How to Raise Kids Who Won’t Hate Church

Like Us

My child loving the church his whole life isn’t a given, and neither is it for yours.

My son gets to hang out in my office quite often. I love that he loves it. Maybe his love is rooted in the toys and candy I keep in the bottom drawer, just for him. But maybe it’s because he just genuinely loves me. I’m banking solely on #1 at this point in his life.

This week, though, my wife was out of town, and Rex had to go to work with me all day.

I had to jump on a conference call, and the movie he was watching was a little loud. I asked him if he wouldn’t mind putting some headphones on. Then he gave me this look.

He’s got the sass of his mama. :)

One of my goals of fatherhood is to raise a son that doesn’t hate church.

It’s not a given reality that my son will grow up loving the Church. As a pastor’s kid, he’s got an uphill battle ahead, especially considering the pastors’ kids I knew growing up. Right now, he’s loving Longhollow, where I’m on staff. But we’ve got a lot of years ahead of us, and I’ve got a lot of work to do to keep us on this path.

My child loving the church his whole life isn’t a given … and neither is it for yours.

Should you ‘force’ your kids to go to church? Or let them choose?

Should you let them go to the main worship service with you when they want? Or put them in the kids area?

Let them wear what they want? Or dress them to the nines?

Here are some intentional actions I’m taking to keep my son from growing up to hate the Church.

Eight Ways to Ensure Your Kids Won’t Hate Church:

1. Make small group a priority in your life.

Every week, my wife and I go to small group. We help Rex understand how important it is for mommy and daddy to do this, and that through it, we become better parents.

2. Go to churches with amazing children’s ministries.

Check (Grace Community Church) and check (Longhollow). Without ministries intentionally investing truth, and fun, into my child’s life, why would I expect him to want to come back?

Ben Reed Ben Reed is the small groups pastor at Long Hollow, a multi-site church in the Nashville, TN, area. He holds an Mdiv from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Ben is also an avid coffee drinker and CrossFitter, but not at the same time. Catch up with Ben at In his book, "Starting Small: The Ultimate Small Group Blueprint," he helps leaders through the process of putting a small group ministry together and creating a place where people belong so they can become.

More from Ben Reed or visit Ben at

Please Note: We reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive, uncivil and off-topic. Read a detailed description of our Comments Policy.
  • MarciH

    I am a PK who grew up loving to go to church. It had nothing to do with the children’s ministry (when I was young the only children’s ministry was Sunday School). The most important thing to get your children to love church is to raise them in Christ. Nothing else will matter if they’re not in Christ. The best children’s ministry, the best youth group, none of that will matter – that’s just activities, and they can get that at the Y. You have to be godly examples and raise them to know Christ, not just know about Him.

    Another important thing is for you to love your church. Your children will know if you truly love going to church, or it’s just a duty. If you love church, and make your children part of your ministry (and every christian has a ministry), your children will love it too.

    All in all, an ok article, but I feel point number 2 is probably the least effective way to give your children a lifelong love of church.

  • Ryan

    A few things. The article is very idealistic in nature. I grew up in church. I have worked in churches. My kids have grown up as PK’s. I think there is a DRASTICALLY different idea for pastor’s kids and everyone else. Thankfully, my kids have grown to love THE CHURCH not necessarily a particular church. In a perfect world the pastor and staff have perfect relationships with each other. In a perfect world every staff member properly balances church work and family life. While being involved in a small group is important, most church people will view a staff member as a staff member, not a small group participant. As you well know, we do not live in a perfect world. Children of staff pastors see the stress and strain of ministry on the parent and family. It can be very difficult for the staff pastor who is facing strained situations with the pastor or church board to keep it from the children. The children become unwilling and unintended victims of the situation. There is a huge difference between how staff children and other church people’s children are viewed.

    Thanks to MarciH for the children’s ministry comment. While I do believe that children’s ministry is important it does not prepare kids for reality. It is a fun place to go to learn about God in a safe environment. What happens when they go to school the next day? Exactly – reality hits them in the face and it is nothing like children’s ministry the day before. That’s not to say that it is not important but it may or may not help in raising kids who won’t hate church. Honestly I doubt it would be a factor.

    After being in fulltime ministry position for nearly 17 years my family recently found ourselves being told that we are “released” from ministry. Now that we have looked at church through the non-staff member, average church-goer eyes, we find that the things and programs that churches place major emphasis on are not really that important after all. It has radically changed my thinking.

    In reading this article I realized that there is really only one way to raise kids who won’t hate church – Be a good example.

  • Derwin L. Gray

    Thanks for the article Ben.

    I would just add that perhaps we should teach our children that the Church is not a place we go to on the weekend, but the people of God. Church is not destination on the weekend, but the identity of God’s people.

    Our children, if they’ve professed faith in Jesus is the Church. They are God’s people at school, at play, and when the body of believers gather for corporate worship on the weekend (or whenever), they church is gathering together. Then the church scatters.

    Let’s not mistake the weekend service (which I love) as the Church. The weekend service is where the Church, God’s people gathering together.

  • Abiodun Bamidele

    While I say a big thank you for this article which I agree with 100%, I like to add that if we live in the reality that no home no ministry, we will be willing to make every and all sacrifice that will make our kids and spouses our first church. Without that, we might have done so much, but we certainly might not have done so well.

  • Donald G.

    Thank you for this article. I think you made some excellent points and offer some sound advice not only for those actually in the ministry but also for those of us who serve in other capacities.

    Children being normal children testing the boundaries and attempting to exercise independence need parents who are willing to be parents, not just positionally but more so as examples. Children imitate what they see, but they also parrot what they hear. We need to be cognizant of our witness at home as well as at church and in public.

    I also appreciated the comments of others in this blog. Some good responses.