The statistics are staggering. The reality, heartbreaking.
Well-loved youth, brought up in the faith, are fleeing Christianity without so much as a backward glance. And the parents who raised them with such expectancy are left to pick up the scattered pieces of hope and vision they once held tight to for their children.
Why? Why does this happen? These kids were brought up in youth group. They were raised on communion bread . They were baptized, fraternized and sermonized. So why?
I won’t pretend to have all the answers or that I don’t harbor a deep-seated fear that my own children will pack up their memories and walk off, shaking the dust from their boots as they go. Because yes, I feel that, too. But, there are tangible things we can do while raising our kids that drastically reduce the chances of them seeing our faith as an ill-fitting garment of hypocrisy.
Focus on raising God-fearing children, rather than good kids
Seems like the two might go hand-in-hand, right? Wrong. We, as parents, need to be shaken from our complacency. We aren’t assigned the role of raising good kids. Good kids grow up to be good adults who hold a steady job with a solid income to provide for their wife and the next generation of good kids.
Godly kids grow up to change the world, one moment at a time.
The difference is in how they were raised. Parents raising good kids make excuses, allowances. They offer indulgences such as, “Oh Johnny really shouldn’t have done that, but he’s young and impulsive. He’ll grow out of it.” However, parents of Godly kids seek after the heart, desiring to channel Johnny’s impulsive spirit into a finely tuned asset which ultimately advances the spread of the gospel.
Parents need to stop meeting over coffee to talk about their good kids. We need to stop viewing our children’s willingness to attend church, youth group, mission trips, and the soup kitchen as sign enough that it is well with their souls. We need to get serious about wearing out our knees for them, pleading with God for a life-changing transformation to catch hold of their hearts.
They need conversion, plain and simple. All that “good kid” jabber is meaningless if Christ isn’t planted firmly in the center of their being. When conversion takes place, we won’t be left to sit and wonder. We’ll see it and feel it and know it. And it’ll change us, too.
That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. Ephesians 4:22-24
God isn’t interested in lip service. He wants whole-heart service. He wants to see the old man thrown off. Completely off. This isn’t going to happen while soft-hearted parents are enabling their youth to cling to the fringes of that old man.
Empower them to live for Christ
This means serious changes for most of us. It means rejecting the notion that kids need to be coddled and pampered and stroked. It means loving with the kind of love that isn’t about feel-good moments but rather chasing down the demons in their lives and evicting them. Sometimes this kind of love hurts. And it may well be the hardest thing you’ll ever be asked to do.
Because parenting isn’t about petting the sins of our children, treating them as though they’re an unwanted guest we hope will leave without ever taking offense. Honestly, it’s okay to offend sin. It’s not okay to offend God.
Don’t mistake me here. I’m not talking about becoming some Bible bruiser who steamrolls your kid into submission. I’m talking about bathing them in the Word and pursuing their hearts with an unquenchable voracity. It means discipling and disciplining with a firmness that’s generously laced with kindness.
There is no room for parental bullying here. But there’s also no room for parental cowardice.
Equip them to make good decisions in a not-so-good world
Our kids will not be prepared for the onslaught of temptation if they have been flying on the coattails of our faith. They need their own. There will be no piggy-backing into eternity, and this includes children trying to gain entrance on the merits of their parents.
We paralyze our youth when we live their Christian experience for them. When we allow them to go through the motions and consider it success that they do not rebel. Rebellion can be silent, and that’s the deadliest kind.
As young people grow, they need to be equipped with decision-making skills. They need to learn to snuff out the truth from the Bible, for themselves, and apply what they find there to their own lives. This can get uncomfortable, though, and many parents see it as weakness to give a child some measure of control over their life.
But when we intentionally and prayerfully release them little by little, rather than letting them fly abruptly from the nest with unpracticed wings, we help them strengthen their own faith. They find their own convictions while still safely within our fold.
They learn to own their spiritual walk as dependency gradually shifts from the parents to the Creator.
This is as it should be.
There is no place for extremes if we’re seeking to raise God-fearing children into God-serving adults. There is only balance, weighed perfectly by He who can set the scales even when we can’t.