Dr. Leman says, "Far too many parents tread on their teenager's feelings on this issue and ramp up this situation until it becomes a war. First of all, don't deny your children's feelings. [Referring to your child saying that the kids in youth group are geeks an weirdos...]...By telling the truth and agreeing with your child, you'll: (1) surprise your child and get her to pay attention to your next words, and (2) get on the same playing field as your child, where you're seeing eye to eye." (p.103)
"What you say next is crucial: 'Your mother and I only ask you to do a few basic things and one of those things is to go to our place of worship. We know you don't want to be there, but we want you to know we are thankful that you are willing to come with us out of respect for us. So please get ready for church.' (p. 103-104)
If they still say they aren't coming don't make a federal case out of it, "Simply get ready for church and leave." (p. 104)
Then Dr. Leman says that after church you should make a day of it. Go out for lunch, see a movie, do some shopping...etc..and when your child complains when you come home ignore it. He says to do this the next week too. Then tell him,
"I realize you're an individual, and we're not all the same. You don't have to believe what I believe. I can't make you go to church. But I want to make it clear to you that I expect you to be with us next Sunday. Is that understood." All of a sudden the person in authority has changed....In many cases, this is all the tough love that's needed. (p. 104)
"Sometimes, though a teen will still absolutely refuse to go, even after you tried the previous steps of tough love. If your teen decides he doesn't want to contribute in that way, ramp up what he needs to contribute in another area. Don't let your child get off scot-free just because he doesn't "feel like" being a part of the family." (p. 105)
"And here's a secret: because at the hear to every child is a longing to belong and be accepted, it won't be long, after using this technique, that your child will begin to feel lonely and want to be part of the family again-including attending your place of worship." (p. 105)
I don't believe that this method will always work. I was raised Catholic and we HAD to go to church every week, no matter what. I wanted the approval of my parents so I never bucked the system, but if my parents had given me this option, I don't think I would have gone to church. Faith and your belief system is a very personal journey and you have to find your own way in it. It took a divorce, depression and totally losing myself to finally find my way to having a close relationship to God and by then I was 30. I will certainly encourage Samuel to believe as we believe, but in the end, ultimately, it's between him and God.