In a 2017 Lifeway Research study the authors determined the factors that kept young people at church. Reading the Bible as a kid made first place but close behind that were prayer, church attendance, and serving in the church. All these are part of an active Christian lifestyle, modeled by the parents and resurfacing in their children.
So what about the numbers of young people leaving churches? The same article quotes that half of the kids growing up in Protestant households lost their faith somewhere along the way. So that means that if we read our Bible and say our prayers, my child will stay a believer as they grow up?
What we teach them
I don’t think so. The research is missing the mark in telling us what they did and not how they grew up. Forcing a set of behaviors down the throat of my kids to create a facade is not a Christian upbringing. But picture-perfect little angels without any issues fit great into the all-American suburban neighborhood. Raising those kids to act in a certain way has nothing to do with the reality of a messy gospel, His saving grace and the reality that we all need him.
The American gospel is a forefront, used to fit in with friends and family and depicting but an expectation of those around us. It teaches us to hide behind morals and act as we are supposed to act. Growing up with a different faith would have actually helped some of us because we would be open to Christ once we encounter the real thing. Truth-seeker of today look everywhere but in the remains of their childhood ruins. They experienced that to be the epitome of hypocrisy and hatred.
You ought to be a Christian
We can’t expect the young and wild to follow a dead track. They are growing up in exciting times, filled with opportunity and knowledge. They have access to every belief system in the world and have a history of disappointment with their own. How can we blame them if they run away from the church as far as they can? They have good reasons.
I’m the father of three young children. As many of us dads do, I strive to become a man of integrity not only in the world around me but especially with my children. I am not only representing Christianity to them but also Christ himself. They judge the legitimacy of the Gospel through my character.
Teaching them about the gospel is important but backing up my words with my actions is essential. I teach them repentance but where do they see it in my life?
Sin in every context
All yelling is nothing more then my desperate attempt to control my kids through fear. Since they are free are to pick their own choice (with the appropriate consequences for their choices), I should not have to control them in any way. My attempt to control them is a sin in itself but the yelling teaches them that daddy is a hypocrite.
And I would be a hypocrite if I claimed to be perfect. But I’m a sinner representing Christ and my kids need to know that. Their dad is not perfect and in yelling at them he sinned against them and against God himself.
So I established a routine in my house to apologize not only to my kids after I mess up, but also ask God for forgiveness in front of them. My goal is to ingrain into their thinking that my sin is not connected to the God I’m professing. I’m a sinner and I need God’s forgiveness the same way that I tell them we all do. I’m not exempt and they are worthy enough to hear it from my mouth.