My heart is so heavy, and my tears are nonstop. For years we have invested spiritually in our children’s lives, but our oldest son has denounced our faith. We have done everything “by the book”—or at least we thought we had. We were shocked when he told us that he was through with our religion, and that he wasn’t even sure he believed in God anymore.
We probably have not handled this situation correctly, and we’re desperately searching for answers. We’re also concerned about how this will affect our younger children. How do we move forward as a family amid this bombshell?
My heart breaks with yours—and with the hearts of many others—because this unfortunate scenario is shared by
way too many families. The statistics showing the high number of young people hemorrhaging from our faith and
from other denominations are staggering. Our heavenly Father, however, cares for these children with an unfathomable love, and He is capable of providing restoration! Thankfully, I see many families claim victory as their children return to God.
The following points can be helpful when reaching out to our children:
1. Do not use force. Begging and pleading with your son or daughter to return to church will only push them further
away. However, do not be passive either. In other words, don’t neglect to invite your child to events, programs, or activities they might find interesting. If they decline, move on in prayer without making them feel guilty.
2. Avoid criticism. There is likely a deeper issue. The sources of our children’s struggles may include doubt, alternative lifestyles, guilt, anger, etc. A denouncement of faith usually indicates that something has changed significantly in their lives. It is crucial to not make demands or accusations against their moral choices. Saying things
such as, “Stop doing that” or “You better end that relationship immediately” will result in your child “tuning out.” Instead, your goal is to draw your child back into a thriving relationship with Jesus and healthy spiritual connections. “Bite the tongue” and refrain from strong rebuke. Correction may be necessary, but probably not best right off the bat in a fresh situation.
3. Don’t nag. Nagging simply doesn’t work. Usually it has the opposite effect. Sadly, many young adults and older
adults have purposely steered away from church and religion because of parents constantly harping on the issue of church. Questions like, “When are you going to stop being so stubborn and come back to church?” or “Why are you doing this to us?” simply waste a parent’s energy; your child can never possibly know how much your heart aches over their poor decisions.
Successful restoration happens without nagging or forcing. Instead, respectful and gentle invitations to church and
other events, warm conversations, persevering prayer, and unconditional love are far more superior options.
John 14:1 is a great reminder to not let our hearts be troubled, and 1 Peter 5:10 gives us great assurance: “And
the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast” (NIV).
Continue in faith, and exalt Jesus. Your younger children will inevitably have some questions and concerns, but as
they watch you and your family pray and trust God completely, their faith will grow and mature as well.
Blessings and Prayer,