My daughter said, “I don’t want to go to church tomorrow.”
Nothing quiets post-dinner chatter quicker than a 7-year-old’s honesty. Eyes wide, my mind reached for the right response. It was the first time I can remember one of our girls admitting ambivalence about church, but it wasn’t that surprising. It had been a full weekend amid a particularly busy season for our family. Plus, I remember feeling the same way when I was her age. Some Sundays, going to church felt like a box to check; expected, but not all that exciting.
Still, hearing it from my own child made me wonder if we’re doing enough to show her why we prioritize showing up on Sundays.
In God’s providence, around the same time I was also working on an article about the downward trend in church attendance in the U.S. As part of my research, I interviewed Megan Hill, an author who has written on developing a love for the local church. When we spoke, I was still thinking about my daughter’s words, so I mentioned them to Megan. She gave me a piece of wisdom I’ve thought about many times since.
Parents have a huge role to play in encouraging their children to love church, she said. That happens as parents communicate the beauty of the church with their kids, but also when they acknowledge it’s not always easy.
Grown-ups aren’t always comfortable at church either; we feel awkward sometimes, or like we don’t quite fit in. Parents can smooth the way for their kids to be honest and, in doing so, paint a fuller picture of the church’s true value as a community. In other words, we can try to match our zeal for Sunday attendance with the encouragement to see the church for what it truly is—a place to hear God’s word and worship him. A place where people support each other, offer loving correction, and invite one another to know and love Jesus more.
Church attendance is a habit, and sometimes that’s what gets us out the door on Sunday. But as we look for ways to help our girls love the church, I think the answer lies in broadening the stories we tell about it and the experiences we share.
We want church to be a priority, but more than that, we want our kids to know why.
Meredith Day Flynn is a wife and mother of two living in Springfield. She writes on the intersection of faith, family, and current culture.