“Why don’t my kids believe?” was an anguished cry that I heard too many times in my years as a pastor. The pain that parents suffer when they see their adult children leave faith and church can be unbearable. This is heightened when believing grandparents see their grandchildren grow up in this faith-less environment.
I have to start by saying that there is a mystery to faith and this issue cannot be solved with a formula. Also, every individual has a personal responsibility to come to the Lord. Having said that, there are things parents can do to make Prov 22:6 (Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.) come aliive in the Christian home.
The big danger of our age is inoculating our kids against faith through small doses. Our pluralist, post modern age ridicules the absolutism of Christianity. So there is a temptation to water down the Christian faith to make it more appealing to the world. Sadly, as our children grow up, this watered down faith seems irrelevant and tokenistic. Why? Because it is. Our watering down has indeed made the message irrelevant and empty.
Some possible solutions:
1. Parents must begin by living the word – not just mouthing it. Children can spot hypocrisy. Faith has to mean everything to you. No, you do not have to be perfect. If you stumble you also have a perfect opportunity to practise confession, forgiveness and grace in front of, and if it involves them, with, your children.
2. Faith teaching needs to be regular and solid. From the youngest age, regular devotional readings, Bible stories and later, Bible study should be part of the family culture. (Again a culture that is lived out and acted upon). The caveat is that this should not be done in a legalistic fashion, in a cold ritual, but as a living core value that is as normal as eating meals. Link the lessons and prayers with events, crises and the journey of the family. In other words, show that God is part of the family journey – ever present. The key thing I learned from observing my my dad when I was a child, was that in all his struggles with the lessons of Scripture, he was in a conversation with God. God was always real. He never doubted God even though he struggled with understanding all that God was saying to him. This observation taught me that God was real and present and someone I could talk to.
3. I must repeat myself. The faith practice of the family should not be conducted out of custom and superstition. Rather, it should relate to the activities, beliefs and and values of the family. God’s Word must shape the values and identity of the family from day one.
This does not take away from the child the need to make a commitment to the Lord. In fact, it lays a foundation upon which the child can make a faith filled, intelligent commitment. Will every child come to the Lord? Experience tells us that even in the most Godly families some children may chose to rebel. The truth that Proverbs 22:6 tells us is the wayward child is the exception. Fail to build the foundation, and the exception will be the child who does come to the Lord.