My Teens Don’t Want to Go to Mass
Our two teenagers have lost their interest in attending Mass on Sundays; though they continue to go because we believe in God. We want our children to have positive experiences at church. Any ideas?
It is awesome that you want your teens to have positive experiences at church; we are certain that this is what God wants for your kids, too!
More than anything, we encourage you to keep praying faithfully for your kids; in particular, we would suggest devotion to & invoking the intercession of St. Monica, who prayed for many years for her son’s conversion. Due to her prayers and the grace of God, her wayward son eventually became St. Augustine. There are of course no guarantees, but our Church does hold her up as a role model because of her faithfulness in praying for her kid. A short blog about why prayer is so important can be found here http://stlyouth.org/blogs/paul-masek/best-advice-i-can-possibly-give. One thing in particular worth praying for is that God will send just the right people into your kids’ lives – at just the right times – who can positively influence them. As our teens get older they are increasingly influenced in big ways by their peers and other adults they encounter; let’s pray that those key influencers will be gifts to our kids straight from the heart of God.
We would also offer these thoughts:
1) Stay faithful and let your kids see your faith in action; if they see you praying together, praying before meals, reading your Bibles, and know that you attend events that help you grow in faith, it will be a constant reminder for them of why God is so important in your family life.
2) Talk openly and honestly with them about why God is so important to you, why Mass is so important to you, and remind them of the little (and big) ways that you see God answering your prayers and blessing your family.
3) Ask them – and then listen carefully and compassionately to the reasons – why they’ve lost interest in attending Mass. Perhaps you will discover that their reasons reflect struggles you’ve had in the past, and then you can share your own story as to what has helped you overcome those same struggles. When our kids know that we are really listening to them, it opens up their hearts and makes them more likely to listen to us. As you probably remember from being a teen, lectures from parents usually don’t change hearts & minds; they just create animosity. Do all that you can to create open and honest dialogue with your teens, striving to always keep the lines of communication wide open.
4) Keep taking them to Mass. We think that most teens understand (and maybe even deep down appreciate it) when parents say, “in my house, you will live by my rules”. We think it is reasonable for parents to expect their kids to go to Mass every Sunday (and on holy days) even if they don’t want to. Teens may feel like it’s a chore to go to Mass, but most parents expect their kids to do certain chores because it is important for family life that we all pitch in. Likewise, it’s equally important that we do certain things together as a family to maintain our family unity. Love, as we know, is not always about doing what feels good, but about doing what IS good. And going to Mass as a family is always a good thing and therefore we think it is reasonable to require it as long as our kids live with us.
5) Prepare your teens (and yourself) for Mass before you go. Some people find it helpful to read and discuss the Sunday readings before they go to Mass. For teens, Life Teen International offers a weekly podcast by Mark Hart that is a very teen-friendly reflection on the upcoming Sunday’s Mass readings http://lifeteen.com/media/podcast/sunday-sunday-sunday-podcast-mark-hart/
5) For the sake of your teens, we would also encourage you to consider possibly taking your teens to Mass at places other than your own parish, especially if for any reason they are not connecting at your home parish. There is so much more to Catholicism than what any of us can experience at just one parish. Many teens have found their faith renewed by attending youth-friendly Masses at other parishes. If you would be interested in a short list of some places with vibrant youth-friendly Masses and youth ministry programs that your teens might find intriguing, just give us a general idea of where you live and we will do our best to point you in the right direction.
6) Don’t stop praying. We know we’re mentioning this twice, but it really is the best thing (besides modeling our own faith) that we can do for our kids when they are struggling. Remember that you are definitely not alone, as many very good kids with very good parents struggle with not wanting to go to Mass. Prayer will keep you from getting discouraged, too. There is no need for discouragement; in fact many teens (and many adults,) actually need to go through times of doubt and questioning like this so that they can figure out exactly what they believe and why they believe it – in the hopes that ultimately they will take full ownership of their faith. During this process – and it can be a process – it’s important to entrust our kids to God’s care every day, and pray for them that their hearts will be open to all of the ways that God is continually loving them and leading them.
Your family and your kids are in our prayers right now.
The REAP Team