Why do young people leave the Church? If I received a dollar every time I heard this question, I would have saved a lot already. I understand why: the number of young people leaving the Church is a serious concern. Each of us directly or indirectly got into a situation where a young boy or girl left the faith. Such situations are destructive.
So what needs to be changed in the Church? Although this issue needs to be addressed, I don’t think it will solve the problem.
Stay with me — I’m getting somewhere.
You see, I believe that the first link between young people and God is the parents, not the Church. In his book Soul Searching, Christian Smith says the following:
“The most important social influence on the formation of the religious life of young people is the example of religious life given to them by their parents.”
And in an interview with Dr. Kara Powell and CHEP Clark, Mr. Smith continues:
“If we talk about the faith of children, then parents get what they are themselves.”
Wow. This is real.
Here’s the thing. Parents, you draw the image of God to your children every day. Every word, action, or conversation is a brushstroke. And when your children are preparing to leave their home, they look at this portrait of God. It shapes their actions and decisions about the future trajectory of faith.
Are there any exceptions? Sure. As a youth minister, I have seen young people leave Jesus even though their parents ‘ faith was unshakeable. I have also seen young people go to college with their hearts burning for God, even though their parents ‘ faith was shaky and volatile. This question is not clearly divided into black and white. Few things can be classified in this way.
But here’s the question: will you, as parents play a huge role in shaping your children’s faith? No doubt!
Having said this, I would like to note for parents several points that their young children need to ensure. I think of them as someone who left God while in College, as someone who is dedicated to serving young people every day, and as someone who is passionate about reaching the next generation.
Here are seven things that young people need to be provided with by their parents in order to stay with God.
1. They need you to stop holding youth leaders responsible for their faith
I grew up in the Church, but I was never part of a youth group. I didn’t have any formal training in the youth ministry, so when I got there, everything was new to me.
In the first few months, I noticed something that bothered me. It was as if my parents saw me as a person who was primarily responsible for the spiritual growth of their children. Why is this disturbing? Because the Bible doesn’t mention such examples.
Unfortunately, most churches themselves form and reinforce this wrong attitude, when calendars are clogged with events, and young people are subjected to cultural pressure that implies that they should receive a gold star for excellent attendance. Don’t get me wrong: I am not opposed to youth Ministry and I consider it an excellent tool for cultivating the faith of young people.
However, this is a problem when the youth Ministry becomes the only tool.
Parents, the primary responsibility for nurturing the faith of your children lies with you. Youth leaders exist to help and complement the work you do at home. They don’t exist to replace you.
2. They need you to care about their difficulties as much as you care about saving them
I remember how many conversations I had with my parents about baptism when I was growing up. In my community, there is a great deal of emphasis on baptism. It’s too big. At least, that’s what I thought. I began to hate the word “baptism,” and with every conversation about why I should be baptized, I took a step back from God.
Maybe it’s wrong, but that’s what I’ve been going through. As strange as it may sound, I needed someone who cared about my difficulties as much as my salvation.
In high school, I went through a lot of difficulties. I tried to find myself everywhere. I struggled with lust and pornography. In search of direction, I began to wander dark paths.
It was as if the rescue was the only thing that mattered to anyone. Eventually, I began to see God in this way: He had nothing to say about my current difficulties; he just wanted me to be “saved.” And I didn’t care much about God, who didn’t have anything to say about the situation I was going through. So I left.
This is what this period of my life has taught me: although all those who spoke to me were sincere, I think they were trying to work salvation in me. People don’t have the power to save anyone. This is the task of God.
Parents, you can show God’s love to your children. You can start by helping them see that God cares about the difficulties they are currently experiencing. Sit down with your children. Talk to them. Show them grace.
When you do this, the gospel comes alive. Because the gospel not only tells about salvation, it tells about everything: addictions, temptations, self-determination. When your children see that God is going through their difficulties with them, they will be more willing to give Their lives to him.
3. They need you to answer their questions
Today, the culture is very complex and confusing. Young people see everything. Information (both good and bad) available on request. At a time when young people, among other things, are struggling with such difficult issues as sexuality or social problems, the world is shaping their worldview. Each article. Every conversation. Each video.
Now, more than ever, it is important that parents take the time to discuss difficult issues. It’s time to start taking seriously the issues that fill your children’s lives. Ignorance is no excuse. Discomfort or tension is also not an excuse.
When I was growing up, no adult (at least as far as I can remember) ever talked to me about sex. Nothing about lust. Nothing about God’s plan for purity. Nothing about Masturbation. They never talked to me about alcohol. I struggled with these questions, but the Christians didn’t give me any answers. So I tried to figure it out myself. You can only imagine how that ended for me.
