Christianity in America is under attack like never before, and young people are taking the brunt of it. On TV, in films, in music, and all over the Internet, Christian faith is out, while homosexuality and heterosexual immorality are in. Somewhere between 60-80% of teens growing up in solid Christian churches walk away from the faith when they leave home.
But that statistic doesn’t reach close enough to home. Most teens growing up in solid church-going families walk away from the faith. Does that include your teens? Statistically, there’s better than a 50-50 chance. Although there’s no guarantee, there are some good principles that have been shown to make a real difference Here are four steps to increase their odds considerably:
1. Know what your children are facing
Anti-Christian messages come at your children from every direction. Most parents have no clue of the intensity. Try a few things to get a taste of what they’re facing. First, watch a few hours of TV sitcoms and observe how morality is treated. Second, listen to the 2012 social-issue award-winning song “Same Love.” Third, go to bing.com/images and search for what it shows about faith and the top issue of the day, using the search terms “Christianity homosexuality.” You can at least do that third check before you read on. (Go ahead. I’ll wait.)
Surprised? Shocked? Are your teens ready for this?
These messages are persistent, pervasive, and powerful. It’s impossible for youth to ignore them; and with all this swirling around them, it’s really hard for them to be comfortable in their Christianity. They’re torn between the teaching they’re getting at church and home, and the lessons they’re learning almost everywhere else. Let’s admit it: on an emotional level — where teens operate much of the time — the other side is teaching a lot more effectively than we are.
2. Solidify your own convictions
Parents are their best line of spiritual defense, but that doesn’t mean you should jump straight into telling them the other side is wrong! This challenge is bigger than that, and it will take a lot more than preaching to handle it.
If you’re going to teach your teen, you’re going to need to solidify your own convictions on the topics you’re teaching. Consider homosexuality again: What do you really believe about it? Why? Where do you look it up in the Bible?
It’s painful to have to say this, but the world is working hard to tear youth away from the faith. It’s going to take some work to preserve them, so you’re going to have to do some homework.
Remember, God left us his most significant self-revelation in the form of a book. That suggests that he intended us to study. Words relating to know, study, learn, and teach are used, on average, more than twice in every chapter of the New Testament. But that’s not the only reason to dig in for some study. Your teens need you to do it for the sake of their spiritual future.
While you’re solidifying your convictions, check your life example, too. Are you living what you believe? There’s no teaching method more powerful than a great example.
3. Learn how to explain it in terms they can accept
Teens won’t automatically accept “because the Bible says so” anymore. (They probably never did.) The challenge they’re dealing with is a challenge against the Bible itself, which could easily lead them to think, “Okay, that’s what the Bible says; that just means the Bible is wrong.”
They need to hear why the Bible can be trusted. On the issue of homosexuality, they need solid, credible assurance that the Bible’s view of morality is good— good for real human beings, living real human lives. This means explaining why we can be sure that Christianity isn’t essentially hateful toward homosexuals and those who identify as transgender. It involves explaining answers to supposed Bible inconsistencies. For example, why do we set aside what Leviticus says about eating pork, yet use the same book to condemn homosexuality? It’s a good question, actually, and it gets asked all the time. Young people need to know there’s a good answer. (See Acts 10 and Acts 15 for starters.)
Those are just a couple of examples of what your teen might need explained. To really get to the heart of their issues, you’ll need to ask them what they’re dealing with, listen to their responses, and prepare well for how to answer.
4. Do it relationally
Teach your teens relationally. Research done by the Fuller [Seminary] Youth Institute showed that only 5 percent of dads have significant spiritual conversations with their kids. Multiple studies show that parents’ spiritual connectedness makes a huge difference in their kids’ spiritual future. So does the freedom for young people to speak and to process — out loud — their questions and doubts.
Think of it this way: they’re dealing with faith questions in relationships somewhere, probably on the school bus, in the lunch room, and especially on social media. Relationships are powerful learning environments. Wouldn’t you want your own relationship with them to be one of the places they’re learning?
You can make a difference. No matter how old your child, teen, or young adult is, it’s not too late. No one has more influence on your kids than you. The world has changed, and the easy ways don’t work like they once did. Your children’s spiritual future is worth the effort.