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QUESTION: My child doesn’t want to go to church. Will I hurt him if I force him to go?
ANSWER: There are so many variables that I do not know with reference to this question. The direct answer is absolutely not. Church was never an option in my parent’s home as I was growing up. Nor was it an option for my children in my home. If they were in the home they were in church every time the doors were open unless providentially hindered. This is an example of two generations that were “forced” to go to church and it didn’t hurt any of us, nor did any of us ever grow up to hate God (including all of my six brothers and sisters).
Car seats were not used by many because their child hated it – until, that is, it became law. Then, after just a couple trips, the kids figured out that they couldn’t get away from it and they settled down. Children are forced to go to school by law and, while they may not enjoy it at the time, none of them grew up wishing they hadn’t gone or determined never to force their kids to sit in a car seat or go to school.
The problem – without exception – is that mom and dad need to live 24/7 what they are hearing in church. Kids are not dumb. They know if you practice what you preach. They don’t expect you to be perfect. Just honest about the whole thing.
It’s wonderful if you let your kids go to a good church. It would be far better, however, for you to take them yourself. If it’s impossible for you to go (very unlikely: if you work mornings, most churches have evening services, and if you work evenings, you can make it to the morning services – not to mention the mid-week service…), then send the kids and don’t give them an option. Just remember, however, that it isn’t you forcing them to go to church that makes them hate religion. It’s your own hypocrisy. If you can stay up late or get up early for a ball game, hunting, fishing, golf or work but not church, then your kids see you serving another god.
Disagree? Let me give you something to think about. If you claim that you don’t go to church because you were forced to go as a kid or whatever. Consider the following excuses in relation to attending a ball game that are not original with me: I’ll never go to another sporting event because they asked for money, I sat with people who weren’t friendly, the seats were too hard, the coach never took my advice, the referee made some bad calls, some cared more about their looks than what was happening in the game, some games went into overtime and I got home late, the band played some songs I didn’t know, too many of the games didn’t fit into my schedule, my parents took me to too many ball games when I was a kid; or how about, I’m not going to any more ball games because I read the rule book and know more than the coaches. And do you want to know another reason why I don’t take my kids to any ball games? So they can make up their own mind as to what sport they like best.
Sounds pretty ludicrous, doesn’t it? But we make the same excuses about church. What keeps you from serving God and making sure that your family does too? God says, “Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon (Isaiah 55:6-7). And then again, “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).
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