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Is it Your Fault When Your Kids Lose Their Faith?

  • Liz Kanoy What topic related to Christianity, faith, and the Bible is trending online and in social media today?
  • 2016 Nov 28

Whether you have young children, grown children, or have friends and family with kids you have heard the prayers of parents whose children have walked away from the church. If your child is a believer who attends church and actively spends time in God’s Word, there’s a good chance that your child knows at least one friend or classmate that does not. And if your child is not a believer and has walked away from God, do not be overcome with guilt and do not give up.

Kim Jaggers, speaker and writer, has written an article for titled “Christian Parents, Let’s Lock Arms.” She urges,

However, for my fellow Christian parents who still have kids in their home, I simply cannot ignore the stirring in my spirit to cry out. Lock arms with each other, hold the line, and require your kids to do two things: 1. Read the Bible. 2. Go to church.”

Jaggers knows that many parents will object fearing that requiring these two things will push their child further away or damage their relationship. But she reminds us that trusting God is more important than trusting what we think, and she cites Isaiah 55:11:

So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”  

Children know how to manipulate parents, and parents have to choose to trust God’s Word over their emotions. In High School I didn’t want to go to church, but I was told that church was not an option and once I got to college I could decide for myself. I complained and tried to get out of it, but I would still go and sit for the hour. It may have annoyed me that I couldn’t have my way, but it did not damage my relationship with my parents and it did not push me away from God anymore than not going to church would have. At least I was hearing God’s Word even if it didn’t fully make sense to my heart yet. And by my mother requiring me to attend church, I knew that she loved me and wanted God’s best for me because her words were backed up by actions of love.

Jaggers shares,

Our own children whined and suggested that they might turn away from the Word because of our requirement that they read it. They are smart like that.  They know how to play on our fears. Yet we counted on God to make His Word a lamp for their feet and a light for their path—just like He said He would in Psalm 119:105.

When other parents allowed their kids to stay at home on Sunday mornings, our kids noticed that, too. We argued and ordered and rode to church with grumpy, sleepy teenagers. Through tears, we trusted that God could soften their hearts and speak to their souls as they fellowshipped with other believers.”

Jaggers’ children are young adults today who read God’s Word and go to church; she asked some of her friends’ children are were raised in the church and now attend on their own why they still read the Bible and go to church. Here is one response:

I read the Bible for a lot of reasons, but just a few are getting to have personal time with Jesus and also because spending time in the Word refocuses me on what’s important in life and what this whole thing is about. Reading Scripture lets us know where Christians have come from (Jesus), what we need to strive to be like, and also where we can go if we follow God relentlessly, holding nothing back. It’s not a checklist thing to me anymore—it’s a privilege and an honor to be able to come before God and be in His Holy presence whenever we please. I don't worry if my parents or others will ask me if I've read the Word today like I used to. Because to be honest if I haven't, I'm the one missing an opportunity to spend time with a God who loves me and desires to show me what's best for me. I think reading Scripture and diving into it wholeheartedly has brought me closer to God and led me to love Him more than anything else. ~Ben, age twenty-one”

As Jaggers points out, this is not a scientific study or a guarantee but it is a call to encourage Christian parents to stick to their principles and requirements even when it gets tough with teenagers. Jaggers continues,

This is also a plea for Christian parents to lock arms. Yes, lock arms! Encourage one another to maintain a culture that collectively requires good things of our children. When kids can look to other families who are giving in and giving up on these central good-for-them requirements, it makes it harder on all parents—and ultimately hurts our kids, this generation, and the church.

Trust in God who says, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6). Maybe we are losing so many of our kids when they’re in college because we didn’t join together as parents to create a culture of going to church and reading God’s Word. Let’s be diligent to hold the line together now while they are still in our homes.”   

Our children also learn by our example; they see when we skip church or don’t make church a priority, and they see when we spend time with the Lord in prayer and reading as well as when we neglect to. Living out an authentic Christian life for your kids means apologizing and asking for forgiveness when you're wrong, giving grace when others are wrong, and talking about how faith shapes your decision-making.

There are no perfect children nor are there perfect parents, but as ordinary parents we can trust that God will be working in the church and through His Word. Even when it’s hard, keep your kids in church and in God’s Word and encourage other parents to do the same. Christian parents need encouragement because requiring teens to live counter-culture lives is difficult and trying on the best of days. Jaggers concludes,

What better thing can you give them? What better thing can you do for our world and our Savior? Lock arms, Christian parents!

To read Kim Jaggers’ article in its entirety please visit Contributor Phil Waldrep, author of Reaching Your Prodigal, reminds parents of prodigals not to feel guilty. He writes,

As parents of prodigals, we tend to blame ourselves for the sinfulness of our children. The guilt we feel, however, empowers the prodigal to manipulate us. We are unable to practice tough love and tell them “no.” Instead of helping our prodigal, our guilt causes us to try and “fix” them. Until the Holy Spirit reveals what you did wrong, you must assume that you did nothing wrong.”   

While requiring your teen to attend church and read the Bible might not push them away in the way you think, constantly pointing out sin or a rebellious attitude will likely do more harm than good. Waldrep points out, “The toughest prayer is asking the Lord to do whatever it takes to get to the heart of your prodigal.”

Stay strong as a parent and trust God; make sure that God’s Word is the foundation for your parenting, and explain why you parent the way you do to your teen. I’m requiring this of you because I love you and more than anything else in the whole world I want you to understand God’s love for you, which is greater than my own.

There is nothing more grievous to a believing parent than to have a child who does not believe. Whether you have children of your own or not, come alongside these grieving parents and encourage them and pray with them. Parents of rebellious teens still living at home need this same encouragement; they need you to link arms with them so they can continue to fight for faith out of love and obedience.

Jeremiah 24:7, “I will give them a heart to know that I am the LORD, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart.”

Related article:
How to Pray for Your Prodigal
Prodigal Prayer List

Related video: What are 4 ways I can help my children hold on to their faith? - Alex Chediak from crosswalkquestions on GodTube.

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Publication date: November 28, 2016

Liz Kanoy is an editor for