I asked a question on my Facebook page not long ago – saying, “You raised your child in a Christian home but now they say they are atheists. What happened?” I got a surprising number of responses from Christian parents with broken hearts explaining their journey. Are you one of them? Or are you still raising your kids but wondering how you can prevent this from happening to them? I’m going to cover 3 areas on this topic—#1. The problem we’re facing, #2 reasons why they leave, and #3 prayer points for parents finding themselves in this situation. Let’s explore this together.
#1. The problem we’re facing
Raising a child in a Christian home is no guarantee that they will stay in the faith throughout their lives. Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family said, “The greatest delusion is to suppose that children will become devout Christians simply because their parents have been.”
So, what happens that causes children-turned-teens and adults to walk away from their faith? Too many people’s knee-jerk reaction is to blame the parents, that they were not diligent enough. They didn’t do enough. They should have homeschooled their kids. They should have done this or that. And for some, this may be true. But the truth is, life isn’t quite that simple.
One of the responses on my Facebook page was from a woman minister. Jessica wrote, “I was raised in a Christian home, but I rebelled as soon as I could, for no particular reason other than I just wanted to. It wasn’t my mom’s fault or my precious granny who took me to church.”
A man who became an atheist
One of the comments I appreciated the most was actually from a man who had been raised as a Christian and walked away. Brandon wrote, “I was raised in a Christian home (Pentecostal at that) and my parents did everything right. I am an atheist and chose that path for myself based on my own education and life experiences. My decisions had nothing to do with how I was raised, my parents, their home, or any of the church folks I was raised around.”
He went on to say, “Life is complex and every situation has it’s nuance. Those of you who are blaming the parents or blaming the church are being too short-sighted and don’t have a full understanding. I will always defend my parents for the way they raised my sister and I. And I will always defend the church where I grew up for giving us a solid foundation. Sometimes people just walk away from it.”
Wow!!! So, parents, take comfort in what he said. You can do everything right and still see your children walk away. Are you one of these parents who have found yourself in this situation?
While this video is primarily about those who become atheist, let’s not forget the thousands of young people who walk away but still believe in god! It’s epidemic in the world today—not just in the united states, but Canada, the UK, Europe, Australia, New Zealand. And I really do believe there is something that has been unleashed on today’s younger generations – the Millennials and especially Generation Z—that is unprecedented in human history. It’s a conglomeration of the internet, social media, our educational systems, media and entertainment, political correctness and humanistic cultural beliefs that have become increasingly anti-god in their impact.
Our Kids are bombarded from birth
There’s just not one thing, but many things bombarding our kids from the time they’re born throughout their lives.
Now does that take Christian parents off the hook in regards to how they parent? No, but we do need to realize there are a lot of other things to consider.
The Christian research company named Barna Group recently did some deep research on Generation Z that was very eye-opening. In part, they write: “Generation Z is the least Christian generation in American history. 34% of Gen Zs say their religious affiliation is either atheist, agnostic, or nothing.
Thirteen percent of 13 to 18-year olds today are twice as likely as adults to say they are atheists.
Another research group says, “Twenty percent of Americans ages 18-25 report not believing in God.”
If you’d like to dig a little deeper, I have done a lot of research on this, and i have several sessions in my school of supernatural children’s ministry specifically for Christian parents on this topic. It’s SSCM Level Three called Revolutionary Family Ministry.
Why They Stay and Why They Stray
There are 15 sessions for parents in this series. You can buy the whole set at a discounted price, or you can buy just the individual sessions that you are most interested in.
There’s one session I found particularly interesting called “Why They Stay and Why They Stray.” I feel like every parent needs to listen to this, because it brings up things we never really think of having an impact on our kids like water baptism and whether or not they like their youth leader, and so much more. #2 six reasons why they leave
6 Reasons Why they Leave the Faith
I want to list some of the top reasons I have found in this ministry, and in my research, as to why kids from Christian homes turn atheist, or in general walk away from their faith.
Reason #1 – In spite of being raised in the church, and many times being saved they actually do not have a life-changing encounter with Jesus for themselves. And that is something parents cannot control.
One parent wrote and said, “I took the salvation of my kids for granted and assumed they would just fall in love with Jesus in the same way I did—he is so irresistible and captivating. I thought if I taught them and showed them and led them to experience him they would simply fall in love with him. But they didn’t.”
The take away here based on this and other comments, is that when praying for your children, make it a priority to pray that they have a life-changing encounter with God—a defining moment when God just grabs them by the heart and they can’t help but fall in love with him.
Lack of Bible Knowledge
Lack of Bible knowledge and limited diet of nothing but Bible stories over and over again during their childhood.
I teach on this extensively, in my School of Supernatural Children’s Ministry. One of the most devastating results on our kids is a serious lack of biblical knowledge and worldview which affects every area of their lives. Barna Group found in their research that the average 13-year-old leaves our traditional Sunday schools thinking they know everything there is to know about God and the Bible and have no further need for going to church. Why? Because they have never been taught any doctrine or deep truths of God’s word. All they have heard is the same 52 Bible stories over and over again.
Barna says as a result only 4% of Generation Z has a biblical worldview that speaks directly to their lack of Bible knowledge.
So is educating them better on Bible doctrine and the word the guarantee we want that they won’t walk away from the faith? Of course not. But it sure will help!
When they stand before their atheistic friends and college professors, the knowledge that David picked up 5 stones to kill Goliath with isn’t going to help them one bit. They need to know what they believe and why, and that only comes with a knowledge of the word of God.
One parent wrote, “So if I was going to do it all over again, I would do a better job of getting the word of God deep in my kids.”
