The statistics are alarmingly clear: Young Christians are leaving the Church in increasing numbers and when polled, most cite some form of intellectual skepticism as the chief cause of their departure. If you’re a parent, listen to the words offered by young ex-believers (excerpted from recent studies):
“It didn’t make any sense anymore.”
“Some stuff is too far-fetched for me to believe.”
“I think scientifically and there is no real proof.”
“Too many questions that can’t be answered.”
“I’m a scientist now, and I don’t believe in miracles.”
“Because I grew up realized it was a story like Santa or the Easter Bunny.”
“As I learn more about the world around me and understand things that I once did not, I find that the thought of an all-powerful being to be less and less believable.”
“I realized that religion is in complete contradiction with the rational and scientific world, and to continue to subscribe to a religion would be hypocritical.”
“Need proof of something.”
“It no longer fits into what I understand of the universe.”
Statements like these are more common than you might think. In fact, your kids may also be wrestling with similar doubts or concerns. That’s why it’s important for us, as parents, to be ready to answer our kid’s questions and teach them how make the case for Christianity. The evidence for Jesus is strong and persuasive, but few Christians are prepared to articulate the evidence to others, especially our own kids. I have four children of my own, and when they were young, I wanted them to have the tools and truths they would need to be good Christian ambassadors. I wanted them to understand their worldview and to be able to defend it against competing ideas. If you’re raising kids and are similarly concerned, here are three quick tips to help you prepare your children to defend the truth:
Don’t Defer – Be a Good Case Maker for Your Kids
Some things are caught rather than taught, and this is definitely true when it comes to transferring a worldview to the next generation. Our kids are watching us and copying our Christian example. What kind of Jesus follower are you in front of your kids? Are you someone who openly discusses your worldview around the dinner table? Do you hold a reasonable, evidential, “forensic faith,”? Have you examined the evidence for Christianity or the reasons why the Bible can be trusted? Have you provided your kids with examples of winsome Christian “case making” as you engage people with other beliefs? Do your kids know they can come to you for answers when they encounter objections related to their faith? Are you prepared to answer their concerns or questions? As parents, we can’t defer this responsibility; we can’t offer our kids a book or a video when they’ve come to us for an answer. We need to be good Christian Case Makers and the first line of defense for our kids.
Don’t Delay – Pick a Good Youth Group for Your Kids
OK, I’m going to say something controversial. If you’re a member of a church that isn’t helping you equip your kids to make the case for Christianity, do one of two things: 1) approach your church leadership and ask them to teach “apologetics” and Christian worldview to the student group, and 2) if they don’t, find a new church. I know how that probably sounds, but all of us pick a church for one reason or another. Sometimes we make this decision based on the teaching of a pastor or the style of worship. If you’ve got kids, I think it’s fair (at least for a season) to pick a church on the basis of its ability to train your kids. And, don’t expect your youth leaders to carry the load alone. As parents, we need to step in and help our local churches accomplish this important mission. I began by volunteering in a youth ministry class; many of my friends began as small group leaders. Whatever it takes, be patient and begin to humbly offer your services until you’ve earned the right to help shape the ministry.
Don’t Deny – Provide a Good Opportunity for Your Kids
Finally, consider supplementing your efforts (and the efforts of your local church) by providing additional training for your kids at places like Summit Worldview Conference. Yes, I know this kind of program can be more expensive than the average summer camp, but that’s because this kind of program is not the average summer camp. It’s an immersive two-week experience driven by Christian worldview training and relationships. Summit Worldview Conference is like nothing your kids have ever experienced before, and it will likely change their lives. As a family, we’re probably a lot like your family; my wife, Susie, and I raised our family on one income, and we have four kids. We were often financially strapped. But we tried to do whatever it took to get our kids the training they needed, even if it meant we had to lead the training ourselves, or we had to set aside a few dollars to help our kids attend places like Summit. Be on the lookout for good opportunities to supplement what you’ve been teaching your kids.
It’s true that time flies. We can’t believe we already have adult children, and we sometimes fret about whether we’ve done a good job equipping them over the years. That’s why Susie and I decided to write Cold-Case Christianity for Kids and God’s Crime Scene for Kids. We’ve also created an online academy for young Christians at CaseMakersAcademy.com. Our experience as parents, youth leaders and pastors taught us that young people begin to question their faith in junior high. So, we wanted to provide a resource that would answer critical questions kids might have before they even begin to ask them. If there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s the need to be intentional. Let’s model a rational Christian life for our kids, put them in a church setting that can help them grow, and provide them with intentional opportunities to learn.
This article first appeared on Crosswalk.com, entitled: The Reason Young Christians Are Leaving the Church
For more information about strategies to help you teach Christian worldview to the next generation, please read So the Next Generation Will Know: Training Young Christians in a Challenging World. This book teaches parents, youth pastors and Christian educators practical, accessible strategies and principles they can employ to teach the youngest Christians the truth of Christianity. The book is accompanied by an eight-session So the Next Generation Will Know DVD Set (and Participant’s Guide) to help individuals or small groups examine the evidence and make the case.
J. Warner Wallace is a Dateline featured Cold-Case Detective, Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, Adj. Professor of Christian Apologetics at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, author of Cold-Case Christianity, God’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, and creator of the Case Makers Academy for kids.
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