Your teen could volunteer to help in the worship service.

Teaching Teenagers How to Behave in Church

by Kathryn Rateliff Barr

One of the most spiritual active segments of the population in the United States is the teen demographic, according to an October 2007 report from the Barna Group, a research organization that studies spiritual practices and provides churches with resources. If you want to encourage your teen’s church attendance, but also want him to behave better than the little kids, review church conduct rules before you attend a service.

1. Appearance

Churches often have relaxed dress codes. Suits and ties are no longer the norm for males, while females typically wear comfortable dresses, skirts or slacks. However, you should make it clear to your teen that even on hot summer days, shorts and T-shirts are not appropriate attire, nor are sundresses or plunging necklines. Your teen should wear clean, neat, modest clothes. Also, since cleanliness is next to godliness, teens should shower before attending a service. Furthermore, only light amounts of perfume or cologne are appropriate and if a teen wants to wear makeup, she should apply it sparingly.

2. Electronics

Teens often are somewhat addicted to their cellphones and tablets, but a church service is no place for electronic devices. Remind your teen to turn off the electronics before entering the church. God won’t be calling him phone during the service, and no one else should either. Reading a book, magazine or newspaper -- electronic or hard copy -- and playing games aren’t appropriate, so you should encourage your teen to leave those items at home.

3. Participation

Teens might like to sit with their friends during church, but whispering, passing notes and other disruptions can distract the other worshippers and keep your teen from participating in the service. You can tell your teen, “You can sit with your friends as long as you actively engage in worship, such as standing, praying, singing and listening in cooperation and synchronicity with other worshipers. If you can’t do that, you can come and sit with me.” Stress that talking is inappropriate during the sermon, Bible readings, prayers and songs. Explain to your teen that if he wants to talk, he can do that before or after the service.

4. Reverence

Your teen should understand that the church is God’s house and treat it and its furnishings with appropriate reverence. Showing up late and leaving early or during the service shows a lack of reverence and respect for God and other worshipers. Loud talking or laughing, rough housing and impolite behavior are also inappropriate. Require your teen to treat everyone at the church with respect and treat the minister with deference. Explain that she needs to pick up any paper she drops and place hymn books and Bibles back in the pew rack if she uses them. Make it clear that the offering envelopes and other paper items in the pew rack aren’t for writing notes or doodling. Tell your teen not to bring tobacco, weapons, food, drugs or beverages to church.

About the Author

Rev. Kathryn Rateliff Barr has taught birth, parenting, vaccinations and alternative medicine classes since 1994. She is a pastoral family counselor and has parented birth, step, adopted and foster children. She holds bachelor's degrees in English and history from Centenary College of Louisiana. Studies include midwifery, naturopathy and other alternative therapies.

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