's spirit, I miss that a lot but have a long way to go before I am where I need to be.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Colorado Springs on

What an interesting question. It sounds like my story a bit, and a something I struggled with as I raised my 3 kids. The easy answer is that you get to choose, but you're right about religion being so part of our culture. Church can be a great comfort, and a great social network for families. I too feel it is a bit exploiting of the church to pretend to believe all the "rules" that churches have. How do you find a balance?

One thing I did was to honestly talk about church (having grandparents who were very Baptist, and the others very Catholic) and how we always needed to be very respectful of that. Also, about the good moral lessons that the churches had in common, golden rule is like karma, being kind to others, God is love etc. and how can these be translated into everyday. We feed the pets because we love them, we help the food pantries, we send money to a charity we support (kids choose) and we had values of good earth people.

Take the best the VALUES religions have to offer and translate it into your lives. Living the values is more important than having a label of a church, but you can point out the value you want to instill and see which churches have that value.

Do I go to church? Sometimes, but I find my spirit renewed in the mountains, but that's me. One son is a church member, my daughter is her twin brother are not, but respectful. They all turned out OK.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

I think your story is more common than you think, and that if you go to a church, you will likely find many people who have a wide variety of beliefs. As one example, I value my Presbyterian church a lot, especially its focus on serving God by serving others - but I'm also a scientist and believe in evolution, not the creation story. So we go to church, and when a topic is brought up in church that I have a different point of view on, then I discuss it with my kids afterwards.

I agree with the many others who suggested that you try a Unitarian church. They are the most accepting of very diverse and non-traditional beliefs.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Columbia on

Standing in a church doesn't make you Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.

That said, I had a similar experience as yours. While going to lots of different churches of different religions, we found one in particular in which we truly felt God's presence. We felt like it was meant to be our home church. So we have continued to attend there, and God has really worked in our lives.

I suggest that you seek after God. Go to different churches. Search for a church home where you feel God's presence. Let God work out the details from there.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

It sounds like the UU community might be a good fit for you and your family...it has all of the cultural and social things that appeal to you about church without the forced doctrine. You can pretty much believe what you want and share your lives with other good people who also are looking for community and culture without "religion." This way, you can share with your children what you do believe it without having to remain silent about what you disagree with.

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answers from Huntington on

I am not sure there is a right or wrong answer here. We are all just doing the best we can and following our consciences, based on what we know and what we feel to be true and right.

My husband and I were raised in very religious households, where their religious beliefs were/are present in every day life. My husband was even a missionary. While religion and faith can bring peace, hope and happiness to some people, it is not for me. I only felt confusion, guilt, anger. I am a very happy person now. We do not attend church, I would consider myself agnostic. However, I agree with you in that where Christianity is such a big part of this country, I do not want my kids to be ignorant and I would want them to at least understand the basic beliefs, if only for historical understanding and the ability to better interact with others (especially as we live in a very religious community).

What we have done is tried to educate on religion, while clarifying that those beliefs are not actually what WE believe. I have made it clear to my kids that they can believe whatever they feel is true and if they want to join a church when they are older, they can. I have tried really hard to show respect to others beliefs. We watch a lot of historical shows that help us understand other beliefs. We attend church around Christmas (we have so far visited 2 different types of churches) because I feel like my kids should at least understand why Christmas is celebrated by Christians. We have gone with friends or family, so it is a nice way to spend time together anyway, and it teaches my kids how to behave in a church setting and exposes them to different types of churches. My kids have a children's bible to familiarize themselves with the popular stories. They do enjoy the stories.

