7 Ways Parents Push Their Kids Away from God Without Realizing It

what to do when your child turns away from God

2. They need you to care as much about their struggles as you do about their salvation.

Growing up, I remember numerous conversations with my parents about baptism. My fellowship holds baptism in very high regard. Too high. That’s how I felt, at least. I grew to hate the word “baptism,” and with every conversation about why I needed to be baptized, I took one step further away from God.

Maybe that’s not fair. But that’s where I was. As strange as this sounds, I needed someone to care as much about my struggles as they did about my salvation.

And I struggled mightily in high school. I searched everywhere for my identity. I struggled with lust and pornography. I traveled down dark roads searching for direction.

It was as if my salvation was the only thing that mattered. Eventually, I started to see God this way. He didn’t have much to say about my present struggles. He just wanted me to be “saved.” And I didn’t care much for a God who didn’t inform my current situation. So, I left.

Here’s what I learned from that season. While everyone who talked to me was sincere, I believe they were trying to manufacture my salvation. Humans don’t have the power to save someone. That is God’s job.

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You can’t manufacture salvation. But you can show people God’s love.

Parents, what you can do is show the love of God to your children. This starts by helping them see their present struggles as God’s concern. Sit down with your children. Talk to them. Show them grace.

As you do this, the gospel will come to life. Because the gospel doesn’t just inform salvation. It informs everything. Addictions. Temptations. Identity issues. And once your children see that God walks with them through their struggles, they will have a stronger desire to give their lives to him.

3. They need you to answer the questions they are asking.

Today’s culture is extremely complicated and complex. Young people see everything. Information (good and bad) is available on-demand. And as young people battle with difficult questions about sexuality and social issues, among many other things, the world is forming their perspective. Every article. Every conversation. Every video.

It is more important than ever that parents open up space to discuss difficult topics. It’s time to stop turning a blind eye to the questions prevalent in the lives of your kids. Naivety is not an excuse. Awkwardness and tension won’t work as excuses either.

I never had a conversation (at least not one I remember) with any adult about sex growing up. Nothing about lust. Nothing about God’s design for purity. Nothing about masturbation. I never had a conversation about alcohol. I was battling these questions, but Christians weren’t there to give me answers. So, I tried to figure it out myself. You can only imagine how that worked out for me.

Yes, these conversations are awkward. Yes, they create tension. But your children are asking them. Unless you create space for the hard questions, they will turn to other sources for answers. And that usually doesn’t end well.

4. They need you to stop protecting them.

The world is broken. No argument from me there. It seems as though our world is more sinful than ever.

But I wonder what the response would be if the same microscope were placed on cities like Ephesus and Corinth? During the time of Paul, Ephesus was overtaken by witchcraft. Every spring, roughly 1,000,000 people traveled to the temple of Artemis, which was filled with prostitutes. Let’s just say these people weren’t going to the temple to talk about the weather.

To top it off, Ephesus hosted the Festival of Dionysus, a keg party that would have laughed in the face of any St. Paddy’s Day party you have thrown (not that you would do that sort of thing).

So, how does Paul instruct the Ephesians to respond in the midst of a culture blanketed with sin? He tells them to put on the armor of God (Eph. 6:10-20). In other words, jump in the fight. Paul didn’t understand a theology of retreat. There is no such thing. He expected the Christians in Ephesus to engage the culture, not run from it.

When the ultimate goal is to make sure our children never experience the evils of the world, we not only do them an injustice socially, we rob them of seeing the gospel’s transformative power.

As a parent, your goal should not be to teach your kids how to flee from evil. Your goal should be to show them how to engage it. For the glory of God. In those spaces, they will see the gospel. And it will become real.

Frank Powell
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Devoted follower of Christ, college/young adult minister, husband to @tiffanipowell, dad to Noah and Micah, avid blogger/writer, sports fan. You can follow him on twitter and read more of his blogs here!