Need help guiding my religiously curious teen

I've never been to church and my family is not religious, but my 13 year old is interested in exploring his religious inclinations. He doesn't know where to start, and I don't quite know how to help. I'd like to take him to a church to see what it's like--something interfaith or at least open to various paths. He's shy, and I'm a bit terrified myself of going to church, though not at all opposed to the idea. Any suggestions?  We live in Berkeley.

Parent Replies

New responses are no longer being accepted.

Most pastors at churches will be open to having a conversation about this. It’s something they get a lot. I’m not Christian but my wife is. I accompany her and our 7-month old daughter to church on sundays and I’ve felt no compulsion to participate in anything that happens there. I usually just hang out and interact with the people at the church and take our daughter out if she’s fussy. Ours also has a youth group I think. I’ve heard that Unitarian churches are more open to different faiths. At my wife’s church a lot of non-Christians come too, usually to support their partners or friends, or just to have a community. The pastor at Lake Merritt United Methodist church is very friendly and she might be willing to talk to you. If you need an introduction, let me know. 

Consider visiting First Presbyterian Church Berkeley for a Sunday service or try the youth group for question asking.

My 14-year old just finished confirmation class at Epworth United Methodist Church in Berkeley and they discussed faith and other religious traditions (even visited a Buddhist Temple).  Epworth’s congregation includes people from many faith traditions, even atheists/agnostics.  Everyone is welcome.  You can email me directly if you’d like to come with us some Sunday.  

First Unitarian Church of Oakland is a pretty cool place with diverse (age/race/socio-economic) congregation and welcoming stance. I think it would be a very non-threatening (for him and for you!) place to start. Pretty easily accessible from Berkeley. 

First Presbyterian on Dana St is super welcoming and has a nice youth group (also amazing singing). Ive heard that universal Unitarians are a good fit if you want a more flexible philosophy or open to various paths, but I also heard the UU church in Berkeley is not a young congregation. If your child is interested in the ritual aspect Catholic church might be a good fit. For me I would prioritize a church with a youth program, but you would know better what type of religious inclinations your child is seeking to explore.

Try an Episcopal Church. All Souls Berkeley is very good and St. John's Oakland (Montclair) is too.

My family has been attending All Souls Episcopal Parish in Berkeley for many years ( It is a very open and inclusive community that welcomes people wherever they are on their faith journey. There is a strong youth program and many ways to get involved .. or not. I've also found it very no-pressure. On Sun Aug 27th at 10.30 we're having a rally Sunday to kick-off and highlight all ministries, and especially to welcome a new associate rector, who's in charge of youth and families, and seems amazing (she is also marine biologist, and she discovered two fish species!). There will be taco truck, popcorn, cotton candy and other fun things that day. The Episcopal Church can also give him a glimpse into both catholicism and protestantism, but is also very progressive and non-dogmatic (no "you HAVE to believe this set of principles to be part of this community"). Feel free to email me if you'd like to know more (tonimborg [at] 

Does your son have any friends who attend a church that he/you could go with? This would be the simplest way. But any church you choose to try should be welcoming to you, Every church has 'strangers' that attend from time to time and no one would ever look twice at someone new in the pews. If you want to start with something interfaith, I'd suggest a Unitarian service. Our student did a study for school of various religions and attended a mosque, Sikh temple and a variety of churches, and found that both the Sikh temple and the Christian churches were very welcoming. Wishing you the best!

Not sure where you are but Both temple Sinai & temple Beth El have teen oriented programming - like one evening a month (or week- can’t remember) where there’s time for socializing & then discussion of some Jewish issue, social issue or teaching. It’s a warm environment & attracts both super social and awkward or shy kids!

Hi, I would highly recommend St. John's Episcopal Church in Oakland (Montclair). We have a small, thoughtful, community minded congregation and a quality, low key, outreach oriented youth group with an optional "Confirm Not Conform" (CNC) program that is starting this fall. Both of my kids grew up at St. John's and participated in YG and the CNC program. Our motto at St. John's is "everyone is welcome" :)

Hi! You already have a lot of good suggestions looks like, but Unitarian Universalism sounds like a good jumping off point- many different beliefs and viewpoints are welcomed, including atheism and ethical humanism, and a lot of UU's don't consider themselves Christian. UUCB is off the Arlington, and I'd recommend checking it out.