Should we require our teen to go to church?

One of the most frequently asked questions we have received after the release of our new book on parenting teens is, “Should we require our teenaged son or daughter to go to church with us when they do not want to go?” It’s a great question and believe it or not, we know what that is like… Fighting to get them up, fighting to get them dressed appropriately, fighting to get them to listen, and the constant debate over why it’s important. It is not uncommon for parents of even Christian teenagers to face a season sort of like this. What should you do? Should you require it?


We think it is critical for every family to practice what we call “Sabbath principles.” The idea is that because God requires us in the Scripture to set aside a day as different from all the other days of the week to honor Him and to rest, we want to put these principles into practice. Since we are Christians, we worship on the first day of the week to remember the resurrection of Jesus. Sunday is also the day that we incorporate Sabbath principles. What are these principles? In short they are as follows…

  • Gather with other believers and worship God through prayer, singing, and the reading of His Word.
  • Participate in a small group for Bible Study and connection (Everyone needs a tribe)
  • Enjoy time with family and friends for rest and play

We decided, no matter how difficult, the principles of the Sabbath would be a boundary for every person in our family, especially teens whose hearts are running away from God.

Was it hard? Yes, some Sundays it was exasperating but we didn’t cave. The outcome is beautiful and the fruit is amazing. Our teen that once hated church is now deeply involved in its mission. Set a Sabbath boundary. You will be glad you did.

Just as an aside, if Sabbath principles seem completely foreign to you, consider clearing your Sundays for worship, community, family, rest and play. God wired us for just such a rhythm. When we honor Him we find a better way.

One other note. In those difficult seasons, we did not require our teen to do everything the church had to offer nor do we require it when they are walking with God. For us Sabbath principles on Sunday is the boundary. Everything else is opportunity.

For more information on parenting your teenager, check out our new book “Relentless Parenting: The Crucial Pursuit of Your Teen’s Heart.”

5 thoughts on “Should I make my teenager go to church?

  1. I totally agree with you on this. My teens at the time hated to go to church. In the end however, this is what they learned – respect for elders, respect in modesty, being on time, doing things you don’t want to but is good for you (like working at a job), finding out that God really does care about you when you are going through the tough stuff, having their ears opened to hear the truth which goes into your spirit even when you are not an active participant in the conversation, remembering all the truths when you are older and not departing from it, participating in events that teach community service, and so much more. My youngest ran from everything, even questioned her faith with God though she was raised in the church. But her life fell apart in many serious ways to the point of wondering if God still loved her. In the end, she thanked me for forcing her to go. She said when she has kids one day, she too, will make her own kids go so that they will hear the truth and it will be written in their hearts for a lifetime like it was for her.


  2. Brian, If your teen is not following Christ why make them go to church. Both of our teens have stated they do not believe what we do although they are trying to decide what it is they believe. They go to young life meetings, occasionally attend youth group events at other churches with some friends. They occasionally go to a different church where thy prefer the preaching that they can relate to. How is forcing hem to attend church going to pursue their heart versus causing more rebellion. Also when they do attend is it worth the battle to make sure they dress exactly the way we want them to dress. As long the clothes are modest do they need to dress to meet our standards. I am not sure I agree with your sabbath argument.


    1. Jano, thanks for your reply. I think your question is great. My answer is simple. As the parent you are the primary faith trainer of your teenager by God’s design. They are under your authority and influence although sometimes it doesn’t feel that way. With that perspective, if they are not following Christ, as their parents it behooves us to give them every chance to hear the gospel and follow Christ. For this reason, I would require them to come to gather with the church as part of your family.


    2. If one can’t relate or understand the preaching of Brian, they are asleep. If you close your eyes, you can smell the dust on the sandals of whoever he is talking about. Brian teaches with pictures, the same method a guy named Jesus used. If you want to walk on water, you can’t hang out in the boat. There’s a Hebrew word for “I relate t another preacher’s (at the other church) teaching better, Bologna.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s