At age fifteen, our son was coping with a huge pile of life changes as he adjusted to our new town. Our new house and neighborhood. A new school. And our new church. Our normally easygoing and agreeable child dug in his heels—hard—when youth group rolled around every Sunday night. Yet after many weeks of consistently showing up at church, we saw a shift happen before our eyes.
He found his place on the worship team.
He connected with the youth pastor and grew in his faith.
He met the girl who would one day become his wife.
His church friends became his core group of relationships that carried him through high school.
Our son would say that church was his anchor in the stormy teen years. It shaped his identity. It taught him the value of community, and it challenged him to surrender his life to God. The church made an impact on our son that we never could have imagined.
While we celebrate our son’s experience in the church, it was a different story with two of our other five children. They never felt like they “fit.” They didn’t trust the church to be unconditionally loving or inclusive. The relationships they built were short-term or superficial. Once they aged out of youth group, their ties to the church remained fragile. (The pandemic weakened the ties even more.) Now as young adult women, they have struggled to find their place in God’s family of believers.
As their parents, we know how the church is where we’ve personally met Jesus face-to-face. Other believers have become like true family. The church and its spiritual leaders have stood with us in our darkest moments. It’s heartbreaking to know our own children have not personally experienced the beauty God created in the body of Christ.
Need More on This? Read 7 Ways to Help Your Teen Say “Yes” to Church.
Perhaps you, too, have children who are somewhere on the spectrum between apathetic toward church or downright hostile to walking through its doors. Maybe you feel like a failure as a mom or dad because your kids haven’t followed in your footsteps of faith. You wonder how to respond to their resistance. Most of all, you’re afraid your child will never give their heart to Jesus or those who worship His name.
The comfort is, God knows. He’s a father—the Father—too. The Bible is full of prodigals and lost sheep and rebels and rejects and the sick and blind. That love you hold for your child is held in God’s own heart, in a measure you can’t comprehend. We can release our sons and daughters to Him, trusting He is fully able to reach them and bring them home to Himself.
In a recent podcast episode, our guest shared that prayer is one of the most powerful tools we have in our toolbox as parents. Let’s pray for our kids who are taking the long and wandering way to belief today. Let’s pray for ourselves, to receive God’s mercy for our imperfect parenting. Let’s praise Him for His Church, where we see Jesus’ power and love working in this world. Let’s pray!
A prayer for today:
Is there any greater joy than “to hear that my children are walking in the truth”? (3 John 4) And is there any greater heartbreak than to know my child is wandering far from You? Your Word gathers dust on their shelf. The world holds their attention and affection, while You are ignored and denied. They struggle with stress and fear, even as You’re ready to help and love them every moment. They choose isolation over the open arms of your people. My child needs you desperately, but they refuse to seek Your face.
Forgive me, Lord, for the ways I’ve failed to disciple my child. Show me how to love them well. Keep me faithful in prayer. Give me wisdom for when to speak and when to simply listen. Fill me with tenacious faith that never gives up hope in your saving power. Let me find comfort and hope in Your church as I wait for you to bring my child home.
Thank you for your relentless love for my family. I trust you are more than able to “open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in [Jesus]” (Acts 26:18) Make them yours, Father. Amen.