Grown Child Living at Home Doesn’t Want to Attend Church

Should we force our 18-year-old son to worship with us? He’s a Christian but recently decided to stop going to church. Since he lives in our home and we still support him, we think he should follow the rules we establish. But we don’t want to drive him away from the Lord.

There comes a time in every child’s life when they cross into adulthood. In some ways, the moment is culturally defined. For example, in the Jewish tradition, a boy is considered a man at 13. In America, the threshold of adulthood recognized by law is 18.

Age differs from society to society. And an individual’s level of maturity also impacts the journey. But the basic idea is the same: “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways” (1 Corinthians 13:11, ESV).

Normal changes in the parent-child relationship

Once a child becomes an adult, the parent-child relationship is supposed to change. Your child starts to become your peer instead of a dependent minor. And he’ll move toward a position of self-responsibility and become accountable to a higher authority — the authority of God Himself.

In God’s eyes and under His leadership, your child transitions into a separate and self-determining person. He has the right to leave home and make his own way in the world, whether or not he takes immediate advantage of the chance.

At this point, his personal decisions must be based on something more than a matter of simple submission to Mom’s and Dad’s rules. He’ll have to choose to act on the wisdom you’ve tried to build in him over the years and out of an awareness of his personal responsibility toward his Creator.

What does that mean when it comes to church?

If your son goes to church, it should be because he has a heartfelt desire to serve Christ and connect with fellow believers — not because you “force him to go.”

At this stage in the parenting process, we encourage you to be realistic about what you can and can’t control. Even if you make church attendance mandatory, how far are you willing to go to make sure he follows your wishes?

You’re wise to be concerned about the dangers of manipulation. “Remember,” wrote author C.S. Lewis to a friend who was worried about a similar problem, “how much religious education has exactly the opposite effect to that which was intended, how many hard atheists come from pious homes.”

Build a relationship of love without pushing the faith issue. God hears your prayers for intervention and knows exactly what your son needs.

We’re here to help

Would you like to talk more? When there’s a struggle for control between parents and adult children, there usually are deeper concerns — often around respect and personal boundaries.

Call us for a free over-the-phone consultation. Our licensed or pastoral counselors would be glad to help. They can also give you referrals to Christian family counselors in your area. In the meantime, dig into the resources listed here.

If a title is currently unavailable through Focus on the Family, we encourage you to use another retailer.

Praying the Scriptures for Your Adult Children

Growing with: Every Parent’s Guide to Helping Teenagers and Young Adults Thrive in Their Faith, Family, and Future

Doing Life With Your Adult Children

Setting Boundaries With Your Adult Children

Once a Parent, Always a Parent

How to Really Love Your Adult Child

Bringing Home the Prodigals

Prodigals and Those Who Love Them

Hope for the Prodigal



Prodigal children

Parenting Adult Children

Establishing Boundaries With Adult Kids

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