Why are young people leaving the church? If I had a dollar for every time I heard this question, I would have a lot of dollars. And I get it. The rate at which young people are leaving the church is alarming. Everyone has experienced a young person throwing aside their faith and walking away from God, either directly or indirectly. It’s devastating.
So, how does the church need to change? While this question needs to be addressed, I don’t think it provides an answer to the problem.
Stick with me, I am going somewhere.
You see, I believe parents are the primary link between young people and God. Not the church. In his book Soul Searching, Christian Smith says this:
The most important social influence in shaping young people’s religious lives is the religious life modeled and taught to them by their parents.
In an interview with Drs. Kara Powell and Chap Clark, Smith goes even further:
When it comes to kids’ faith, parents get what they are.
Whoa. That’s real.
Here’s the deal. Parents, you are painting a portrait of God for your children every day. Every word, action, and conversation is a brushstroke. And when your children prepare to leave home, they are staring at a portrait of God. A portrait that shapes their actions and decisions about faith moving forward. Parents, we are the ones pushing our kids away from God.
Are there exceptions? Absolutely. As a youth minister, I witnessed young people turn away from God, even though the faith of their parents was rock solid. I also saw young people continue into college on fire for God, even though their parents had shaky, fickle faith. So, this isn’t a black and white, issue. Few issues are.
But will you, as a parent, play an enormous role in shaping the faith of your children? No doubt.
With that being said, I want to point out some things young people need from their parents. I present these as someone who left God for a season in college, someone who ministers to young people every day, and someone who is passionate about reaching about the next generation.