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11-Year-Old Wants to Get Out of Church

"Dear Aunt Traci,

I'm 11 years old, and every weekend my parents make me go to church. I don't want to go! It's boring, a waste of time, and I don't even agree with their religion. Besides, with soccer and chores, it's my one day off! What can I do to get out of going to church every week?


Want to be a Sunday Sleeper"

Dear Sleeper,

Ah yes. I, too, was a child whose parents made her go to church every Sunday. For years, my brothers and I had to get dressed up and go sit with a bunch of old people while the minister talked about the Bible. I, like you, hated it (for the most part. I did like the cookies at the end, and we did get to go out to brunch afterward.)

As your Aunt Traci, I'm not going to tell you the standard "some day you'll be thankful for this." Your question was, "How can I get out of it?" Although it's funny because now I reflect back on those times with my dad and brothers as some of my best memories.

Two things. First of all, ask yourself in all honesty, "Do you believe that family members should do things they don't want to because they love the other people in the family?" Be honest now. Do you think your mom or dad enjoys taking you to soccer EVERY SINGLE WEEKEND? Maybe. Maybe not. This isn't a guilt trip thing. It's about deciding your values about what it means to be in a family. When you grow up and have a family of your own, are you going to want your spouse and kids to do stuff just because you want them to do it? Is "taking one for the team" a part of what you think people who love each other do? Only you can answer that question for yourself.

But, there's another issue. The religion aspect. I grew up to become "not Christian." Was it because I was forced to go to church? No. I just disagreed with the belief system. So, maybe it's time to start thinking about what you do and don't believe. My guess is that your parents want to share their religion with you because they think it's important. One option is to go to your parents and ask them if it would be okay to try another church, or even another religion. When I was younger, my dad said to me, "I don't care what church you go to, as long as you go to some church." That led to some amazing experiences! Churches with gospel singing, gorgeous cathedrals and Catholic chants... group meditations. I took a little bit from each experience.

Sleeper, I get being 11 and not wanting to do what your parents want. This is your life and you want to live it. But step back a bit and question yourself. If it's about just sleeping in on Sundays, I'd encourage you to "take one for the team" and go just because your family wants to be together. If it's about not agreeing with the religion you're being raised in, then use that time in church to clarify exactly what you do and don't agree with. After all, there's a difference between having an opinion and an "educated opinion." And don't forget, there are COOKIES at church.

Rivers, ponds, lakes and streams - they all have different names, but they all contain water. Just as religions do - they all contain truths.

Muhammad Ali

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