Taking Children to Church

What if parents disagree about the importance of religion?

As most families filed into a pew at church on Sunday mornings, my family slid tokens into video games at Chuck E. Cheese's.

We had implemented a reward system where my sons earned tokens throughout the week for good behavior with the promise that we would go as a family to spend them when the weekend arrived.

We always found ourselves taking them on Sunday mornings because we had the run of the place. My husband and I jokingly called it "Chuck E Cheese Chuch." The boys loved the family time and ran from game to game, collecting tickets and smiling from ear to ear.

Despite the joy I felt chasing my children through the arcade, I couldn't run from the guilt that we should have been taking our children to church on Sunday mornings instead.

I grew up going to church and have fond memories of listening to Bible stories in Sunday School. I felt secure as a child because of the moral foundation built there and had always assumed that I'd provide the same path to spiritual growth for my future children.

Imagine my surprise when I fell in love with a non-religious man. He had gone to church as a child but was turned off by religion as an adult. When we met, I had strayed from the church but suspected that I might want to find my way back when I had a family of my own.

I told him this before we married and we reached an agreement that he'd give his blessing for me to take our children to church but that he more than likely would't go. We both knew what we were getting into when we tied the knot.

I didn't expect that I'd want him to come to church with us. The idea of my husband being the spiritual leader of our family popped into my mind the moment I saw him hold our first son. I knew that I didn't want to take the kids without him, I wanted us to all go together. However, I also knew that it wouldn't have been fair to ask that of him after our agreement. Church should be a blessing to our family, not a fight between us.

So, I silently prayed about it. Often times, as we drove to "Chuck E Cheese Church," I prayed that we would one day spend our Sundays at church instead. I prayed this silent prayer for years and had complete faith that it would one day be answered.

Recently, my husband's heart softened to the idea and I was shocked when he turned to me out of the blue and announced that he wanted us all to go to church. My silent prayer had been answered. Now, on Sunday mornings, we put on our best clothes and file into a pew at church to worship as a family. 

Watching my sons shake hands with the people around them during the greeting makes me feel a sense of fellowship and community. Reaching over to grab my husband's hand while we sing hymns makes my spirit soar. We found our way there without one single fight and it has been such a blessing to our family.

Do you think that it's important to take children to church? Do you and your partner share the same view when it comes to religion? If not, how do you handle it? Please share your thoughst and experiences in the comments.

Eve July 18, 2012 at 05:08 PM
Ritual is important. Community is important. Teaching kids a sense of ethics and morality is also important. Religion can provide this - but doesn't always - but it's not the only way. For me, I am Jewish and I want my son to be instilled with Jewish ethics and feel a part of a community. My spouse was raised Catholic and agrees - she often says she was grateful I am Jewish because she wanted to raise kids in an environment with some religious community but didn't like what the Catholic church stood for. But I also think the only thing that was missing from your Chuck E. Cheese Church was perhaps the sense of community - and if you got a group of 20 people to all go with you each week, you'd have that. Religion is a way, but not the only way. And too often, religion is used as a cudgel to beat people up emotionally and spiritually.
Linda Labbo July 18, 2012 at 06:33 PM
Thanks for sharing your honest opinion. Sounds like taking your family to church is a way of getting back to your own spiritual roots. God will bless you and your family for taking the time to worship and learn about him. What a great, encouraging piece!
Linda Labbo July 18, 2012 at 06:34 PM
One more thought.. I wonder how many other people have drifted away from their spiritual roots of childhood, but as adults now want to introduce their children to their foundational beliefs? Would make for an interesting survey.
Erin Lashley July 18, 2012 at 06:39 PM
I went as a child, then didn't go from the time I went to college until about two years ago. Now I'm in the choir and I take on various other responsibilities in the church, and my level of involvement surprises even me. The thing that got me back into the church was that my mother insisted on taking my son, and when I told him that I went to that same church my whole childhood, he said, "well, I've never seen you there." That stung. My husband is a spiritual person who does not always go to church. I was raised Methodist (and that's where I still go) and he was raised Baptist. That does not bother me. I would not have had a problem marrying anyone with whatever different beliefs than mine as long as that person wasn't a fundamentalist who used religion as a justification to want to deny other people their human rights. There's a point where you're just too different in values to be able to make it work. Also, I make sure that my son understands that nobody absolutely knows the answers when it comes to God, and that he is going to have to decide for himself what he believes when he grows up.
Sue Anderson July 18, 2012 at 07:31 PM
Taking our children to church was extremely important to me and to my husband. We have always loved the sense of community, and we believe our children learned a lot about service and sacrifice by attending. We also had a lot of fun and made many good friends. My children have grown up to be people I am proud to know. I know our church played an important role in helping us raise them well. =)
Jesse July 18, 2012 at 07:38 PM
This is such an honest piece. I've struggled with my husband too about taking kids to church but unlike you, we've actually fought about it. The saddest part is that my husband was religious when we met but has since gotten less so. It makes me so sad. Maybe I should make it a matter of prayer. This is a hopeful perspective, thanks.
Rebecca McCarthy (Editor) July 18, 2012 at 08:45 PM
I take our children to church. My husband was not reared being taken to church, and he doesn't feel comfortable in a pew. But he did like coming to our weekly church suppers (which sadly are no more) and working on Habitat projects. He doesn't mind our going without him, but I know he feels he is missing a big part of our lives. Which he is. My children and I love our church family. Maybe my husband will choose to participate one day.....
Jessica Loyd July 18, 2012 at 11:07 PM
My husband and I don't fight about this. He was "churched out" as a kid, but does have fond memories of the sense of community. The times that we went to church were at my request. If I could find one that fit my beliefs, I would go because I do have a spiritual need that's not being fulfilled. And I want my kids to have a foundation too. My personal opinion is that fundamentalist churches do more harm than good. My mom and stepdad go to Starbucks on Sun. and call it "Our lady of the Cloven Hoof". :)
Leigh Hewett July 19, 2012 at 11:10 AM
I share the same views about the importance of ritual and community. How great that your wife celebrates your religion.
Leigh Hewett July 19, 2012 at 03:39 PM
I've been feeling more and more that I need to plant roots in my children, in case they may need them to return to someday.
Leigh Hewett July 19, 2012 at 03:40 PM
Out of the mouths of babes. Why is it that they always know what to say to motivate us?
Leigh Hewett July 19, 2012 at 03:41 PM
I always made religion a priority in my relationships, until I stayed from the church. I think that was one thing that made me wait to take the children until my husband was ready to go too. I had always envisioned that for my marriage.
Leigh Hewett July 19, 2012 at 03:44 PM
I've seen religion drive a wedge in the relationships of family members and have been so afraid that would happen to us. I think that it can either bring a family together or pull a family apart. You're so blessed that going without him hasn't caused issues. It's so great too that you've found a great church family as well.
Leigh Hewett July 19, 2012 at 03:46 PM
Finding the right church is like finding the right boyfriend-or a good hairdresser. You just keep looking until you find the one that fits. I'm glad that you and your husband are on the same page too. It's hard when you're not in agreement.
Caroline U July 22, 2012 at 11:40 PM
Leigh, I admire you so much. You already know that. But today you shared the specifics of a story that touched me deeply. I love so much that you prayed about this and trusted fully. I have no doubt that your prayer was answered so completely because of your trust and faith and your ability to keep your household peaceful over this issue. You, my friend, are a good woman. And it sounds like you married a good man too. Love that y'all have found a way to church! It's so great for the kids!


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