In the years following confirmation or high school graduation, our kids sometimes stop coming to church. We, as parents, need to keep involved in these young adults’ spiritual lives.
I currently serve as a teacher for the teen class at our church, and for a dozen years I’ve served as a senior counselor at a WELS summer Bible camp. I’m disheartened by how many kids over just a few quick years stop coming to church.
The Bible teaches us to bring our children up in the training and instruction of the Lord. It also says that we shouldn’t exasperate or frustrate our children. Those are wonderful scriptural directives! As parents, how wonderful to get that help from God in raising kids. Our kids are blessings from God. David writes, “Children are a heritage from the LORD, offspring a reward from him” (Psalm 127:3). A heritage—or legacy—and a reward!
Parents are important
One thing I’ve learned is that kids’ parents have so much influence on the lives of their children.
We often live through our kids when it comes to sports and all that they entail (though it’s a little scary at times). We are right there when our kids are making financial decisions around buying a first car. Oh, and dating. Whether our kids are in their late teens or in their 20s, we are there whether they want us to be or not—full of advice, direction. and input. We have no issue with inserting ourselves into our kids’ lives when it comes to choosing a university or college or another path they may take after high school. And let’s not forget jobs! We make them get a “first job” and then offer advice on the best jobs or careers we think they should pursue. We may even introduce them to our own contacts to help them out. Been there, done that, right? And, all of that is good—if done in a loving, balanced way.
But then there’s church. Oh, that. We too easily dismiss that by saying, “They’re old enough now to make their own decision.” Or maybe we think, You know, I’ve done the best I can. Or I just can’t get them up on Sunday morning. Sometimes we shirk responsibility altogether. Or maybe we’re afraid we’ll push them away and it just isn’t worth the potential conflict. We hope and pray that over time they’ll “come back.” Yet, we sometimes have that little sense of guilt that perhaps it is our role as parents to keep them in church.
A parent’s action plan
Our Lord Jesus is a loving Savior. We often see his love for all of his children in the Bible, even for the little children. Remember in Mark 10:14, Jesus was lovingly clear, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”
There’s a parents’ action plan. Those of us who have been blessed with children will, at some point in our parental lives, make a point that they are “always” going to be our kids. We are always there for them and continue to give our advice and support. So what may seem difficult is really not overly difficult and certainly not anything new for parents who have nurtured and encouraged a church-life for their younger kids. We can continue that encouragement into their teens, 20s, and beyond.
We can start by attending church and Bible study consistently and expect the same for the teens living in our houses. They hear and see what we do and how we do it.
As they grow older and move out, we can continue to encourage them to find a church. If they live close by, we can invite them to church—often and always with love. We shouldn’t assume they will automatically come. We invite them to go shopping, or attend a concert, sports event, and family gatherings. Why not church? Show them there’s as much to experience and talk about in church as it relates to our everyday lives as other social engagements. If we make it a priority and set a positive example, maybe they will respond. Remember we are always a conduit for the Holy Spirit.
For new confirmands—that step is not an end for them or for parents. It is simply a step toward being an active, Christian young adult. And, high school graduation certainly isn’t a reason for any young person to stop their church life. They’ll need the benefits of a church life and church family during this important transition in their lives—likely more than ever.
But as our teens become young adults, our relationship with them will change and grow, and so can our spiritual encouragement. There are many web-based and printed daily devotions that get us into the Word, even if only for a few minutes a day. Take the time to research and share those with your young adult children. As we do in so many aspects of our grown children’s lives, we can do much by continuing to encourage and nurture them.
We don’t end our education after confirmation or high school. We continue to grow and learn. Our children will have many more lessons to learn—some of them difficult. We have learned to turn to our Savior in those times of trial and learning. Jesus tells us, “I am the true vine. . . Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me” (John 15:1,4). The point is obvious. In times of trouble, direct your children, no matter what their age, to seek the strength and comfort of their Savior.
Further encouragement and support
Let’s also intentionally encourage each other—whether we are parents or not—to continue to be in young adults’ spiritual lives.
As parents, pray about it. Pray about it often. Pray for strength, wisdom, patience and peace—just to name a few. We are called to stay involved, to love, and to encourage our kids for as long as they remain our children, especially when it comes to their faith and being part of a church family.
And for all who aren’t parents, you can encourage these young people too in so many situations. Stop them in the lobby or outside church and talk with them. Compliment young ushers. Invite teens or young adults to join the Saturday morning work crew. Teach teen class. Host a teen outing. Offer to be a mentor. Let the young people of your congregation know that you appreciate seeing them each Sunday. Make them feel like family in their church family.
Our Lord Jesus is always there for us with his strength and support! “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).
Our kids—what a wonderful God-given privilege, heritage, and blessing!
Noel Ledermann is a member at St. Mark, Citrus Heights, California.
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Author: Noel Ledermann
Volume 105, Number 2
Issue: February 2018
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