If your child has walked away from the faith, consider these recommendations.
Since the first episode of my podcast Christian Parent/Crazy World, we have been discussing how to help our kids stand strong in the faith. We’ve tackled tough parenting questions like:
And a four-part series on worldviews culminating with this question: How Does the Christian Worldview Create the World We All Want to Live in?
In a recent article, “Christian Kids Are Leaving the Faith, What Can We Do About It?” I highlight some startling statistics which show that a majority of kids raised in Christian homes are leaving the faith. A shocking study in the book Already Gone: Why Your Kids Will Quit Church and What You Can Do To Stop It indicates that of the children who do walk away from the faith, up to 90% begin that progression in the middle and high school years. The goal of Christian Parent/Crazy World is to solidify the faith in the hearts and minds of our kids before they leave the nest.
In the latest episode of CP/CW, I tackle this vital question by offering nine steps that you can take if your child has walked away from the faith. This article covers the first seven steps. If your child has walked away from the faith, consider these recommendations:
1. Love your child as God does. Love them unconditionally.
In Scripture, we learn that God’s salvation requires a confession of faith and repentance. But God’s love requires nothing from us. Nothing at all. We don’t have to do one thing for God to love us. We can break every rule in the Book. We can live a life of unbelief, of disregard, or even disdain for God and His ways. We can be an absolute reprobate, squandering every gift and hurting others in the process—and God will still love us.
Nothing can separate us from the love of God. (Romans 8:35-39)
If God’s love requires nothing from us, our love for our kids must require nothing from them. And they need to know that. They need to feel that Godly, unconditional love from us. If they never do another good or right thing in their life, they need to know that we still love them. Our love must not require performance, or rule-keeping, or righteous living or agreement with what we believe. Because God’s love doesn’t require any of that.
The Bible tells us that the Good Shepherd will leave the 99 little lambs who are living right, who are in the fold, who are ministering and using their gifts for God’s glory, in order to go and find the one who is wandering.
Our love for our kids needs to pursue them as God does. Requiring nothing. Loving them exactly where they are. Unconditionally.
2. Stop with the blame game.
When something goes wrong in life, we are tempted to start pointing fingers. But when a child walks away from the faith, a faith that you tried to impart to them, we need to put the blame where it belongs and not where it doesn’t.
Where should we not put the blame?
Stop blaming yourself. Were you too lenient? Were you too legalistic? Did you not teach them enough? Did you preach at them too much? Chances are you erred on one side of these fault lines. We all do.
Did you fail to do something that you didn’t know you needed to do? Did you fail to protect or train them in some way? Did your own faults create some wounds in your child? Ah… yes, yes, and yes. I can answer “yes” to all of those questions already, and I have yet to graduate my first child. We all miss the mark in our parenting.
Whether your adult or adolescent kids are walking with the Lord or not, you didn’t parent perfectly because you aren’t perfect. We are all human and we make mistakes in our parenting. No one parents perfectly except God.
Rest in the fact that God is the perfect parent, and allow Him to make up for where you fell short. That is what grace is for, so give yourself some grace.
Also, stop blaming your child.
Yes, they have rejected what you taught them. They have rejected the faith, and they may be accumulating a healthy list of don’ts on the do’s and don’t list. That list doesn’t procure our salvation, btw. It keeps us safe.
Blaming your child for all their mistakes won’t accomplish anything good, and it certainly won’t encourage them to return to God. Or to you.
If your child has walked away from the faith, you need to place the blame where it does belong. That is on the enemy, the great liar and deceiver. Get mad at him. Not yourself and not your child. Refuse to put the blame anywhere else, because it won’t do you or your child any good.
3. Recognize that you are in a battle.
If your child is not walking with the Lord, he or she is in a battle. And if your child is in a battle, so are you. You need a victory. Recognize that and get your battle plan in order. Because believe me, the enemy has a battle plan to destroy your child. He knows your child, personally, and he has a specific strategy to take him or her down.
The Apostle Peter tells us to “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)
If the enemy has a battle plan, you need one as well. And as the parent, you must lead the charge in this fight. Nobody on this planet cares about your child more than you do. You are the General here. So smear some blue paint on your face and GO TO WAR!
And know this—battles can be won!
What is the first step in your battle plan? That is step #4.
