It is a great anxiety of Christian parents; wondering if their children will grow up Christian, or if they will stay Christians as they move into their own adult lives. Youth pastors have all experienced the pressure of well-meaning parents asking how they will “drive in” Christianity to their children. Books have been written, and special classes are held in churches designed help parents understand how to “keep your children Christian” through college. However, the real reasons children go up to reject the faith of their Parents has little to do with education and apologetics.
Here are the five greatest reasons parents “lose” their children from Christianity:
1) Falling into the temptation of using religion to control their children through guilt and shame.
“Jesus is watching you!” Even the best parents can find themselves wanting some divine backup in a conflict with their children. However, using God for intimidation in a conflict with children has two major issues. First, it means children are associating God as “against them.” Second, it means that the parent is not building a personal relationship of trust with the child. It is better for parents to use their faith to help the child understand the reason the parent, themselves, act the way they do. We need more of “God gave you to me and I am doing my best to honor that gift by raising you well.” We need less of “God says to obey me, and you are disobeying God.”
2) The parents seem to be afraid of the world, instead of empowered to live in it.
Christians see themselves as “apart from the world,” but that is so we can help the world, not be afraid of it. Christian parents who constantly talk about the world as an evil, malevolent, and dangerous place which must be avoid as much as possible, it paints a grim view of the future for young adults wanting to find their own place in life. If a parent lives in fear of the world, the children will pick up on that and will naturally seek alternative beliefs. Christ did not give us a spirit of fear of the world, but compassion for it.
3) The children do not see the parents drawing any joy from their faith.
If a parent’s religion is maintained out of guilt and obligation, their children will pick-up on that burden. If parents are full of joy, love, and enthusiasm for their faith and community, their children will pick-up on that as well. How a parent behaves in their faith is more important than what they tell their children about their faith. A parent can be the best apologetics scholar in the world, they will not win over their child while they are spiritually depressed.
4) The children are discouraged from finding answers to their questions.
Each generation of young Christians are going to challenge their parents with new questions about Christianity in the modern world. It is impossible for parents to prepare for or know all the answers for these questions. The only way to address this need is for parents to ask these questions with their children. Parents who ignore, suppress, brush off, or give trite simplistic answers to their children’s questions are at risk of greatly frustrating them. No one needs to have all the answers. Children will not only respect a “I don’t know, let’s find out together,” they will remember such journey’s for the rest of their lives. It is also the most powerful opportunity for a parent to grow in their faith, to experience Christianity again through young eyes.
5) The children believe they have nothing to offer the Christian community.
Parents who are engaged and active in a church community are more likely to have children who find ways to participate in the Christian community at large. Parents and churches have a responsibility to help children know they have gifts, talents, and inspiration that are not only welcome in the community, they are vital to it. If children feel like Christianity is just following other people, it will not be relevant to them as they grow. Christianity needs to be understood as something we all work together to build.
If Christ Inspires You, You Will Inspire Your Children
Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6, ESV)
Even the best parents will still seem to “lose” their children for seasons as they grow. A person’s faith must be their own, and often that means they have to depart from it for a time. The bottom line is that the best way to make sure your children will grow up in Christ, is if you are growing in Christ. Examine your own heart and your own life. Is it something to look up to? When a child looks at their parents, they see their future. How does their future look?