I probably should branch out and help our family learn more about other religions, not just the Christian ones.Anyway, that is what we do. We focus on doing the right things for society, not just the "right thing according to this religious text" and so far it has worked well for us.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Detroit on

We have decided to be secular humanists. We have tried several churches, but nothing seems to feel right. What feels right is spending quality time together on Sunday, typically taking a hike in the woods. I expose DD to a lot of religions. I answer questions as they arise, as my DD is very spiritual and philosophical. We share our morals and expect DD to follow them.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Check out a Unitarian Church. It might fit your needs. I grew up going there, and to me Sunday morning sort of felt like a religions of the world class. They talk about all religions and are accepting of all people and all religions. They don't ever say that one religiong is the right/wrong one. I learned a lot and then made my own choices as an adult.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

I grew up Catholic, my husband Protestant and neither of us are religious at this point.
We don't go to church.
We hated it when we had to go when we were growing up.
You can certainly teach your kids about religion (one or all of them).
Then they can decide for themselves which religion has the most meaning for them (if any).
Taking the Belief-o-matic test, my results say I'm currently a secular humanist.


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answers from New York on

I can only share my experiences with Judaism, so some but not all of what I'm going to say will apply.

We don't belong to a synagogue (I'd sort of like to join, but for reasons involving my husband's health, I have to limit my commitments). However, that doesn't stop us from having a religious identity. We celebrate all the holidays (well, the big and medium-big holidays, anyway; there are a loooot of Jewish holidays) at home and with extended family. I try to fit Jewish food, Jewish music, and Jewish books in there wherever it seems to make sense. And just ... Jewish identity.

All that said, I think this may only be partially applicable, because for a whole lot of reasons related to the long global history of anti-Semitism, home celebration is really normal in Judaism. I'm not reinventing the wheel; what I do is typical to the point of being boring. But I also love it.

So, it might not be quite as easy for you to "build your own" religious practice at home, but I think it can be done. And it lets you decide which values you really want to emphasize and which you want to deemphasize -- you have to let go of that a little when you affiliate with a religious institution.

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answers from Chicago on

Our plan is to teach our kids about religion when they are older. We are atheists. Our parents are very much involved in their churches, etc. and we have some family friends that are very involved in their church. So my kids know all about Christianity via their contact with others. We discuss all the various religions (including Greek myths, etc.) when they come up. And they do come up from time to time.

I'm sure at some point my kids will go to church with my parents, etc. but I really don't think it's an experience they need to have.

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answers from Reading on

We take our kids to church for the education and community. It is up to them to form their beliefs. They can't do that if they don't know their choices. To get past my own skepticism, I listened in church for ways that "God" is simply another way of describing the goodness and love that lives and is often hidden with us. God is what we believe him to be. I believe the stories to be allegorical, but there is still significant value in them, especially for teaching children. Most importantly, we joined a united Methodist church that celebrates open communion, welcomes everyone equally, focuses on community service and has strong children and teen service programs.

Eta - I'd much rather raise an educated skeptic or atheist who came to it as you did than someone who is a skeptic or atheist because they don't know what they're eschewing.

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answers from Appleton on

I grew up Catholic but I am now Wiccan. If you do not believe ---- don't go. Do not take your kids to church and not believe this is sooooo confusing to the kids. My Mom was raised Luthern and converted to Catholic after she married my dad but she never really followed the Catholic church. She would often say things like those are man's rules not God's rules etc. It was very confusing.

I personally never believed in Baptism. I never believed a baby is born with sin and needed to be cleansed, but I had all 4 of my kids baptised because of peer pressure. I am sorry I ever took my kids to church. I regret I ever sent them to any religious training.

My advice to you is if you want your children to believe in a higher power then start to research religions. Find a religion you are comfortable with and study that religion. It doesn't need to be a Christian faith, it can be like me Wiccan, or Buddist, Hindu etc as long as you are comfortable with the belief system.

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answers from Boston on

Great post so far. It reminds me of a dear friend, totally agnostic, who attended a local church for two years, talking with her minister, trying to truly, personally believe in the Lord. She did this so that she could bring her children to a church family and so that she would understand what they were learning. She chose to join the church in baptism after two years. I think the minister said that he learned as much as my friend did, from all her respectful probing and questioning.

