Why Kids Don’t Like Church

Yesterday I went as a chaperone on my daughter’s second grade field trip to Dallas Heritage Village, an outdoor museum of historic buildings and furnishings from the 1800s. The kids had a great time. Their favorite building was the school house, where they took turns playing “teacher.”

Several of the girls headed up to the front immediately, opened up the teacher’s desk and pulled out dozens of real reading primers. Other kids sat down in the chairs and dutifully awaited instructions. Two of the kids went straight to the piano in the corner, serenading us with haphazard tunes.

It was very hands-on. Obviously where they wanted to be, the children felt immediately welcome and engaged in the schoolhouse, free to interact with history and each other.

Contrast that with the historic church building on the site. When we walked toward the church, I heard one boy say “Ewww, I hate church.” Cringing inside, I could imagine that boy sitting in a pew next to his parents, trying his best to be quiet but really wanting to go run and play. I can imagine this so well because I have seen it in my own son.

When we opened the door to the church, we had to go in a smaller group, because only the small front foyer was open for guests. The rest of it, the pews and aisles and such, were blocked off by a plastic see-through barricade. Just look, don’t touch.

Just look.

We didn’t spend very much time in there, obviously. As we left, one of the girls said that the church smelled like dead people. Cringing again, I wanted to sit down with all of those second-graders in the field of wildflowers and explain that Satan has really done a number on the church. God meant for it to be hands-on, and interactive. But somewhere along the line we believed the lie that we should just look. Don’t touch. I wanted them to see the God that I see, the adventurous and fun One.

But I didn’t. I couldn’t think of any words. And to be honest, I agreed with them. The church did smell a bit like dead people.

Lord, help us be more like an interactive school house and less like that old historic church.

10 thoughts on “Why Kids Don’t Like Church

  1. Well, Anna, it’s been awhile. I’m blogging under my own name again (Israel) and thought you might enjoy commenting on each other’s blogs again. I’m blogging about the subject of bad religion again. (Also, Did you know you are now imfamous in some online atheist circles? Observe http://atheism.about.com/b/2010/03/20/anna-l-davis-offended-on-behalf-of-atheists.htm Neat huh?)

    Anyway about this comment. (1.) You’re using the word church in a non-biblical way. It means “assembly called with pupose” not a building. I never seen a bunch of kids not have a blast at church picnic. The existence of the fulltime church building is the result of fear on the part of leaders that if they don’t tell you the same 50 stories over and over again in the same way with the same liturgy you’re going to go nuts and disbelieve everything. This is because they have connected so many things the identity of Christianity that were never supposed to be there they have to indoctrinate constantly to keep people thinking their BS is from god.. Thinking gays can’t be good school teachers for instance. Because those things are unnatural to the Bible and unnatural seekers of the faith (I know no one who has become a Christian to further understand which groups in society they should fear) only constant repetition can make them seem like a good idea.

    (2.) The New Testament never says how, percisely, to do church. So many different ways have developed. The way interpret Corinthians, the way to interpret Romans, etc. Its all moot. Why would “church” consist of doing anything but what the founder did? I promise you kids (and adults) will get a lot more excited about giving food to homeless people, showing love to hated minorities (like gays) and braiding whips and and knocking over all the merchandise in Christian book stores than then will hearing the same stories, singing the same songs, and seeing the same people they have seen since birth.


    1. Hi Israel — great to see you here again! About that article on About.com, that’s what I get for writing about both pornography and atheism. 🙂

      “I never seen a bunch of kids not have a blast at church picnic.”
      Very true. Because it is interactive, social — an event of food and people, messy fingers from eating BBQ ribs, dripping chins from the watermelon juice. Spitting seeds at each other. Laughter. Running in between the tables, going back for seconds. Why can’t worship be like this?

      “The existence of the fulltime church building is the result of fear on the part of leaders that if they don’t tell you the same 50 stories over and over again in the same way with the same liturgy you’re going to go nuts and disbelieve everything.” Agreed. Also because it’s easier to stick to a program, a tradition, a corporate-model organization, than it is to give the Holy Spirit control. God is too unpredictable sometimes.

      I think this is why there are very few clear directives in the New Testament about how to do church. Jesus was fueled by the power of the Holy Spirit within Him, and calls His followers to do the same. But many so-called believers don’t actually believe that God works in this way, not really. They forfeit all power by denying His power. And thus the need for control, through programs, liturgies, tradition.


  2. I enjoyed your post and am saddened by the truth of it. Your reply to Israel was excellent and rings true.
    In my own life, all outside support and self effort has been stripped away in order for me to relinquish control over to God. It is a scary place to be and exhilarating at the same time.
    I recently read the story of Gideon again, how God made certain there would be no doubt Who won the victory. I have also come to the point of realizing that whatever the outcome, God is still God and I will worship Him always.


    1. Hi Stan, thanks for dropping by! You’re right — it is both scary and exhilarating to give control over to God. And not really optional, since that’s what He requires of us. But when we do give Him control, the results are amazing.


  3. I disagree that there are examples in the New Testament of how to do church. There are letters (not written by Jesus) to numerous churches about the author thought they should do church. Doing church, however should be very simple to people who claim to follow Christ: just…follow Christ. Jesus the first would be last and last would be first in his kingdom. The apostles said they were too busy doing important things for god to obey god’s example and feed the hungry. Why hold their ideas of how to be part of the Kingdom over Jesus’s?


    1. You’re right — following Jesus should be simple. Too bad our pesky human nature often gets in the way. And true that the apostles were human and therefore could have bungled the message. But where does it say that they were “too busy doing important things for God to obey God’s example and feed the hungry”?

      When “doing church” trumps true relationship with Jesus (knowing what He did and said while on this earth, being familiar with His character, listening to His voice through the Holy Spirit) then there’s a problem. Always.


  4. Act 6:2-4 So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3 Brothers and sisters, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”


  5. I irony, of course being…waiting on tables WAS the ministery of the word (Rhema) of God. What do you call the feeding of the 5000?


  6. What is the main purpose for the church, the assembly or the ecclesia? Is it a house of worship? Not really. That’s the concept taken from the temple in the Old Testament. Is it to feed the hungry or take care of the poor? Maybe. Is it to hear great sermons and teachings? Sometimes. But what is the main purpose of assembling together? The main purpose of the church is to encourage one another and to build one another up (1 Corinthians 14:26).

    And as far as children and young people go, it has been my experience that they are the easiest to get excited about church (assembly or ecclesia). All you have to do is involve them in the process. Let them be the ecclessia, the called out ones who are separated from the world. Tell them they are not the church of ten years from now, but teach them they can be the church of now, through the power of the Holy Spirit. Children will grasp this concept ten times faster than their parents will.


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