Do I force my child to go to church?

Written by Lucille Williams
Published on June 30, 2023

On Sunday mornings you can find me serving in the children’s ministry. This past Sunday, I watched as a mom literally pulled her child into the children’s program. This child laid on the floor as his mom dragged him by his arm until she successfully had him in the room. Then wouldn’t let him out, even though he tried as hard as he could to run. My heart ached for this child and his mom.

A different solution for us all

I spent the majority of my time during the kid’s service in the back corner of the room sitting on the floor with this little boy. When he didn’t want to get on his feet for the worship time, I didn’t either. We sat in the back on the floor—me in a dress, him clutching his smoothie from a local coffee shop.

Later, a little girl who knew him came and sat with us. Just the three of us “worshiping” together.

Slowly, this little boy began to talk with me. By the time small groups were formed, he was ready to participate.

What do you do when your child doesn’t want to go to church? I’ve been asked this question so many times, and it’s a complicated answer. The solution can be different for all of us.

When my youngest was three years old, upon picking him up from Sunday school, I heard the difficult words, “Mrs. Williams, we had a problem with Joey this week.” My response was, “I’m so sorry. I’ll be here next week to help you.” And I was. I did not believe it was the children’s ministry volunteer staff’s job to take care of my children. I felt that was my responsibility. If he was acting up, that was my problem, not theirs.

Eventually, I became the teacher for the class. And there were no longer problems with my  “spirited” little boy.

My kids knew Mom cared about their faith and their relationship with God. My kids knew Mom cared about their spiritual journey and growth. They knew because I continually showed up and supported them as they grew in their relationship with Jesus Christ.

Parenting as an investigator

So, what do you do if your child doesn’t want to go to church?

If your child doesn’t want to go to church, it’s time to investigate. Take off the parent hat and put on the investigator hat. Investigators aren’t emotionally invested and can look at a situation from a different perspective. Also, an investigator is not blaming themselves. If this is you, you’ve done nothing wrong. Most kids at some point do something, or many things, which cause a parent to stop and think, “What in the world? Where did I go wrong?”

Kids have free choice and their own thoughts, just like us. We are all set free by grace, and no one can force us into a relationship.

Spend time with your child. They need you. They need you to find out what is going on in their lives. They need you to listen and understand. Spend time with no agenda, but to be with and take in your child’s world. Be present. Try to see things from their perspective.

Be inquisitive. At a later time, ask questions. Find out why they don’t want to go to church. It’s possible they have legitimate reasons. Listen and understand their point of view.

Be proactive. Next, check out their program. Go with them and find out what is happening at church for them. During one of the programs I’m involved in, a little boy would regularly cry and express strong anxiety. His mom has been coming each week and sits on one side of the room. He’s doing great now. This mom is sending a message to her son that he’s important and that she cares about his world. When he’s ready, she will slip out.

Your child’s spiritual journey

Let your child be part of the solution. Maybe a different time with a different service would be better for your child. Maybe they’d prefer to sit with you. When we bring our kids in and allow them to speak into what decisions will be made, it can be impressive what they come up with. After all, it is their spiritual journey.

Be patient. In the end, it’s a process. It may take time before your child feels okay about going to church. Stay patient, be loving and understanding, and give yourself and your child grace. One day, they may love church and have to drag you there. 

With God all things are possible (Mark 10:27).

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Lucille Williams

Lucille Williams is an author, speaker, pastor’s wife, and has ministered to couples and families for over 30 years. As the Women’s Director at Palmcroft Church in Phoenix, AZ she dedicates her time to ministry and writing and providing resources on her blog at She’s the author of From Me to WeThe Intimacy You Crave, The Impossible Kid: Parenting a Strong-Willed Child with Love and Graceand Turtle Finds His Talent: A Slide-and-Find Book: Discovering How God Made You Special.
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