“But do I HAVE to go? Why?”
Every week whether it is a Sunday, Wednesday or another day
set aside for religious services, parents everywhere often
hear those words after telling their children to get ready
for mass, service, temple or synagogue.
It doesn’t matter what your faith is or what your religious
upbringing may have been like. Whether you are Catholic,
Protestant, Muslim or Jewish, every parent takes on the
responsibility of helping a child or children in their faith
journey which often is met with resistance.
But how exactly should a parent help them as they grow,
instilling in them a need to find their higher power and
make a connection for life without using guilt-tripping
Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go, even
when he is old he will not depart from it.
Learn more about your faith
Training a child from toddler years up to teens is not easy.
But it is made even harder when a parent or parents do not
even really know their own faith themselves.
In order to know and practice your faith within your family,
you may need to do some studying yourselves, especially if
you have not kept up through teaching children at your
church, synagogue or temple. “For many parents, Jewish
learning began and ended with Hebrew school. Given the
richness, breadth and complexity of Jewish knowledge,
learning about Judaism as adults is immensely rewarding
because we have the intellectual sophistication and life
experience to appreciate heritage,” said Rabbi Patricia
Heller, Ph.D., “And You Shall Teach Your Children, reprinted
with permission from Raising Jewish Kids, a Making
Connections Home Study Kit, by Jewish Outreach Partnership,
Rabbi Heller pointed out that adult education is not only
available at synagogues, but at community centers,
universities and museums. Other faiths have similar
programs. Contacting your pastor, priest, or Sunday school
teachers who may be able to help you out.
Decide what is important to you as a family
When you learn and review your faith, especially its rituals
and traditions, review with your spouse what is of
particular importance to you. Remember that your younger
children will not understand many theological concepts of
your faith, but they will develop their faith through words
and actions and conversations with you and your
Think about why you stayed with your faith and its
traditions. Think about what things that touched you as a
child- maybe you remember Ash Wednesday, Sunday School or
songs that brought good feelings? What about Sunday Mass or
service? Did you feel disconnected as a child and why? Maybe
you would have liked a livelier service? Or maybe a more
active youth group? Exploring your feelings can help you to
understand what may work and what may not work with your
child or children. Sometimes it may mean that you look for a
church of the same denomination in another town that has
more to offer your family and its’ spiritual growth. Many
make the mistake of thinking they need to stay with a
particular church because of its’ proximity to their home.
Often this can cause a child to grow up in a church he or
she knows the family doesn’t feel totally a part of. Before
deciding on a church out of town, be sure to talk to your
pastor/priest/rabbi about your needs and concerns. They are
always open to hearing from you!
Teaching your child how to worship
Going to church, temple or synagogue with children is very
much different than the days you go as a newly married
couple with none. Remember that children do not have the
attention span adults do, especially as toddlers. Most
religious leaders realize this if they wish to keep the
flock coming every week.
“While it’s hard, you may have to realize that you will not
be able to listen to every part of the service. Remember
always, to teach your child the way to go, you have to take
them there. You have to be the one to do it. Remember, the
stage will pass,” said Reverend Susan Sickelka, a pastor
from the First United Church of Christ. Many church leaders
realize that parents often worry about how much noise their
children make which is often not noticed as much as they
think. “People are very occupied. Parents worry way to much
about it. We encourage them to keep the children in worship
as much as they can. While baby cries and toddlers talking
can be distracting, we remember that Jesus welcomed little
ones,” said .
Whatever your faith is, encourage your child to be involved.
Give them a hymn book or let them pass the collection place
or put in money. Try to teach them some of the songs so they
can sing along. Purchase a children’s Bible or a prayer book
so they can follow along. Sit up front so you can explain
what is going on. Children who are two years old or younger
may need to go in the nursery or in the baby/cry room if
there is one available. Don’t berate yourself for doing it,
either. Children of this age do not have the capacity to
understand yet! If your church offers a Sunday service or
Mass for children, take advantage of it and attend.
Discuss what the pastor or priest talked about right after
church/synagogue. What was good? What touched you? Let your
child tell their aunt or grandma what they learned. They
will feel proud as well as have a connection to their faith
by repeating it! They will also be more likely to listen the
next time they attend!
The rest of the week
Mimi Doe, a writer on Spiritual parenting and a mother,
feels that parents need to help their child connect
regularly with their Higher Power.
“Spiritual parenting is not limited to any one religion; it
is not limited to one set of beliefs. My goal in spiritual
parenting is to encourage and support my own children’s
connection with a loving God. Why? Because I feel that
connection is an every available, always support system to
my kids. God can be whatever they need God to be at whatever
time. God won’t tell, God is always there, whether they are
at a sleepover, or feeling left out at the cafeteria,” says
Help your children realize, too, that they have a connection
to their faith outside of the building where they attend
services, mass, synagogue or temple.
“As a family, write a letter to your pastor, thanking him
for the ways he serves the parish. Do you like the way he
stays to mingle with the people? Did the words at First
Communion Mass or a funeral touch your heart,” notes the
Saint Francis Seminary, Center for Ministerial Formation for
the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.
Other ideas from the seminary are good for encouraging
family unity as well as faith connection.
“Use Scripture as a starting point for family discussion
around the dinner table. You can also as a family select a
service project to do each month. This could be volunteering
at church or a social service function such as a soup
kitchen, visiting a nursing home or raking leaves for a
Remember that if possible you should start early in helping
your child find their spiritual connection. “You must begin
early in helping them to understand who they are as children
of God and what their identity means to them spiritually.
Seeing themselves as God sees them is the most important
perception your children will ever have. If your kids don’t
find their identity in Christ, they will find it in the
world,” said Neil Anderson of Freedom in Christ Ministries,