At some point in your children’s lives you are going to be challenged and met with resistance about going to church on Sunday. I remember arguing with my parents at different points. I have been met with resistance with my own children. Over time I have developed a simple strategy to get them there. I will share my 3-part strategy here.
As a parent there are a lot of roles that come with the benefit of being called Mom or Dad. One of the biggest roles is that of a practicing Catholic and attending Sunday Mass regularly. That means taking our children with us to Mass. Sharing the Mass with them. Getting them to understand the purpose and benefit of the Mass. Getting them to embrace God’s love in communion with others.
The first part of the strategy is easy, take them to Mass early and often. When they are young, it is much easier. We all crave stability and good habits. Sunday Mass is both of those. I remember going and then going to visit my grandparents afterward. Those are fond memories that warm me to this day. Now my sons are young men; if we can attend together, we go out to a great breakfast.
The second part of the strategy is to go yourself. This may seem odd to say. But you have to take into account the long game here, not the sprint. As your children grow they watch you, both of you. If one parent goes and not the other, it may come back to bite both of you. A small story might say this better.
My father worked a full-time job during the week and on the weekends he was a musician. I know now that he loved playing, but as he had kids he was playing to help support the family. I know it became a job. This was during the 70’s/80’s on Long Island, not a cheap place to raise four children. He would do mainly weddings and other events. This would keep him out until 2 or 3 AM. He did this every weekend. Not an easy schedule on the family or the man himself.
What I can vividly remember is that he would take us to church with our mother every Sunday. The impression that made on me carries with me to this day. He could have easily skipped it. The point here is that when I became older and did not want to go to church, my parents were not hypocrites telling me I should go.
The last part of my strategy is the key: One Hour.
When my sons were younger it was easier but the older they got the more vocal and assertive they become against church. I heard the following:
“It’s so boring … ”
“We just say the same things every Sunday …”
“It’s so lonnnnnnggggg …”
“Too early …” or “Too late …”
Try to remember your thoughts and feelings from your childhood. I can, and I thought every one of these arguments. I can empathize. The first item is to take the emotion our of your response. They are not being aggressive toward Jesus Christ and God. They don’t hate. They are just not looking at it from the proper angle.
My retort has been: I am asking you for one hour of your time. Think of the things that take one hour per week in your life:
Fast food restaurant with your friends
Browsing Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook
Attending a youth sporting event like baseball, soccer
Class at school
Eating with the family
This could be followed up with:
“Well, I don’t know if I believe.”
“I may practice a different religion.”
These may be true but as they are teens, they may be trying to rope you into an emotional reaction or a bigger conversation. To these things I reply:
Take one hour per week out of your life to put down the electronics, shut out the noise of the world, sit with others, sit with me, and you can pray, reflect, meditate, in church. It is a safe place. No matter what Catholic church you walk into in the WORLD, you can get the stability of the same experience.
My hope (and I have seen it bear fruit) is that just being there calms them. As they hear to the Word of God spoken, they listen. As they listen, they are fed.
I am not perfect. I have missed many Sundays. Too many. But that one hour at church “feeds” me. I can feel God’s call to sit in communion with others, pray, listen, at least once a week. And as our lives get noisier and busier, it is one safe haven that remains the same yet adapts. It is a gift you can share with your children. I hope my strategies work for your family.
Copyright 2017 Peter Serzo