A few years back, I taught our annual Confirmation Class at Christ Church. We called it Next Step (sounds cooler) but it was a Confirmation Class. Most of the students are Jr. High(ish) with a few younger and a few older. I held the first and final sessions with parents or sponsors attending and I was often asked this question, “Should I make my students go to church?” I cannot tell you how many times I have been asked this question over my thirty years in ministry.
The rest of the conversation normally goes like this:
Me: “Why do you ask?”
Them: “My child is not a small child anymore and really doesn’t always want to attend with us. I am afraid if I make him/her go against their will as a twelve year old, I will burn them out on Christianity when they are older and they won’t want to attend church at all.”
Me: “Do you make them go to school?”
Them: “Of course.”
Me: “Every single day? Against their will? Why?”
Them: “My child is still very young and they don’t always know what is best for them. As a parent, I have to insist that they do some things they don’t want to do for their own good.”
Me: “Like go to school?”
Me: “Aren’t you afraid that you will burn them out on education?”
Them: “It’s not really different is it?”
Me: “Not that I can tell.”
Them: “And Rev. Shane, while we are at it, at what age should I no longer make them go if they don’t want to attend?”
Me: “At whatever age they leave your house and are completely off your payroll.”
That Christian parents who would alter a family vacation to avoid missing a single practice of a select sports team, would not prioritize their child’s spiritual development in the same way, mystifies me. Let’s face it, God entrusted his beloved sons and daughters to our care and the single charge we are given is to raise them in the Lord. I am not saying that there is anything wrong with select sports, music, social events or school extra-curricular activities but I am saying if we who claim the name of Christ fail to prioritize the spiritual development of our children above all other things, there is something wrong with us.
I absolutely believe you should make your students go to church.
-Rev. Shane l. Bishop, a Distinguished Evangelist of the United Methodist Church, has been the Sr. Pastor of Christ Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois since 1997.