May I suggest that you do go to church with an open mind? With an open mind there is no hypocrisy, only respect and the desire to learn. Find a church that is invested in education of children, as well as adults. Our Catholic parish's adult formation sessions have been a source of rediscovered faith, hope and peace for me.

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answers from Washington DC on

church does not impart ethics and values.
parents do.
church CAN back up what the parents live and teach.
i tried different churches with my kids growing up, and then no churches. we never imposed any particular belief on them, and kept an ongoing dialogue about what we were thinking and feeling, and what we sought and what we found. i don't think the boys were confused. it was a journey for all of us.
i like teaching kids to think, not what to believe.

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answers from Sacramento on

My parents were much like you and your husband and I grew up without religion. I went to different churches with friends but none of the churches appealed to me (the social aspect was fun but I never connected to what they were saying). I really don't feel I missed out on anything, other than not understanding Christian stories/lingo. My parents taught us far more about being good people through their actions than I think I would have learned in church.

My husband and I aren't taking our kids to church. We're in a heavily Christian area and we're in the minority here, so we've debated about whether to take our kids just so they fit in. In the end, we decided not to.

I feel that if you belong to a church, you need to stand by all of their principles. I do think you could take your kids to a variety of churches for the exposure, but if you've already concluded that church isn't your thing, then I'm not sure why you'd want to convince your kids that it's theirs? Does that make sense?

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answers from Missoula on

Check out www.parentingbeyondbelief.com (the blog) for suggestions and stories just like yours. There are two books that might also help, Parenting Beyond Belief and Raising Freethinkers.

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answers from Chicago on

I have a friend whos parents were two different religions. They decided to let thier kids decide when they grew. She did not grow up with the love of a religion, and she was a God hater. She was a lost sol for a long time.

Some kind of religion, belife of a higer being. I think is helpful.

My hubby and I are differnet religions, but my kids are both baptised Catholic.

I think raising them in some belfe even if it is mulitple is better than not. But that is my experience.

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answers from Baton Rouge on

Add me to the list that thinks a Unitarian church might be just what you're looking for.

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answers from Kansas City on

I would hunt around a find a church that most aligns with your beliefs. Churches can provide a great sense of belonging and community for families.

Do your kids attend school? Do you agree with everything that goes on 100%? Probably not, but you know they're getting something out of it:)

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answers from McAllen on

I so get that. Church has been a big part of the evolution of you, and you want to afford your kids that same evolution. You know, churches are different these days. Find something non-denominational that doesn't necessarily preach "the gospel", and expose your child to that. Find a place that feeds your spirit (at least a little) and does good work in the community. When your kid reaches an age where he can spend time away, maybe let him go to church with his grandparents or othe rtrusted relatives. That way he can be exposed to it without the negative energy from you blocking whatever good he might get.

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answers from Cleveland on

You question really moved me. what great arguments For attending.

unless your kids are teens, I think I would suggest finding a church that was the least offensive to you, one that had a strong children's program and had people that at least had some similarities to your work and school, and parenting lifestyle if not your spiritual style. Take the kids let them do Sunday school, and children's choir or youth group what ever, and give them a basic foundation in the bible stories,

when they are 12 and the theory and politics and "lies" come in then you can have a discussion and choose to stop attending or not . at that point you will have given them the cultural ?? is that the word?/historical , context of who the church says noah was etc It gives them the base knowledge of wow I don't have words for this, to say what I mean precisely, it's tricky,, maybe the base knowledge the same way knowing about Daniel boone and paul bunyan affects American culture.

I'm also coming from a non catholic upbringing so I don't know if a catholic church would fit that need. It sounds weird to say since it shouldn't be this way, but a lot of churches, I feel, dumb stuff down and don't get political or even very deep into the philosophy at least as far as kids are concerned, they often have programs so littles don't have to sit through the sermons etc. so they are just learning the bible stories and that's it. Just like Cinderella isn't real you don't have to believe in her or her fairy god mother. when they are mature enough to handle what ever you have proven to be untrue or wrong, then you can discuss that with them and I don't really feel like you will have been misleading them as much as exposing them to ... sort of ... mainstream culture.

