Home Youth Leaders Articles for Youth Leaders When Kids Wander Away From Faith, Parents Can Cling to 12 Truths

When Kids Wander Away From Faith, Parents Can Cling to 12 Truths


Wandering away from the faith was unthinkable in my Christian household. My parents were heavily involved as ministry volunteers, so we weren’t just at church every week. We were there for every single service every Sunday. And we attended every church event: Bible studies, dinners, concerts, family nights, fundraisers, retreats, service projects, mission trips. Everything!

As a young teenager, I was active in the church youth group and confirmation classes. Plus, I started a Young Life club in our hometown.

Doubts Can Be Part of the Faith Process

But like many kids, I eventually had doubts about my faith and religion in general. I had deep questions that no one could answer. I felt constrained by my parents’ super-strict rules. Plus, I witnessed church politics that were divisive and ugly. I experienced hypocrisy and betrayal by church leaders who were supposed to be role models. Christianity seemed more focused on rules, judgment, and external appearances than love.

I told my parents I was “over it” and quit attending youth group and Young Life. I spouted my disdain for the Christian institution with fierce vehemence. Every Sunday became an epic argument about going to church. I usually sat in the back row reading a People magazine to keep from being grounded for not going at all.

By college, I carried faith in my back pocket like an insurance card—only for dire emergencies. I believed I was still going to heaven because I hadn’t totally renounced my foundational belief in Jesus. So I partied like there was no tomorrow, with nothing to lose.

Every Sunday morning, I called my parents for our weekly chat. I smugly informed them I wasn’t ever going to church again and was thoroughly loving the fact that I’d be going back to sleep after our call.

Away From the Faith and Back Again

My faith remained dormant until years later, when my first child was born. My daughter had a traumatic birth injury—one she barely survived. Her life hung in limbo as she lay in the PICU attached to cords and monitors. “There’s nothing we can do but wait,” doctors said.

I was devastated, but thankfully my mom was there. And she reminded me that God was there too. She set up post by my daughter’s bassinet, keeping one hand on her tiny leg as she prayed. The nurses told us my baby’s vital signs improved dramatically when my mom laid praying hands on her, and my mom gently invited me to try.

It had been a long time since I’d prayed or reached out to God. But when I opened my heart again, I felt like I was coming back home to something I already knew. Hope, peace, and comfort beyond my understanding filled me. I knew at that moment my true faith journey was beginning. For real, this time.

My daughter is now a healthy, vibrant young woman. Her thriving faith has also taken the scenic route through dark valleys and dry deserts. As her mom—and the mother and stepmother of other young adults—I’ve discovered that my kids are each on their own unique path on God’s time frame, not mine.