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

Despite being raised in a Christian home (albeit a highly imperfect, slightly dysfunctional one), our kids have experiences, behaviors, beliefs, and life stories that are vastly different. But I believe they’ll each ultimately find their way to embracing a faith of their own. I just need to keep reminding myself of this.

Faith formation is not a linear process, and it’s never-ending.

Just because kids attended church and/or were raised by a Christian parent(s) doesn’t mean they’ll follow a certain path. The influence of a Christian family is important and foundational but is not a guarantee of the outcome. We can create environments, but heart-change is God’s territory. Matters of the soul are ultimately the work of the Holy Spirit, not the result of human endeavors.

Faith is a personal, lifelong discovery, with many detours and bumps in the road. Your kids’ faith journey is theirs, not yours. The young-adult years are a crucial crossroads for the first true steps of owning and defining a personal faith and belief system outside the home.

Some kids embrace faith and dig deeper. Others doubt, question, rebel, or walk away. Some kids bounce back and forth. It gets messy and can be scary. This is normal. But it’s not the final finish line for our kids’ faith, regardless of where they are today. Parents can take many steps.

When Teens and Young Adults Veer Away From Faith

1. Never stop praying for them.

Prayer is powerful and is something parents can always do.

2. Take a deep breath and lean on your faith.

We trust our almighty God’s timing and work in kids’ lives.

3. Never stop loving them.

Try to model (as much as humanly possible) what Christ’s unconditional love looks like.

4. Never stop listening (even when what kids have to say is hard).

Keep the lines of communication open and be honest and respectful. Seek to understand, ask questions that help kids dig deeper, and present the truth in love, not as an argument.

5. Recognize that kids cannot simply inherit your faith.

Young people must forge an authentic faith of their own. This often means doubting, questioning, walking away, screwing up, and other frightening things. For some kids, this is the only way they’ll ever realize their need for Jesus and fully surrender to it.

6. Share your stories and faith struggles with them.

Tell of times when you doubted or even walked away. Share mistakes you’ve made and how you reached various decisions about your beliefs.