Gosh I think I made a mess and a mockery of it all, I guess part of me understands the church body/congregation and system of pastors etc could be troublesome for you but if you believe in the power of faith can you not see it in all areas of life, in the grocery store, in prisons, and even in the church, for the sake of your kids could you find something good in the whole mess, even if it's your kids make new friends, or a church person prays for your child's well being.

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answers from New York on

I think u guys really need to try out different churches just because one church may not have agreed with you. You need to make up your own minds before you start teaching your children otherwise they do not have a firm foundation to base there faith on. God bless!


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answers from Iowa City on

See if you have a "Sunday Assembly" in your area.

We are agnostic and have decided to teach our children about various religions without saying anyone is right or wrong. If they wish to explore a religion further we will help them to do so.

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answers from Raleigh on

My husband and I grew up in religious homes and were active in the church, but are now "nones". I don't have really any bad feelings towards church or anything. Mostly, my issue is that I worked in a church for a few years, and just have no desire to go anymore. It's like going to eat at McDonalds after you worked there. Once in a while is ok, but in the end, you're sick of the food and the business.
My mother wanted my son to go to church with her, so I let him. I have no problem with that. She feels it's important to go to church and have a presence there. I'm just not one of those people. To each his own, I guess.

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answers from Honolulu on

Going to "church" is not the same as believing in God or being spiritual.
Church, is a building.
It is not religion.
When my late Dad was very ill before he died, he could not... go out much less "go to Church."
That did not mean, he was any less than others that did.

A person can be a believer or be very spiritual and spot on, but still not be a "church" goer.

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answers from Washington DC on

I was raised Baptist until about 8th grade. My parents were unhappy and did a lot of searching and learning, and we became Lutheran. My three kids are Lutheran as well. My husband is Baptist, southern Baptist. If the kids want to go with him, they do...but they more often go with me.

They attend several Vacation Bible Schools over the summer and learn a lot about different religions, different views, etc.

Right now, we do not have a good church home. The one we were going to had lots of issues going on and I hated that the pastor was always asking for money and making us feel bad if we didn't tithe. Theo ne where my kids were baptised had a horrible pastor, which is what made us leave in the first place. He left and they had a temporary one, who was no better. The new permanent one is said to be much better, so we plan to try it out this Sunday.

I think as long as your children are getting faith in whatever form you align with, you're good to go.

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answers from Chicago on

Have you researched other religions/churches? Maybe find a place that aligns more closely with your beliefs/values? Have you researched something like Baha'i? http://www.bahai.us/bahai-temple/
I married a man who was raised VERY Catholic in a VERY Catholic neighborhood. I was raised Presbyterian. He has grown AWAY from his faith in adulthood, I have grown closer (if that makes sense). He feels guilty, but has been to church with me a few times and feels like my church is better aligned with his beliefs and values. However, he still can't bring himself to come with the kids and I on Sundays (I think his parents would be upset).
SO, I take the kids each Sunday. In my church they do not go to the service, they go to an age appropriate Sunday School classroom where they have a lot of fun learning the lesson and doing crafts etc. and then they go to a special "children's chapel" for the last half. I pick them up after the service.
My sister was raised Presbyterian and just never goes. But her son has, on his own, expressed a lot of interest and a natural spirituality. My sister has started taking him whenever he wants to go and he loves to learn about it. Whether he sticks with it or not, we are not sure, but he loves going to a week long camp at my mom's church (Vacation Bible School) in the summer and does a few things during the year. My sister is trying to leave it up to him, but help him research and learn at his own pace.
Best of luck - whatever you decide, I know that you will still raise great kids because you sounds like a person with great values. Being a parent who shows compassion/love for others will rub off on your kids.

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answers from Muncie on

My opinion, go. You don't have to swollow the whole hook line and sinker. You can however temper the things your children learn each Sunday with what you and your husband know from life. Treat it like handing your child a book you've already read. "Here read this, tell me what you think of it. This is what I've learned."