Inability to Defend their Faith
A follow-up to the lack of Bible knowledge is their inability to defend their faith against science and evolution when they are confronted in school. They feel like they have to choose between science and their faith because all they know is Bible stories, and it’s not enough.
The biggest hit happens when they get to our secular colleges and universities and they just get blasted with secular and politically correct views, and their faith in God is viciously attacked. There is much research to show that young people who go to Christian colleges and universities (and I don’t mean so-called Christian in name only but are very secular in their views but real Christian in their philosophy) have a significantly higher chance of staying in the faith for the long-haul.
While your children are still young, I can’t recommend highly enough materials for kids like the Jonathan Park audio series which are action-packed stories full of faith-building and educational evidence for a creator. I have it linked below. This series of great stories gives kids an intellectual and scientific basis for believing in a real God who created the heavens and the earth which goes a long way to helping them trust the Bible.
Please check out Answers in Genesis!
Along with this please investigate the volumes of kids materials from the ministry Answers in Genesis whose whole purpose is to equip kids biblically and intellectually to be able to defend their faith and have confidence that the Bible is true and can be trusted.
There are also many other books in our online store, I hope you check them out.
I’m always shocked at how few Christian parents even think about getting these types of materials for their kids. They load them up with all kinds of secular material but not Christian material. I just don’t get it. But we’re living in a day and age (do I dare say this?) where just the Bible alone isn’t always enough. They need other materials to teach them how to defend their faith.
Most Kids Never Experience God!
This is really big on my list in this ministry—and that is that most Christian kids never experience the supernatural hand of God. He’s just not real to them. They are never taught how to hear His voice. The majority of kids researched say to their knowledge they have never even felt God’s presence. And this includes Pentecostal churches. They are never filled with the Spirit or are taught how and why they should pray in tongues as a part of their prayer life. The why is a really big issue. Also, they have never seen someone healed, or prayed for anyone’s healing. In their world signs, wonders, and miracles and god’s presence is something that is reserved only for the adults.
As I looked over children’s ministry as a whole when I first started KIMI, I saw this as a glaring hole in our Christian training for children. Being able to experience these things is hugely important. While it may not keep them 100% from walking away from the faith, at least it’s far less likely they will walk away and say God is not real.
Reason 5 – Tragedy and Unanswered Prayers
Tragedies such as the death of a loved one, unanswered prayers, huge disappointments like divorce in life that they feel God could have stopped it but didn’t. This causes many to turn away from their faith in anger and disappointment.
Life happens. Sometimes when it does people just get mad at God. So, they want to get back at him in revenge, and they just choose to believe he doesn’t exist.
Reason 6 – Hypocrisy in the Church
Hypocrisy in the church and the Christians in their lives is another reason for turning their backs on their faith.
So, now, what can parents do when they find themselves in this situation – that is, their kids were raised in Christian homes and now consider themselves atheists?
#3 Nine Prayer Points for Parents of Prodigals
Let me encourage you to spend time on YouTube searching under the words “praying for the prodigal son or daughter.” I was blown away how many videos there are out there for parents who are dealing with these exact issues! As I said, it’s like the hordes of hell have been unleashed on this generation, and it’s a growing issue in the church.
Here’s just a few of the prayer points for parents I found very quickly on this topic:
- Pray their eyes would be opened and they’ll see the truth.
- Pray God would send them healthy friendships that would point them to God
- Pray for a heart of brokenness in your child no matter what the cost
- Pray with increasing faith and hope and not fear. Walking in fear is not going to help the situation at all.
- If your child has been given prophetic words about their future, do what the Apostle Paul said to Timothy—make war over them. [1 Timothy 1:18] declare, God you said this about my child and I’m standing on your promise.” It’s not like this has taken God by surprise. He knew this would happen to your child, so he’s given you promises to keep you holding on in faith.
- Find relevant scriptures for your situation and continually pray those scriptures over them standing on the promises of God
- Pray for your child to hear God’s voice, and have significant encounters with God they cannot dismiss or deny.
- Pray for wisdom for you and your spouse to know when to speak and when to be silent.
- Praise God for what you don’t see yet. And just trust Him for the results.
How to Interact with your Child
Finally consider how are you going to treat them, and how will you interact with your child in your home when they believe differently than you?
First of all–you certainly don’t preach to them all the time and keep bringing it up. You love them because love never fails! Speak words of encouragement and affirmation to them as a person, regardless of their beliefs. Don’t get confused thinking if you are kind to them that it means you approve of what they believe or do!
- Secondly, when the opportunity arises to have an open dialog about what they believe without getting angry and argumentative or defensive. Just talk it through finding out what led them to this.
- Third, do not shun, isolate them from the family, give them a cold shoulder and make them feel guilty or less than the valuable person they are regardless of their beliefs. Always be supportive of them as a person,
- Fourth. Be the best example of a loving parent and kind loving Christian as you can be. Don’t give them any more fodder to point at Christians and say they are hypocrites.
- Five. If they aren’t married yet, pray over their spouse whom they will marry. You actually should start doing this from the minute they are born! This actually came up a lot in the comments on Facebook, that their children seemed to be doing fine, and then the spouse they married turned them away from God.
Right now, I’d like to encourage you to listen to my video on There’s a Children’s Revival Coming. Because this will give you a new viewpoint, and a hope that not all is lost on this generation. God has promised to move on them and send revival. We need to be encouraged that in what seems like our darkest hour with this generation, we can hang on to the prophetic promises.
This is such a huge subject. We have barely done it justice in this short article. I would really like to know if you have been helped by anything I’ve said. If so please let me know by commenting below. Also please share this with other parents who need it.
Until next time. Stay encouraged! And never give up on your kids!