Will your children walk away?

Research has shown that 70% of Christian raised young adults leave their faith after high school.  Some make a conscious decision to walk away, and others subconsciously as they make one bad decision after another.  What can we do as parents to increase the chance of our children ended up in the 30% who stay?

To know that, we have to dive into the reasons why people walk away from their faith, and therefore leave everything that they have been taught.  From my research and personal experience with working with thousands of students over the last 25 years, here are what I think are the major reasons; not in any particular order.

  • They never made their faith their own; it was their parent’s.
  • They didn’t fully understand and weren’t able to articulate why they believe and why it is true; outside of “because my parents believe and told me it was true.”
  • They were not able to defend their beliefs to those who oppose and challenge them.  This is after they left their family’s Christian protective bubble; like when going off to college, the military, or entering the workforce.
  • In observing their parents, they saw what they viewed as hypocritical behavior or a “fake” religion.
    • They perceived their parents acted one way in Church on Sunday, and another way outside of Church.
    • They didn’t see their parents consistently praying, reading the Bible, seeking God’s advice on critical decisions, trusting in God in difficult times, loving others, serving God, tithing regularly even when financially strained, etc.

There are many reasons why someone might walk away, too many to discuss in this article.  Also each person is different, so what effects one, may not effect another.

As I think back on the many students I’ve known who have walked away, I would have to say the biggest reason is that they never truly made Christianity their “own” faith.  Instead they rode on the coat tails of their parent’s faith.  They attended church, were baptized, participated in bible studies, tithed and served God, because their parents directed or pressured them to do so.  They didn’t do it because they were saved, loved Jesus and wanted to live fully for Him.

Sometimes children who grow up in a Christian family, and assume they were saved because they “believe” in Jesus, they were raised in a Christian home, and were baptized.  While all good things, the reality is that none of that makes you saved.  You see even the devil and his demons know and believe that Jesus is the son of God, the Messiah, and yet they are not saved.  So there is more to it than “believing” in Jesus.

We have to make sure that our children know what truly makes us saved.  The Bible provides a clear answer.  Here are the steps, from God’s Word, that all must take to be saved.

1) Acknowledge your sin

You must see yourself as a sinner.  Sin is tragic, vile, and it blights, degrades and destroys.  It has dire consequences, and a just God cannot tolerate any sin.

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Romans 3:23 NLT

The person who sins is the one who will die. Ezekiel 18:30 NLT

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23 NLT

2) Repent of your sin

Repentance is not making a resolution to do better.  It is not just conviction of sin, for a person may be convinced that he is wrong and still repent.  D. L. Moody liked to describe repentance this way: “Man is born with his back toward God. When he truly repents, he turns right around and faces God. Repentance is a change of mind, a change of heart, and it results in a change of action.”  You must change your mind about sin and want God to end its mastery over you. After all, sin is so bad it took Christ’s death to make forgiveness possible for you.

Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away. Acts 3:19 NLT

Let the wicked change their ways and banish the very thought of doing wrong. Let them turn to the LORD that he may have mercy on them. Yes, turn to our God, for he will forgive generously. Isaiah 55:7 NLT

3) Acknowledge Christ’s payment for our sins

Believe in the completed work Christ accomplished on the cross, and nothing else to save you.  You must believe that Christ substituted Himself for you, that He died as payment for your sins (though He never sinned), and that He was resurrected from death.  Our sins nailed Him to the cross, and “by His wounds we are healed.”

For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 NLT

But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. Isaiah 53:5 NTL

They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household.” Acts 16:31 NLT

4) Make a decision and accept Jesus as your Savior

You must put your faith in Jesus Christ and Him alone for your salvation, and receive Him personally into your life by faith.  The blood of Christ does you no good until you receive him by faith.  It is a gift He holds in His hands reaching out to give it to you, but if you never take the gift, you don’t have it. if you take the gift, you are saved from the power of sin and its consequences forever.

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:9 NLT

They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household.” Acts 16:31 NLT

But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. John 1:12 NLT

Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” John 14:6 NLT

5) When someone comes to faith, they can pray to God.

“God, I’m convinced I am a sinner, and that Christ alone can save me. I willingly repent of my sinful life and believe Jesus Christ died for me. I want to receive Him as my personal Savior.”

Once saved, parents and others should see a change in their life that reflects and proves their salvation.  Without seeing this change, it is doubtful that they are truly saved.

And we can be sure that we know him if we obey his commandments.  If someone claims, “I know God,” but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth.  But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him. Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did. 1 John 2:3-6 NLT

If you don’t see a change in their life, then talk to your child about this.

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Ken Leaman

Ken Leaman has a passion for students, and for over 30 years has been volunteering within churches and other ministries, leading and mentoring students. These churches are:

Ken works for Amazon Web Services as a Support Operations Manager. Ken has also served on the boards of other non-profits like the DFW Technology Prayer Breakfast, and the DFW Help Desk Institute.

Ken, and his wife Karen, have been married for 31 years, and have a 30 year old son. They live in Allen, TX, just North of Dallas.

As Ken and Karen repeatedly witnessed many Christian students who were active within the Church walk away from their faith shortly after graduating high school, they grew frustrated.  Studies show that about 70% of young adults leave their faith after graduation, which is a huge issue since they are the future of the Church.  After much prayer and searching God's direction for many years, the Leaman's felt His calling to start a ministry to address this problem.  In 2014, they gathered like minded Christian professionals to help begin Young Adults of Worth Ministries.  We believe that this ministry is from God, and it will be blessed by Him for His glory alone.