My teenagers are beginning to resist going to church. Should they be forced, and if so, to what age?
Being a parent is one of the most difficult and thrilling experiences that any human being ever has the privilege of going through. Exercising discipline over our children many times requires the wisdom of Solomon. I know this sounds like terrible theology, but sometimes I think raising children is 10 percent skill and 90 percent luck. It’s very difficult to discern how much pressure we can apply before we are provoking our children and making matters worse. I’ve dealt with young people whose parents are so pushy and demanding that their very harshness is the thing driving them away from the church.
The general answer to your question is that when you have children, you have a responsibility under God to raise them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. In my church we baptize infants, and when we do, as a congregation we make a promise before God to raise these children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Even if you don’t practice infant baptism, that responsibility is still there. The Bible tells us that we ought never to neglect the assembling together of the saints, which is corporate worship on Sunday morning. I take that to mean that it is my obligation as a Christian, as a member of the covenant community, to be in worship on Sunday morning with my household. So it is my responsibility to see to it that my children are in church. It is also my responsibility to be sensitive and gentle and not tyrannical, so I have to somehow find that fine line of being firm but loving, gentle, and kind in that firmness. Again, I am accountable to God for their being there for the nurture and instruction of the things of God on Sunday morning. So my answer to the first part of your question is yes.
I don’t like the word “force” because to some people that means baseball bats and child abuse. That’s not what I’m talking about. I am talking about parental leadership whereby the authority resides in the parents and you see to it that the authority is carried out. You asked to what age: I would say as long as the children are under your roof and under your authority as part of your family unit. I would encourage you to make it a special point of concern to do everything in your power to get your kids to church and to make it an attractive time for them rather than a bad experience.