After 15 years as a professional minister, working with kids for 13 of those years, I have watched all sorts of young people grow up and make decisions to continue in the faith of their youth or opt to walk away. I have also read arguments as to who or what is usually at fault for the exodus of young people from the church. Colleges with secular agendas, public high schools, federal education standards, pop culture, and television are among the favorite targets. While all of these things may play a part in the trend, one of the major factors that gets far less attention is parental involvement. While there is no guarantee that anything will guarantee that kids will continue in the faith after growing up, there are several common factors I have observed that influence outcomes enormously.
- Parents who are active in their faith. Parents who actively live out what they believe raise kids who follow their parent’s example. Teaching kids to love their neighbor as themselves, to forgive enemies, the importance of caring for widows and orphans, etc. are all part of living out the teachings of Jesus. Children are observant and know when their parents say one thing and do another. Earnestly living out the teachings of Jesus is the best way to teach kids how to earnestly live out their faith.
- Parents who talk about their faith with their kids. Talking with kids about what you believe on a regular basis is a vital part of teaching them. This is important because kids learn to think through issues and make decisions as they grow up. Teaching them how to consider various aspects of life and decisions from the perspective of their faith is important. It doesn’t happen naturally; it is the product of teaching.
- Pray with and for them. Prayer is like breathing to spiritual life and development. It’s also powerful and effective. Going before God and raising up your kids daily is important. It’s also important to teach them how to pray and its importance. Thanking God together, praising Him in prayer, learning to confess our sins against Him, and seeking His assistance in our lives are all practices we teach our children when we pray for them.
- Active participation in their faith life. Raising a child who learns the value of their faith requires participation that goes beyond dropping them off for Sunday School or Youth Group. Asking questions, encouraging them to talk about it, participating in service opportunities together, and studying the Bible as a family. Parental involvement is important.
- Parents demonstrating the importance of weekly worship. Attending worship as a family demonstrates the importance of worshipping God. It’s of particular importance for the father to be involved in family worship, because kids tend to watch what their father does and learn from it. Sitting together, worshipping together, praying together, and other worship activities are central to the task. Family worship participation is an important key to raising a child who values their faith.
When children grow up, they make their own choices. The best things a parent can do are 1) teach their children values and 2) teach them about their faith so that their kids can make an informed decision when they are mature enough to do so. Until then, training in the faith is more than a passing acknowledgement of it. It’s a demonstrated lifestyle.