Why do I(the student) have to attend church?
1. Students think they can follow Jesus without attending church.
Somewhere along the line students bought into the idea that I can be a devoted follower of Christ and skip out on church. If our students don’t attend church now, they never will! This is problematic at both the spiritual development and theological level.
2. Students going to church has a lot of Biblical support–kind of a major point.
One may think this is not a theological question, but a practical question. Students do not want to go to church because it is “boring” or not “relevant”. I disagree this question is entirely theological and should not consider how students feel towards church. This question strictly deals with how youth ministries address ecclesiological matters. Jesus tells Peter He will build His Church on this rock (Matthew 16.18). Basically Jesus thinks the Church is a big deal because He directly gives Peter the Church’s construction plans. Also students really matter to Jesus. For some reason, Jesus deeply cares about children and teenagers (Mark 10). So it would make sense Jesus loves having students involved and participating in church.
3. Students need to value being in “big church”.
Youth pastors need to encourage students to attend “big church”. Big church is intimating for students. It mainly consists of adults who do not give a rip about some punk teenager. Big church gathers regularly for preaching/teaching and worship, observe the biblical sacraments of baptism and communion, are unified by the Spirit, are disciplined for holiness, and are empowered to be missionaries to their town and to the world for God’s glory and redemption. Our students need to learn how to love each aspect of what the church is. I think the problem is…. many youth pastors underplay these marks of the church because we don’t think they work. Or we don’t think they are fun or students will not like them. In Nehemiah 8 Ezra preaches from daybreak to noon (Nehemiah 8.3). Nehemiah does not record any of the teenagers complaining to their parents that Ezra is boring and preached for too long.
The sooner students assimulate into the church body the better off they will be.
4. Some students may like Church, but don’t like your church.
I think it is perfectly okay to let other students attend other churches. It is difficult as their youth pastor to encourage them to attend a bigger and better church down the street. More youth pastors need to be Kingdom-minded. Trust me, if a student enjoys another church, do Jesus a favor and let him/her attend. I think it is our job as youth pastors to get students plugged into church, which may mean suggesting other churches that are a better fit for your student. Plus, our students will most likely not be in the same church setting they grew up in, especially when they enter their college or adulthood years.
5. Some students may need a church time out.
If a student does not desire to attend church, they may need a break. Granted, use some discernment and don’t be giving students a hall pass every time a student complains about church. It can be very healthy allowing students to take a break so they can re-evaluate why they attend church. Give permission for students to skip a few weeks of church if they are angry, bitter, or frustrated with church. We don’t want church to be a chore and painful. Give students clear boundaries when giving them a leave. Make sure to have a follow up plan, if they do decide to take a break. I found that if you give students a little room of freedom, it can have great benefits to their spiritual development process. Make sure you talk to their parents before dismissing them from church.
6. Always refer to the parent.
Parents have the final answer to the question of: Mom or dad do I have to go to church? Some parents make church mandatory and others make it optional. Personally I think church should be mandatory for students who are in 6th-10th grade. When a student enters 11th grade, he/she should start making their own decisions while they have a support system already in place. If the student decides not to attend church, he/she needs to articulate why this is the best decision. By the way “sleeping in” does not count.
7. Praying, corporately and privately, for our teens’ church attendance.
It is a constant battle raising up our students according to God’s way. It is tough following Jesus as a jr high and high school student. Getting teens to church is tough. By fearlessly praying for our teens church involvement will empower and protect our students and families as they live out the Christian life in and out of the church context. Essentially as youth pastors we need to be praying Ephesians 6.1-4 and 6.10-13 over our students and families every Sunday.
** If you want read all 10 of the Top Ten Theological Questions Teens Ask click here