Why Do We Have to Go to Church?
This morning, as we were getting ready for church, our eight year old daughter blew up in frustration and yelled, “Why do we have to go to church?”
Instead of responding with a quick answer, I was actually glad she asked the question. I would rather have my daughters ask good questions and learn to think for themselves.
After leaving a full-time church job a few months ago, our family hasn’t really had to attend church. Each Sunday we have a choice whether to attend or not. And our girls know that.
So why do we attend church? Even the author Donald Miller has written about his personal struggles with attending church.
This month we are focusing each week on one of our family values. This week we are focused on the value of faith and answering Anna’s question of why we need to go to church is definitely part of the conversation. Notice it is really about why we NEED to attend church instead of HAVE to attend.
So here is my attempt at how I would answer the question of why church attendance is important to our family.
We don’t have to attend church
Jesus came to bring us a way to a relationship with him and his Father. He didn’t come to bring a religion of things we HAVE to do.This is essential for our children to understand. It is about a relationship not about a religion with a list of rules.
We grow together not alone
In an individualized American culture we stress independence instead of interdependence. We stress our personal relationship with God and how we grow on our own. The biblical writers see spiritual growth differently.
The writer of Hebrews states, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrew 10:24-25).
We grow in our love and good deeds as we meet together and encourage each other. This isn’t just Sunday morning church as we see it in our culture but any time that believers come together. And it is much more effective if these relationships occur more than just on Sunday mornings. But Sunday morning church is a good starting point to find these edifying relationships.
It is a heart issue
Ultimately the answer to this question shows more about our hearts. As parents our prayer is that our daughters will recognize God’s unconditional love and pursuit of them and respond by chasing after God themselves. Attending church because they have to or because if they do then God will reward them is so far from the truth. Our desire is that church attendance would be a response to what God is doing in their hearts.
Side note: kids like church when they have friends
Really for Anna the issue with not wanting to go to church is that she doesn’t have any friends in her class. We moved Norah into the same class so they could stick together. As Anna and Norah meet other kids in their class, they will begin to like church more. As a youth pastor I saw this all the time. If teenagers had friends in youth group, then their attendance increased, so our goal as leaders was to create environments for relationships to form. This should be the same in children’s ministry as well.
Dialoguing with our children about questions like this are important for their lifelong faith development. I think part of the reason why so many church kids leave the church when they leave home is because they didn’t understand why church attendance was important. It was just something they HAD to do so when their parents weren’t around they really didn’t see a need for it.