When my kids were young, every Sunday we loaded them into the car and headed to church. Season after season, we weathered winter’s icy breath, were drenched by spring showers and blasted by summer’s hot winds. Our church sheltered us not only from the physical elements of the weather, but also from things which are not visible to a world that is too busy to pay attention. But even with weekly dedication, I wondered if my children would grow up with the same love for God that I had.
Several studies have been conducted to answer the question of why so many kids who grow up in church leave as soon as they are out on their own. While there is no one answer for an exodus from the faith, there have been some common reasons why some young adults walk away.
- A relationship with Jesus is replaced by a code of conduct – faith becomes about a list of do’s and don’ts.
- The church doesn’t help answer their questions and doubts – whether it be emotional, intellectual or spiritual doubt. Instead it is considered a sin to doubt God in any way.
- We don’t give them answers. Our society is bombarded with philosophical and scientific opposition to Christian beliefs, yet we never prepare them to defend their faith.
While there are no guarantees as we raise our children to love Jesus that they will choose to follow Him, there are some things that seem to keep kids connected to God even when they are older.
- Emphasize a relationship with Jesus as opposed to following a set of rules.
- Involve them with other age groups within your faith community. One study found that teens who were involved with other age groups were more likely to keep their faith. Those who were segregated (didn’t worship frequently with other adults) shelved their faith and those with few or little significant caring adults didn’t stay connected with their faith at all.
- Be an active parent. Take your responsibility seriously in their spiritual development. Talk about faith with them. Allow them to ask questions.
- The most important factor that studies reveal is the importance of being an example. Who you ARE, not just what you say or do, shapes your children’s faith.
If you are willing to set an authentic example and walk with them along their faith journey. If you are willing to surround them with a community of believers that love and encourage them, then doubts can lead to firm conviction and deeper faith.
What do you do actively as a parent to help your child in his spiritual development (more than just coming to church on Sundays)? Do you talk and act the same way at home that you do at work or with friends? Are you an example of Jesus in your child’s life?