Monday, January 16, 2012

When Our Children Don't Share Our Faith

Over at the ministry leadership blog Out of Ur, there's been several recent posts focusing on "the religious views of 20-somethings." 

And I hear that this video is getting alot of press in the Christian blog world. 

Once again, the issue of the faith of the next generation is on the table.

Or did it ever leave?

Writer Brandon J. O’Brien defines what the new face of faith looks like.  "Spiritual, but not religious ... Happy to believe many things at once ... Tradition and morality are valued more than belief ... Serving doesn't require believing ... Religious beliefs having very little impact on their personal or professional goals."

Read his insightful observations here and here.

All this conversation is all very well and good and incredibly applicable to the church's future ministry.  But it doesn't even begin to speak to the agony of parents whose kids have abandoned their parents' faith.  Or choose to express their beliefs in ways that are rather incomprehensible to these parents, who are left to figure out what to do with much that they can't get their hands and hearts around.

The bottom line is that we all must work out our salvation with fear and trembling {Philippians 2:12}.  Our children's faith must be authentically their own.  And, yes, it can be soul-searing to watch them do so and make choices that bring us sorrow.  If you've ever felt powerless as a parent, it's at these precise moments.

In the conversations I've had with heartbroken parents, this is what they've taught me:

My child has not turned out the way I hoped and prayed they would.  I am hurt.  Frustrated.  Scared.  Feel disrespected {possibly a.k.a. angry.}  I need to wrestle with this.  I need to acknowledge any mistakes I made along the way and ask for forgiveness, but I refuse to blame myself for their choices.  I need to walk through this well and come to some measure of peace.  If I don't, instead of Jesus' compassionate love, bitterness will slowly begin to define my life. 

My very legitimate feelings can not come in the way of my relationship with my child.  I must be respectful of their right to choose what they believe and how they live out their beliefs.  I need to be very active in loving them them well in this season of our lives, in a language they understand.

I want a rich relationship with my child. I need to see my little one as an adult, treating them with the same respect that I want in return. I need to accept who they are today, and actively and creatively look for ways to us to connect and move ahead.  I must allow my faith to give me all the comfort and wisdom I need to do this well.

I am not the Holy Spirit.  I need to "pray without ceasing" that He will do all the pursuing and convicting that my child might need.  I will not entertain endless question and answer sessions that morph into hurtful and fruitless debates that go nowhere and put a wedge into our relationship. 

Please know that if this is your experience, you're not alone.  You share this sorrow with many other parents who have raised their children to love and serve Jesus Christ.  And then have watched them choose to walk on other paths. 

Are you willing to share your experience?  What's helped/hasn't worked as you've walked through this valley?  I invite you to click on the comment link below.  And if it helps, please feel free to do it anonymously.



  1. I have small children and I have to admit...I'm scared. Scared that they will decide not to follow Jesus.

    I pray for them, train them, and I hope that they will see that my Christianity is real. It's not just something that I put on for church on Sunday. I pray that this will give them a hunger for Christ, because He is real.

  2. I love that we can go to God and say that we're scared. I love that we can be real with our fears and concerns and not hide anything from Him.

    And then in the end I just have to believe that He loves those kids even more than I do. I really have no choice but to release them into His powerfully gentle hands.

    Thanks so much for sharing where you're coming from, Jennifer! I think you're in very good company ...

  3. Thanks for this post. What you described is exactly what I am going through with my young adult children. It has been the most painful thing I have ever experienced because I only really wanted one thing for them - that they would know and love God. Two of them have shared that they really don't know what they believe in anymore, including who God is. Your 4 points listed are exactly what I have learned on this journey. I find that one of the most difficult things is forgiving myself and feeling ashamed that they have chosen to walk away. Obviously, whatever we did to raise them to know how much God loves them wasn't enough. It's comforting to know I'm not alone. And I
    AM learning more and more to believe that God has a plan (and it's not the same as mine!) and I choose to hold onto all the promises He gives us in His Word. But still, my life has been shaken, and in a time that I was hoping would be one of 'reaping the benefits', I often walk in a fog of introspection and why's. One day at a time, though.

  4. Your pain, shame, self-blame are so well articulated. Other parents who read your comment will resonate with exactly where you are.

    May God graciously be merciful to you, bring you some level of healing and hope in your soul, and equip you to continue to model for your family what the gracious love of Jesus looks like.

    Thanks so much for sharing where you are ...


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