“They’re leaving!” It’s hard to miss this ugly, dramatic pronouncement in glossy, church-related periodicals everywhere, but George Barna’s stats proclaiming that an average 70% of teens will leave the church after high school graduation1 quite honestly don’t scare me.

I birthed five strong-willed, independent-thinking young men, beginning with my firstborn in 1984. After over a quarter-century of investing my life in their spiritual development, while also home educating them and serving local, national, and international churches as a full-time pastor’s wife and trans-local leader, I’ve learned a whole lot about transferring the baton to the next generation.

Home educators have an edge. We have the benefit of access to our children 24/7, to lead by example and to influence powerfully, primarily because we have the luxuries of time and togetherness. Yes, as a homeschooling mom, my thoughts often have been occupied with pencils, papers, co-ops and curriculum, but my overriding mission and passion has always been more about imparting my beliefs to my five sons than simply executing my academic agenda.

The average Christian parent doesn’t get to see his school-aged child for seven to ten hours of each weekday, because during those hours children are on the way to school, in school, or on the way home from school. That same child spends about as much time in his bed at night, sleeping. The hours left for meaningful parent-child interaction are not only few, but they also are chock-full of stressed carpools, debriefing, dinner prep, chores, homework, and assorted extracurricular activities. The fact is, formal schooling holds families hostage to a system that dominates their days, nights, and weekends. Within that system, only crumbs of time are left for discipleship.

Worse yet, while the vice of academia grips these vulnerable kids in its jaws, they are likely to be exposed to all manner of negative influences during their countless hours on campus. In public schools it’s no secret that their course of study will be permeated with secular humanistic philosophy, while at the same time they could be dodging bullets, bullies,2 blatant sexual perversity,3 peer pressure, and ruthless cliques, to name a few of the dangers they could encounter daily. And let’s be honest, private schools won’t guarantee a child exemption from such hazards.

On weekends if there’s time after soccer, hockey, dance, and football, this same parent will drop his children off to attend church programs designed to save them from the deplorable indoctrination experienced while engaged in their educational institution. Kinda crazy, wouldn’t you say?

One local church in our metro area recently upgraded its children’s ministry facilities, at a cost of $400,000, with elaborate décor, Wii games, basketball, air hockey, and other age-appropriate amusements.4 These folks are serious about impacting the youth in their city, but in my decades of experience, I have learned that providing myriad special youth nights and extravagant parades of pleasure for teens in outreach endeavors doesn’t keep the teen sheep in the fold. Institutions will not save our kids. It’s up to us parents to create our own revolution in our homes for our sons and daughters.5

I said “home educators have an edge,” but I didn’t say “we have it in the bag.” Many enthusiastic homeschool parents are smugly touting their youngsters the “signs and wonders following them,” but a word of caution: babes under your wing aren’t yet adults who’ve decided to follow Jesus.

I’ve met so many disappointed parents and heard so much debate related to this topic. I don’t have all the answers, but I’ve found what I think is the non-negotiable in this all-important matter of getting—and keeping—our kids in the race.