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Crunch points – My son says now he’s a teenager he shouldn’t have to come to church. What shall I do?

September 2021 | by Jeremy Walker

We all value biblical advice from our elders, the first ones to whom we turn for counsel. Jeremy Walker outlines the kind of answer he might give to a question received at the chapel door.

My son says now hes a teenager he shouldn’t have to come to church. What shall I do?

(The following answer assumes that the head of the household is a Christian. Nuance would be required if one parent, especially the father, were unbelieving.)

I am glad you have given me a chance to help with this. First of all, accept that as your son’s parent, God has bestowed upon you authority and responsibility, especially as the head of a particular household. You are not demanding or abusing this authority, just exercising it.

Make clear that your son lives under your roof, enjoys your provision and protection, receives your guidance, sits under your care, and answers to your authority. There are responsibilities and obligations that go along with those privileges and opportunities.

One of those is the expectation that he will be among God’s people and under God’s Word morning and evening every Lord’s day. That simply belongs to being part of a household where Dad and Mum are committed to obeying God: ‘But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord’ (Joshua 24:15).

If he is not old enough to live independently, then he is not old enough to make this call for himself, and you have every right, gently but firmly, to expect and enforce his compliance.

So deal with him gently and firmly (Ephesians 6:4; Colossians 3:21). Don’t bang your fist and tell him you’re the head honcho! If he wants to be taken seriously, treat him seriously.

Explain, clearly and earnestly, and with many expressions of affection, why his non-attendance is not an option. Explain how concerned you are for his soul, and why you are yourself answerable to God for the way that you deal with him.

Take into account that, if you are parenting responsibly, you are even now training your son to exercise authority and responsibility in his own right, to be – God willing – a Christian man and perhaps a Christian father himself.

Explain that part of that is receiving oversight. Now, and in this issue, he is not entitled to ‘opt out.’ While under your roof, he should be under God’s Word.

Remember, too, that public preaching is an occasion which God particularly delights to bless to conversion. The next sermon, or a conversation in the margins, may be the moment when the Lord delivers your son.

Bear in mind that you may now be reaping what you sowed by a parenting style which gave the impression, from the earliest years, that parenting is based on consensus rather than the loving exercise of God-given authority.

Have you spent years training your child to expect to get their own way? Perhaps you have set a bad example in the past? It may be that you now need to start dismantling some wrong assumptions and establishing some right ones.

But, given that this is what we are now dealing with, and even assuming that this young sapling has grown up with a somewhat twisted sense of its own self-determination, press on – God is able to restore the years that the locust has eaten (Joel 2:25).

Take the opportunity to press home upon your son the importance of his soul and the claims of Christ upon him. It may feel like a battle; pray that God would make it a blessing.

If you would like an answer to a crunch question, please email [email protected]. We cannot guarantee an answer to every question.

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