“Dad. Mom…I don’t think I want to be a Christian anymore.”
No words could be more painful or create greater panic than your teen declaring their departure from faith in Christ. Our greatest desire is to see our children grow into mature and committed followers of Jesus. When those dreams appear to burst into flames before our eyes it can seem devastating.
My wife and I are still in the adolescent parenting years. We can certainly empathize with these feelings and wish we could say we’ve figured everything out, but we haven’t. Through experience and ministry however we’ve learned a few things that I hope will be of help.
1. Don’t give into fear
Sometimes we think it’s our God given right to worry about our kids. Being protective is certainly a part of parenting, but fear is too often connected with losing control, something we aren’t meant to have anyway.
God has entrusted your children to you that you would raise them “in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). We can only model, lead and teach them to follow Jesus, but we can’t make them do it. Transforming their hearts is God’s job alone. And don’t forget that God is more interested in your children’s lives than you are.
2. Take a long view
All things being equal if your children are teenagers they have only lived about 20% of their lives so far. That means there is still 80% left for God to work in and through to accomplish his purpose in them.
We often think we know best how God should accomplish his purpose in our kids. But we don’t. Only God knows what life lessons they must learn; what heartaches or joys, disappointment or triumphs they need to experience before they will see Him and Him alone as their God and Saviour.
I once heard God described as the Grand Weaver. I find that a helpful image. When a weaver weaves a rug, the back side looks like a mess of tangled strings and colors. That’s what we see. Only the weaver, however, can envision the grand design emerging from that seemingly random mash of thread.
God is weaving the tapestry of your children’s lives and it will not be complete until their lives are over. So keep a long view. Things might seem messy right now, but trust God that he is faithful to work out his master plan with his eyes on the whole.
3. Maintain a faithful witness
Getting angry or falling to pieces in front of your teen may get them to fall back into line as far as an outward conformity to Christian living, but that will only be because they want to keep you happy. This is not the way to bear witness to trust in Christ for your teen to see and will probably make them resent Christianity even more.
You don’t need to be preachy or sanctimonious. Simply work to display a calm, consistent, daily dependance on Christ. Remember, your child is trying to figure out their own formula for life and they will not lightly dismiss your example. The key is making it an example worth seeing.
4. Ask thoughtful questions
Who knows what’s going on inside your child’s heart and mind. Don’t assume that you do. Instead, ask questions that foster meaningful conversation and show them you are someone they can talk to. Here are a few examples of good questions to ask.
- “What’s made you feel as though you longer consider belief in Jesus to be true?”
- “How does it make you feel to no longer call yourself a Christian?”
- “Is there anything we have done to cause you to question your faith?”
- “If the Bible is no longer shaping your beliefs then what is?” (i.e. What have they replaced it with?)
Note: Tone is important when asking questions. Don’t be confrontational. Instead, begin by asking: “Would you mind if I asked you a question?” Getting permission sets the right tone for a meaningful conversation.
I’ve left prayer to the last for emphasis but it’s really where you should begin. Remember that God is using you to shape your children’s faith, but he is also using them to shape yours. The revelation of a wayward child will quickly reveal the true substance of your own faith, and if your first instinct is to panic rather than pray then that’s telling you something right away.
Lifting your child up in prayer is a constant reminder that their lives don’t belong to you, they belong to God. It is also God’s means for you to draw upon his power and strength not only for your life but for theirs.
Constancy in lifting up our children in prayer ought to be the hallmark of every Christian parent. Remember God’s reassurance that “the prayers of a righteous person are powerful and effective” (James 5:16).
If you have entered a season of heartache over a wayward child don’t lose heart and never give up. You do not know what God will yet accomplish in your children’s lives. And remember that it’s not up to you but up to him. All he expects of you is faithfulness in the task.
Have you been down the road of a wayward child? Do you have any stories to share as a way of encouraging others who might just be starting this road?
Are you dealing with a wayward child? While respecting your child’s right to privacy tell us how we can pray for you. ◼︎
You might also like
Join Our Facebook Group: Teaching Kids to Think Like Jesus
Originally published Jun 25, 2019, updated Aug 31, 2021.