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Why I Make My Kids Go to Church

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If you visit my church on Sunday, the first thing you'll probably notice is the mid-level roar of all the child noise going on in the pews.

We don't have the kids leave for a separate "children's sermon" or spend the hour playing in a nursery. We all sit as families in church, together.

Some days I don't hear much of what's said. Some days my kids are so rowdy I join the unofficial parents' club in the foyer. But Sunday after Sunday, we're there.

I take my kids with me because out of all the things I want them to know, this is the most important.

I've heard parents say they don't want to "make" their kids attend church or "force" their beliefs on them, but when I hear those arguments, I think, but isn't that part of my job as a parent?

I "force" beliefs on my kids all the time when I think something is truly important: you need to go to school, you need to wear a seat belt, you need to help out with household chores, you need to get immunizations, you need to brush your teeth.

If my kids were capable of always choosing what was best for them, it'd be one thing. But they're kids — especially when they're little, they choose what's fun and immediately rewarding.

Not necessarily what's best in the long run, and that's where Mom and Dad (the old killjoys) come in, making them eat their vegetables and do their homework and go to bed at a decent hour.

And, in our house, get up and dressed for church on Sunday morning.

Years ago, I wrote an article called "Entertaining Young Children at Church" for an online magazine, and received a comment from one person who said that when a little kid doesn't like church, the parents shouldn't push him but just take turns staying home with him until he's older.

Well, aside from the fact that I'd much rather be at church than home watching Calliou every other Sunday, I thought that comment was pretty short-sighted.

Sure, I could do that.

I could also let my kids who dislike brushing their teeth wait until they're older, but it's not like the habit will be easier to establish later on, and besides, I think it's too important to wait anyway.

Maybe my younger kids would rather stay home playing than attend church, but that doesn't mean they should. The benefit of church isn't in just the one church service, but in the entire pattern of gospel learning and living that it's a part of.

They won't see that until they're older, and I'm alright with that. While they're still young, part of my job is to supply them with the long-term vision they aren't quite mature enough to grasp yet.

One day, they'll have the maturity and life experience they were lacking when I made so many of their daily decisions for them, including whether to go to church.

When that day comes, I hope they continue to choose the path I've set them on, but sure enough they'll choose for themselves. And I won't regret for one minute the years I spent "making" them come to church with me.

Jenny Evans is a writer, night owl, perfectionist, and Mormon mother of 6. When she's not scrubbing juice out of the carpet, she writes about life with a houseful of kids and pokes fun at herself on her blog Unremarkable Files. You can also find her on Facebook.

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