REASONS Why Our Children Grow Up and Leave the Church…
and What We Can Do.
Michael A. Johnson
We live in a peculiar age – a plethora of ideologies from a diversity of cultures. As a pastor I am concerned for the church, and as a parent I am concerned for my children as well as yours. Government school, television, movies, and modern music teach our children that there are no absolutes – “Think for yourself,” and whatever conclusion they come to, “if it feels right for you,” then it is okay! But it is NOT okay! The Bible clearly teaches, “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof of are the ways of death.” (Proverbs 16:25)
Baby boomers seem to be the ones who invented the “mega church” abut 25-30 years ago. They removed the crosses, stained glass, altars, and song books to have a more neutral environment. Their children, along with some of the most blasphemous actors and entertainers, are now wearing “Jesus is my Homeboy” t-shirts, etc. Some people have the attitude: “As long as the numbers are up, we must be doing something right… Right?” However, many church leaders believe that their churches are packed with people who do not even really know Christ. Can this really happen? YES! Matthew 7:21 says, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven…”
This brings me to my main point of concern for our discussion…
Myth #4 in a list of 10 Myths about Church Leavers by Alan Jaimieson says:
“If Mum and Dad go to church, their children will grow up to be churchgoers too.”
And yet, studies have indicated that 45% of teenagers quit going to church after they leave home. I have noticed in my own experience in the ministry that our Pentecostal churches retain only a small percentage of the vast number of children that have ridden our busses and sat in our Sunday School classes. One person said,
In most “mainline churches” Christ is not preached, repentance not mentioned, holiness not spoken of, the Bible is never referenced, and Christ’s return is considered a scary fairytale believed only by those icky fundamentalists who believe what the Bible says.
Of course, in a HOLINESS Pentecostal church, this statement is simply not true! Christ IS preached. Repentance IS emphasized. Holiness IS spoken of and taught. The Bible IS referenced and considered the final authority. Christ’s return IS taught as a reality! So, we cannot blame it on the church. The responsibility falls back on the PARENT.
Four Reasons Why Our Children Leave the Faith
1. Parents have failed to require UNNEGOTIABLE OBEDIENCE. Most parents these days have failed to train their children in “submission with a smile” – cheerful obedience. If children learn to submit because it is right they will recognize the true joy and peace proper submission brings. The truth is that we CAN give up our will and BE HAPPY about it. This is something that parents may still need to learn, and our children need to be taught. There are certainly examples where people have held out to ultimately get their way and then regretted it! A wrong understanding about submission leads to heartache. So, unquestionable obedience is a must – a priority!
2. Children are often neglected because of a busy schedule. A parent who is too busy can result in children never really knowing their parents. Being busy, the parent may not know all that a child left to himself will get into. When they hear of wrongdoing, they find it hard to believe, and knowing little about it, they often do not have clear judgment. A child left to himself may get in with the wrong peers and gang involvement. They may be introduced to drugs and alcohol. They may be introduced to all kinds of violence and immorality by means of gaming. They may also be introduced to and eventually hooked on pornography. Because the parent is so pressed with other responsibilities, the issue is often not properly addressed. This is the result of neglect. Eventually, this scenario may result in the parents coming to the defense of a wayward child because they are only hearing negative things.
3. Inconsistent Discipline. Instead of consistent resolve, the parent may react in a rage when they do finally realize there is a problem, and they try a quick fix to the problem. They may have been driven to a boiling point, and they blow up! Angered discipline always drives a wedge and does more harm than good. Walls are built up between the parent and the child, and seeds of hurt and hatred are sown. It would be much better to wait until you have calmed down so that proper discipline can be reasonably administered. When obedience is not required every time, then the principle of obedience without question is never attained. The child will inevitably remember and try the limits again another time to see if he can “get by.” If he sees that he will not this time, he may give in and obey this time but try to push the limits again. This result can be expected because the child has been trained to believe that there are times when disobedience is permissible – or at least tolerated.
4. Lack of Unity Between Parents. In this instance one parent corrects, and the other parent consoles. Mother may disagree with the severity of the father or the father may be offended by the softness and tolerance of the mother. If the father is responding appropriately, the actions of a mother may counteract the good of the father. As a result, the conscience and heart of the child is not reached and the child develops an improper view of God and His judgment. This is very sad! Proper discipline is practically impossible with disagreeing parents. For the sake of the soul of your child you must be in unity.
Once obedience is a settled principle in the heart of the child it will come much easier. A look of the eye will often be sufficient to produce prompt obedience. Whenever parents ease up on such a vital principle as 100% obedience 100% of the time for mere convenience (or laziness), human (sinful) nature will demand a higher price later on. Our present oversight for convenience may produce a future filled with sorrow and regret. This very course is what eventually results in the ruin of our children we so deeply love. Our love for our children must be tempered with wisdom and discretion. Do not allow a God-given love to blind you to faults that require the wisdom of correction!
What Do We Do?
So what do we do to prevent such a heartache? First off, we must begin early! Before your words can be challenged you must establish your authority in the heart of your child. This authority must be established while a steady eye and a firm hand are the only needed interpreters of your will, and the only needed tools of power. Next, it is important that you be gentle, but resolute. You are the God-ordained authority in the life of your child. Exercise that authority according to the Word of God. You also need to cause your will to be known, and being known, to be obeyed. Be fair. If the child does not understand your will, see to it that it is comprehended. Once it is, then don’t waste any time requiring compliance. Finally, don’t quit! Once the principle is established, it must be maintained, and it is more easily maintained if established earlier rather than later.
Animals move from weakness to strength, from helplessness to self-reliance in a short amount of time. Human children develop and mature slowly. Doubtless, God has a purpose for this. He has so designed a child’s time with his parents to give parents sufficient time to accomplish the greatest work that can be done in human life – the molding of the young mind into willful submission to authority and the training of the life for virtue.
Parents are the first step in the understanding of God to the young mind! Their ideas of a Higher Power begin with parental authority. Their impressions of a Higher Love are received from mother and father. The perpetual presence and provision of mom and dad speak only of the ever-present Provider in Heaven. Because of this, the development of the child’s sense of obligation to obey, and the eventual recognition of obedient surrender to the will of the proper authority, is the responsibility of the parents. Hence the importance of consistency and faithfulness in the parent for the ultimate surrender of the child’s will to God and the salvation of their soul. We do not want to give an incorrect idea or concept of God. Remember, while we know that God is faithful and just to forgive, He will not allow sin to go without confrontation and without punishment.
Whenever parental obedience has been established based on its inherent right-ness, resistance to God’s authority will be rare! See Proverbs 22:6.