Yes, such conversations are inconvenient. Yes, they create tension. But they are asked by your children. If you don’t allocate space for difficult questions, they will turn to other sources for answers. And this, usually, does not end well.
4. They need you to stop patronizing and protecting them
The world is decaying. I absolutely do not disagree with this. It seems that the world is much more sinful now than it has ever been.
But I wonder what the result would be if cities like Ephesus and Corinth were under the microscope? In the time of the Apostle Paul, Ephesus was mired in sorcery. Every spring, about a million people traveled to the temple of Artemis, filled with priestesses of love. Let’s just say these people didn’t go to the temple to talk about the weather.
Moreover, the festival of Dionysus was held in Ephesus — a party with alcohol, compared to which the sundown feast on St. John’s Day was held in Ephesus. Patrick would look ridiculous (I don’t mean that you did that).
So how does Paul instruct Ephesians to respond to a culture that is steeped in sin? He tells them to put on the full armor of God (Ephesians 6: 10-20). In other words, join the fight. Paul did not understand the theology of apostasy. It doesn’t exist. He expected the Christians of Ephesus to take up culture, not run away from it.
If the ultimate goal is to protect our children so that they will never face the evils of this world, then we are not only doing them harm socially, we are also robbing them of the opportunity to see the transformative power of the gospel.
As a parent, you should not set out to teach your children to run away from evil. Your goal should be to teach them how to deal with evil. For the glory of God. At such moments, they will see the gospel, and it will become real.
5. They need to see that God is more than rules and Church attendance
I remember that as a child when I went to College, this factor was the most important for me and my faith. I needed to see that my parents believed God’s promises. I needed to see that my parents made decisions as if God were real and alive, and not reduced to a list of rules or what could and couldn’t be done. I saw it in my mother, not so much in my father.
Until God surrounded me with men who were examples of unshakeable faith in Him, I thought that following Christ was just a small part of the big picture.
Parents, especially fathers, never underestimate the impact of your decisions on your children. They need to see that you trust God with your time and money. They need to see that you look at your work as a ground for missionary work. They need to see that you also love people. All person. They need to see that you trust God’s promises from the Scriptures.
If you limit your Christian life to Church attendance and morality, your children will notice it. Who wants to follow a God who is nothing more than rules and appearing in a building? I definitely don’t want to.
6. They need to see the difficulties and doubts you are experiencing
You need to be strong for the sake of your children. They need to see that you can handle everything. I understand, but just a second, let’s get real. God is mysterious. Faith is not easy. Some questions about God have no easy answers. You probably went through days when you were ready to give up on everything.
Join us, I want you to meet someone. These are the apostles. Yes, those who went with Jesus and founded the Church. Yes, they are among those who “at some point doubted their faith.”
Parents, your children have doubts. They need to see that you have them, too. Otherwise, when they have questions about God, your children will either drive them into themselves or turn to other sources for answers. Both options are bad.
I’m not talking about having an hour of confession every night. But there is a certain strength in vulnerability and sincerity. Your children need to know that you are human. They also need to know that the path to intimacy with God also involves times of doubt and difficulty.
7. They need you to pray to God to nurture and strengthen their faith
Parents, in the process of laying the foundation of faith in your children, there is nothing more important than prayer. Pray for your children. Pray with your children. Every day.
For me, the best time of the day is when my boys go to bed and ask Tiffany and me to pray for them. I know that the day will probably come when they won’t ask us to pray for them, and we will have to overcome the tension and pray for them, even if they don’t necessarily want us to. But we devote ourselves to praying for them every night.
I am forever grateful to my mother. She’s amazing! I am convinced that my faith is the result of her untiring prayers. I think my mother prayed so much that God got tired of listening to her pleas for a change in my life. So after years of listening to thousands of versions of the same prayer, He called me home. I’ve never looked back since.
Never stop praying for your children. Don’t let current circumstances overshadow the power of God. Even if your child is at a cosmic distance from God, he Is only at the distance of a prayer. One prayer can change everything.
Parents, you paint your children the image of God. What does this portrait look like?
It will never be too late to start contributing to your children’s faith. God does not operate on the principle of investing money. Your children’s faith score will not necessarily be measured by the time you spend doing so. God does not limit himself to this.
Besides, it’s never too late to start praying. Set the trajectory of your children’s faith now.
The Church has a role to play in the matter of your children’s faith, but the primary responsibility lies with you, the parents. This is your task. God would never give you a task without providing you with equipment. In order for your children’s faith to grow, they don’t need the funniest, most knowledgeable, or best conversationalist, they need you. So give them what they need.