Hardly a day goes by in which we are not reminded by some major news source that “atheist” and unaffiliated” religious categories are growing among Millennials. For those of us trying to raise children who walk in the truth, the odds aren’t in our favor.
According to Barna Group, 70% of kids raised in Christian homes will walk away from the church after high school. So many of our children these days end up becoming like that third seed in Matthew 13, who fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants.
So what’s a parent who loves the Lord supposed to do?
While there’s no recipe or magic formula that will guarantee our kids keep the faith, it’s not a total crap shoot either. There are some environments that are more conducive to growing godly offspring than others.
And though we realize that God is completely sovereign over the results, a decent environment is important for outcome.
Give them reasons to believe outside of themselves
Most teenagers are woefully unprepared for the onslaught of challenges to their faith they’ll receive when they go off to college. They’ve been brought up to love the Lord with all their hearts, without also loving Him with all their minds.
They may have experienced the saving power of the Gospel but cannot actually articulate why they believe, and that lightweight faith is being carried away by the wind of skepticism on college campuses across America.
Our kids need hard answers to why Christianity is not only logical, but also reasonable. A firm foundation of apologetics will help prepare them to give a defense for their faith (1 Peter 3:15), and evaluate claims of other worldviews.
There are a wealth of apologetics resources for children, starting as young as age four. Purchase some and go through them together with your kids.
Waiting until they’re old enough to attend a worldview seminar or camp won’t be nearly as affective.
Include your kids in worship services
Children are usually segregated in modern day churches from their parents and grandparents into their own age- specific programs. As a result, the strength that comes by generational connection and a culture of honor is dissipating and with it, the Church.
Kids are used to having programs tailored to their needs, complete with lots of entertainment and unfortunately very little substance. When they try to reintegrate into services as adults, they find it difficult because they have been disconnected from the larger Body of Christ for the past 18 years.
They also expect the church to serve them, instead of the other way around.
There’s something even more important to the salvation of our children than parental discipleship, and it’s not Sunday School or midweek activities, or even youth programs. It’s the hearing of God’s Word.
For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. – Hebrews 4:12
It’s through the powerful preaching of Scripture that God chooses to work on the hearts of our children. Much of what the pastor says may appear to go right over our kids’ heads, but they will absorb what is learned and seeds will be planted that have long lasting effects.
Children in church also learn to sing to the Lord, share compassion and concern for others, and pray corporately.
Limit worldly influences
Cross-cultural or “third culture” kids are children raised in a culture other than the one they were born into. When they come back to the country of their origin, they do not assimilate into its culture because they are so rooted in their expatriate culture. While they live in one place, they’re really citizens of another.
The truth is that as Christians, we are foreigners and strangers in this world (1 Peter 2:11). Though we live here in this fallen world, our citizenship is in Heaven. Simply put, this world is not our home and we should not live as if it is.
Our children are saturated in pop culture, and it is shaping their thoughts and actions. Greed, sexual immorality, romanticism, vow-breaking, materialism, abortion, entitlement, relativism, etc. are increasingly celebrated rather than fought in popular movies, books, and music.
Instead of letting our kids consume a steady diet of today’s mass culture for the sake of being relatable, we should be creating a counter culture in our homes that promotes the respect of God and centers around His Word.
Obviously, it’s impractical to isolate ourselves completely from the world around us, and our kids need to learn how to exercise self-control. We can, however, help our children evaluate media they watch, read, and listen to by asking questions like: