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When Church Becomes a Chore

by Mark Gregston

Are you and your teen locked in a battle of wills over Sunday morning church service? 

It’s important to realize that no particular style of church program is going to appeal to everyone.  Every teen is different, even in the same families, and variety is the spice of life! 

Studies show that nearly 85% of teenagers leave the church between the ages of 17-19, but the good news is that two-thirds of them return in the early to mid-twenties.  I believe this is because of the foundation that you as parents create in them when they are little.  If you are a strong believer in Joshua’s affirmation: As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord, but you’re struggling with your teen about their church attendance, keep reading to learn some helpful tips for when church becomes a chore. 

Teens and Church 

How do you get your child off the couch and into the pew on Sunday morning without going to war?  That is the question that plagues many families each weekend, but there is hope!   

Many of us know our family’s love language, but what about your child’s church language?  Do you know the answer?  Have you stopped to consider what types of things your teen enjoys at church?  If not, it’s time to get know your child on another level. 

Develop a game plan.  Become aware of the fact that what appeals to you, may not be your child’s cup of tea.  Some churches are geared toward studying the Bible in depth, or sending missionaries out into the field, while others are focused on small group ministries, and even Scripture memorization.  So, where you attend shouldn’t be based on where you’ve always gone, or even what’s closest to your house. 

Pivot from teacher to trainer.  When your child is younger, it’s important for your family that you lay down a good foundation.  But as they grow up and mature, it becomes equally important that you let them make decisions on their own.  And that includes whether or not they will attend church with you … or at all. 

I know this makes some parents uncomfortable, but if you want to raise well-adjusted people, you’re going to have to allow them the freedom to decide what they want to do.  Our teens are busy trying to stay afloat with everything the world is throwing at them, but they will respond to genuine authenticity.  So, if you’re living your faith out in such a way that it’s energizing and catching, your teen is going to want to be a part of that, too.  And don’t shy away from answering your teen’s questions about faith and God.  If they can’t ask you the tough and sometimes embarrassing questions, where are they going to get the answers? 

And if church is an absolute must in your family, be willing to visit another church or several churches in your area to see where they might find joy and fulfillment, too. 

A Few Things to Consider 

Church attendance is such a sensitive subject for many parents.  It causes anxiety or stress when your teen refuses to go to church.  But you need to remember that your reaction to their “rejection” is important.  Ask God to give you peace, patience, and wisdom.  And pray for faith and growth in your teen. 

Know that this isn’t about you.  Your teen is trying to become an adult and this is one of those pieces for figuring out what his or her own beliefs are.  Be there to support your child in their decisions, but let them have the final say in what they decide. 

And then finally, make sure you are continuing to show your teen God’s love while you pursue and navigate your relationship.  Keep inviting them to go, even if they so no, over and over again.  Just as the prodigal son went out on his own way, he came back, and so will your teen. 


Mom, Dad … Just because your teens are losing interest in church doesn’t mean that they no longer have a love for Christ.  Either, the busyness of their life is putting their relationship with Christ on hold.  Or, they aren’t having their needs met, so they’re looking for solutions to their life issues elsewhere.  Whatever the reason, it’s important that your teen knows that you love them whether they go to church or not.  And don’t let them use church as a control mechanism to show you that they are in control of their lives.  So, let them make some decisions.  Let this faith thing be theirs.  God has promised that what is sown into their lives will one day come to fruition.  And that is a promise that you can trust! 

Author: Mark Gregston

Mark Gregston began working with teens more than 40 years ago as a youth minister and Young Life director. He has authored nearly two dozen books, has written hundreds of articles, and is host of the nationally-acclaimed Parenting Today’s Teens podcast and radio broadcast.