The basic "children" lessons from Sunday school are pretty tame and universal. The social interaction could be good for them too. When they are older let them decide, just as you and your husband did.

We're having the trouble of finding a church that feels right, we love our faith and are strong, but we've been so turned off by the people in the religion. It hurts.

Good luck!

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answers from San Francisco on

Try a church that has a spiritual approach vs. a dogmatic approach. Maybe Unitarian?

I'm not religious, and don't go to church, but I sent my kids to church with friends at times, enrolled them in church summer camps, and allowed them to explore as they were interested in doing so. They've developed the beliefs that work for them.

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answers from Detroit on

Excellent responses. I can not add much-besides personal experience. My mother and father were raised catholic. Both attended catholic school and camp and my father was an alter boy. Both decided that this was not yhe life for them. With their first child they had him baptized and all of the traditional routes. There were five years between their first child and the next two-and in that time they decided to allow their children to choose their own religious beliefs. So, my younger brother and I were not baptized and could only watch many of the ceremonies that our extended family participated in. I was allowed to go to church with my grandmother, relatives, and friends.
Now that I'm an adult I am grateful for the religious freedom I was allowed. I observed many different religious services, customs, and ceremonies and allowed to form my own opinion. I have the same approach with my kids. I have one that is very curious (7) and likes to read the bible/bible stories. The rest of the kids enjoy going to events at churches and church groups, but none enjoy sermons (a little too young to understand them). Most of the churches we have been to have sunday school for the kids during the sermon, so that is something they enjoy. They also really enjoy vacation bible school in the summer we usually end up at the same church their cousins go to-but that has changed once or twice).
Perhaps because I was raised this way it doesn't bother me at all. They are exposed-and can choose to delve in, or observe. I had the opportunity to embrace religion many times-just never felt the inner yearning that others described and didn't want to fake it.


answers from Columbus on

I was raised in a Nazarene church, my husband was raised Catholic. As adults we were both very turned off to the idea of a strict, vengeful God and a rules-based religion. But we were also both very determined in our faith. We've done a lot of church shopping and finally found a Southern Baptist church that is exactly what we needed. The focus is more on loving your neighbor and having a relationship with God, and not so much about just avoiding going to hell. That's how I want to raise my kids.

Not to say that all Catholic or Nazarene or Southern Baptist churches are exactly like what we experienced, but if faith is important to you, don't just go through the motions for your kids. They will pick up on that. It can be scary to keep trying new churches, but it's SO worth it when you find one that fits. We've met more friends, and our kids have made more friends, at this church, in just a few months, than we have in the entire 10 years of our relationship.



answers from Minneapolis on

I agree with those who said you should go church shopping and see if you find something you like or where you at least feel comfortable. Regardless of religious beliefs, I consider Bible study or religion part of a well-rounded education. If you don't find a church you like can you get the kids into some sort of class that studies religions or the Bible? I am a lifelong Lutheran and attend church regularly. However, I don't necessarily believe everything I read in the Bible in a literal sense. I do think familiarity with the Bible is an important part of a general education because there are so many literary and other academic, social and political references to it. My husband was born and baptized Lutheran, had a Jewish stepfather and was essentially raised without any religious influence or education. He misses many references and there are Bible stories, characters, etc. that I need to explain to him outside the context of church. I'm not sure I've articulated it clearly, but I consider some sort of religious or Biblical education, even if you don't believe in a particular religion, to be very useful.

As a side note, my kids have had some great opportunities through membership in our church such as a fun summer camp, mission trips and a variety of volunteer experiences (playing with underprivileged kids, painting, doing yard work, working with the elderly, packing for Feed My Starving Children, helping at a food shelf, caring for kids in the nursery, etc.) . Churches or religious institutions are certainly not the only way to accomplish that, but if they don't have the opportunity through a religious institution I also think it's important to get kids some volunteer and community service experiences.

Good luck.

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