I’m sure that title has caught your attention, so you’re probably thinking there’s a catch to the title…. No, not really.
Yes, I’m still new to this being a parent thing; I’ve only got about 8 years under my belt. I did spend about 10 years prior to becoming a parent leading in different student ministry settings where my focus was to minister within the spiritual dynamics that go on between parents, their kids, and church. For the last 7 plus years, I’ve been involved in these dynamics as a pastor while primarily working with parents. All of that to say, I have a little experience and knowledge, but I’m no expert and still have a lot to learn. Nevertheless, here’s why I’m saying don’t raise your kids in church…
Research shows that somewhere around 80% of students are leaving the church after they graduate high school. Unfortunately, as the years progress, we’re realizing they aren’t coming back. The cycle of raising kids in church doesn’t seem to be very effective does it… So what should we do? What’s going on?
My solution… We must stop raising kids IN church.
Okay, if you’ve read any of my blog posts or ever heard me teach, you may know what I’m getting at… Jesus’ goal for you as a parent is not for you to raise your kids IN the church but for you to show your kids how to BE the church by your example. In other words, if your kids aren’t seeing how your faith in Jesus impacts every aspect of your life, they will become confused as to why it’s so important to be IN church every Sunday morning or whenever the church building doors are open. There, I gave you the punch line you were anticipating.
I’m firmly convinced that parents are the primary spiritual influence in the lives of their kids. I believe this is biblical (see Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and Ephesians 6:4 ) Yes, at the end of the day, our kids will have to choose whether or not to follow Jesus, but don’t be mistaken… the connection or lack thereof that our kids see between our DAILY faith being put into practice and our attendance at Sunday church gatherings will have a huge influence on that decision!
Please, don’t be confused by what I’m saying… You should prioritize gathering with a church and being a contributing part of a faith community that teaches Scripture, makes disciples, has sound leadership, and strives to be active in making God’s Kingdom tangible. However, parents, you must intentionally bridge the gap between church gatherings and the daily application of faith. We can’t just assume our kids will make the connections.
Let’s think application now.
For those of us who are currently raising kids in the home… How do we do this? It sounds good in theory, but what does this really mean or even look like?
Here’s a small step that I believe over time will make a profound impact: Find a way each day to share with your kids/teens about how YOU’VE seen God interact with YOU during that day. If each day sounds like a big step, then take a small step and try to do it once each week.
- Maybe it’s a tough decision you had to make at work that challenged your integrity.
- Perhaps God spoke a Scripture to your heart when you really needed it.
- Maybe you were hateful with your spouse and you repented after God convicted you of your attitude.
For those of you who have kids that are out of the house or married and on their own…
I often hear parents whose kids struggle or walk away from their faith say something like, “I raised my kids IN the church. I don’t know where I went wrong.” Let me remind you that your voice and lifestyle still matters to them. Yes, it’s different now, but you are still influential. If you think you predominately raised your kids IN church (rather than what I’ve described in this post) confession and repentance will free you of any guilt and shame. At the same time, it’ll give you an opportunity to be transparent with your kids and show them how your faith is NOW impacting how you experience everyday life.
For all of us… remember that no parent is perfect. We will all fail at this. Even if we make all of the faith connections we can possibly make, our kids still have to make their choice. After all, God created the perfect circumstances in the garden only to have Adam and Eve walk away from Him. While God didn’t fail as we often do as parents, He showed us the importance of continually pursuing our kids even when their choices aren’t ideal. He never stopped revealing more and more of Himself, and our salvation is the result of those revelations. Therefore, even when we fall short as parents or when our kids make choices we don’t like, we, as parents, must continue to model authenticity!
Ask yourself the hard questions about how you are raising or did raise your kids. Have the conversations you need to have. Life is too precious and our spiritual condition is too important to avoid the tension that may be necessary.