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“Ask a Priest: Should I Let My Teen Attend an Evangelical Service?”
Q: My 13-year-old daughter has a friend who is an evangelical Christian, and this friend has invited her to her church. My question is whether that’s a sin, since we are Catholics. – Y.F.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: It’s probably no sin that the friend extended the invitation. What you want to discern is whether the invitation is a gesture of friendship or an attempt at recruitment – or both.
Letting your daughter go to experience an evangelical service wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing, but she should not go unprepared.
A 13-year-old is at a very impressionable age and could easily fall into the error of thinking that one group that expresses Christian beliefs is as good as another, especially if Mom is giving her the green light to attend non-Catholic services.
So, it would be good to establish ground rules and points for your daughter to keep in mind.
First, it’s important that she realize not all Christian denominations are equal, and they aren’t on the same level as the Catholic Church, which has all the means of sanctification and truth entrusted to the apostles by Our Lord.
Protestant and evangelical denominations only have part of those means. Evangelicals, for instance, have Scripture and worship services, but they don’t have the Eucharist. Your daughter’s attendance at an evangelical service wouldn’t free her from her obligation of attending Sunday Mass.
What would be better would be for your daughter to invite her friend to a Mass, though letting her know ahead of time that the friend can’t receive Communion.
If your daughter goes to the evangelical service and feels pressured to switch to her friend’s denomination, or if your daughter senses the Catholic Church being attacked, she should be able to leave immediately and shouldn’t return to that group’s services.
Before attending, your daughter could promise that if she experiences anything that causes her to question the Catholic faith, she will bring it up with you so that there can be a discussion at home.
With these ground rules, the visit to the evangelical service could be an experience that strengthens her faith.
But even then, you might not want the attendance at non-Catholic services to become a habit with her.
Perhaps some of this is worth taking to prayer. I hope you choose wisely.
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