How Do We Help Kids Who Have Left the Faith?
by Sean McDowell
Perhaps the toughest question parents ask me is how they can help their wayward kids. The difficulty of this question stems not solely from the intellect, but from seeing the pain in the eyes of parents who are genuinely hurt and disappointed in the choices of their kids. What can we do? Here are some humble thoughts from my work with students:
Pray. Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” This first step may seem obvious. After all, which Christian parents don’t pray for their kids? But remember, while prayer is for our kids, it is also for us. God wants us to pray as an act of trust in Him, and he promises to guard our hearts as a result.
Work on the relationship. It’s no secret that I love apologetics. Yet despite the critical need to train our kids in defending and articulating the faith, there’s often relational and emotional pain at the heart of why kids reject faith. In a massive study of faith transmission between generations, USC professor Vern Bengtson revealed that the primary factor is a “warm relationship” with the father. If this relationship in particular is broken, or other key relationships, faith is far less likely to be passed on from one generation to the next. Rather than first trying to reason your kids back to faith, or force them to go back to church, be sure they know you love them unconditionally…
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