Losing Our Kids

How do our kids stay Christian? Is there a more pressing question for Christian parents? And the question is vitally important for churches to address, too.

We know the theological answer. God sovereignly ordains salvation. And that He preserves those He calls to saving faith. All good and well. But God also ordains the means for both to occur.

Therefore, what are parents to do? And what are churches to do? What steps can parents and churches do to cultivate and maintain their children’s faithfulness as they grow into adulthood?

The first step is central to our Christian faith. We are to take God at His word. We are to have faith in what He has promised. We are to believe what was told to the Philippian jailer, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:31). Next, we must act upon our faith, for “Faith apart from works is dead” (James 2:26).

But what does that look like? Studies are consistently revealing that the greatest factor is not Sunday School, Youth Group, VBS, Christian Camps, or even Catechism. The greatest factor, wait for it, is mom and dad’s Christian life and faith. The greatest factor is whether mom and dad are daily demonstrating the importance of their own faith. The greatest factor is whether mom and dad are teaching and emulating what a life following Jesus looks like.

In his article, “How Do Our Kids Stay Christian” posted in “Mere Orthodoxy” (March 13, 2024), Cameron Shaffer offers these vital questions:

Is the faith of parents sincere? Do they value and talk about their faith? Does it visibly inform their decisions? Does faith characterize their regular, daily behavior and conversations, or is it compartmentalized to worship services and being around church people? Do they acknowledge their shortcomings without hypocrisy? Do parents clearly love God? Do they delight in Jesus?

These are revealing questions. These are humbling questions. But they are not surprising questions.

All of them are captured in God’s charge to parents in Deuteronomy 6:5-9:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

When children see, hear, and experience a faith that is important to mom and dad, they are much more likely to believe it should be important to them. Therefore, parents should know what they believe, demonstrate it, and confidently and humbly be able to engage their children concerning it.

So, how can the church help? Do not give parents any illusions they can outsource their chief responsibility. The British educational reformer Charlotte Mason commented years ago in her “Parents and Children” (1897) that Sunday School, then a recent innovation, was a “necessary evil.” It was created for parents who were unable to do their “first duty” of instructing their children in the faith and who needed a substitute to step into that role for them. The sad and unintended consequence was that parents were encouraged to think the church was taking over their responsibility. No sir, and no mam.

What else can the church do? Make sure moms and dads are growing in the faith and understanding their duty to pass along their faith to their kids. And provide opportunities for church kids to be around other church adults and parents. Relationally experiencing their “church family” exposes them to more examples of what a maturing relationship with Jesus looks like.

And if during worship the church offers “Kid Church,” politely inform the leadership they are contributing to the great exodus. For they are not only robbing their children of “Word and sacrament,” they are also shielding children from their parent’s greatest display of faith and piety—the corporate worship of God. One of the worst ideas the church has ever come up with needs to be blown up yesterday.

Lastly, we are to pray for our children. And after we have, go back to Shaffer’s questions. They must be answered in the affirmative. We do not want to lose a single kid.

Pastor Rich Hamlin
April 25, 2024

“Amending the Soil” Christian Education Conference

Register or volunteer for Bible Day Camp now