4. Gather your weapons.
The first thing you need in a war is some weapons.
What is our weapon as Believers? Our weapon is the Word.
The Word of God is living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword. (Hebrews 4:12)
If you look at the armor of God in Ephesians 6, there is only one actual weapon mentioned. Every other part of that armor is a defensive item. There is a belt of truth and a breastplate of righteousness. There is a shield of faith and a helmet of salvation. Our only offensive weapon is the Word. It is the Bible. You need to use the Word of God to combat the deception of the enemy in your child’s life.
How do you do that?
Gather a list of Scriptures to use as you war in prayer for your child’s destiny, for their soul.
To find a powerful list of Scriptures to pray over children who have left the faith, subscribe on my website and I will send you one as a free resource. Then ask the Lord to give you some very specific Scriptures to pray over your child and keep growing the list. Print it out. Put it in your purse or your briefcase. Put one on your nightstand. Put one in your bathroom. Keep one in your car and in your desk at work. And use them. Pray these Scriptures over your child every day. When you get discouraged, take out that list and start praying. And your faith will grow.
There is nothing more powerful than praying the Word God of God over your children, over any situation. So get your weapons assembled.
5. Get a prayer plan.
It is a given that prayer is the central part of any spiritual battle.
J. Edwin Orr, a Biblical scholar and preacher of true revival, wrote, “History is silent on revivals that did not begin with prayer.” If you want your child to have a revival in their heart, start praying.
If you don’t consider yourself a prayer warrior, don’t worry. Prayer warriors aren’t born. They are formed. And becoming a prayer warrior isn’t as hard as you might think.
If you are new to this type of consistent intercession, start with praying five minutes in the morning when you get up and five minutes at night before you go to bed. If you have a spouse who is willing to join you in this effort, by all means, do it together. If you don’t have a spouse but you do have another family member or close friend, someone who loves your child and is invested in them, ask them to join you. Perhaps you could pray together once or twice a week.
Just think… even with five minutes twice a day, you would pray for your child’s salvation 70 minutes a week. Wow!
And then you might slowly build that time. Perhaps you could pray 10 minutes, twice a day. Or you could pray at lunch or during your commute to work. Ask the Lord to give you a prayer strategy of when to pray and how much to pray, and get in a routine.
And rest assured, as parents you have a unique authority in your child’s life. Your prayers over them are powerful!
6. Consider fasting.
Fasting is a powerful weapon to add to your arsenal. If your child has walked away from the faith, there are some serious strongholds in his or her life. Fasting breaks strongholds.
I knew a couple who fasted breakfast every day for a year in order to defeat the enemy’s plans in their kid’s lives. Perhaps you could fast one day a week or one meal a week. Or you could fast certain types of foods or something completely different, like media.
Jentzen Franklin’s book on fasting is a wonderful resource for people who are new to this discipline. Ask the Lord to give you the right strategy, and consider that fasting might be part of it.
7. Do some research.
Another part of the plan might be research. Perhaps you could read some books or listen to some podcasts that would help you understand your child’s worldview or state of mind.
For example, if your child is very scientifically minded and has become an atheist or agnostic, you could read some of Dr. Stephen Meyer’s books on intelligent design, or just listen to some of his interviews.
If your child believes another religion now, read up on it. Find out what that religion teaches and how it differs from Christianity.
If your child has fallen prey to woke culture, learn more about it. Find the inconsistencies. Discover how woke thinking creates a world without hope or redemption.
Ask God to help you learn more about what your child is battling. And then listen for His direction.
Finally, a couple of things to recognize if your child has walked away from the faith:
Recognize that they need your love more than a lecture. Chances are, they know the truth. And they are running from it. Let them know that you love them anyway—because God sure does.
And recognize that your child’s faith journey is a marathon, not a sprint. And their way back to God may be a marathon not a sprint. Your prayers, your fasting, your research, your faith, and your unconditional love will help to pave the way back home.
Catherine Segars is an award-winning actress and playwright—turned stay-at-home-mom—turned author, speaker, podcaster, and motherhood apologist. This homeschooling mama of five has a Master’s Degree in Communications and is host of Life Audio’s Christian Parent/Crazy World (named 2022 Best Kid’s and Family Podcast by Spark Media), a podcast that navigates through tough cultural and theological topics to help parents establish a sound Biblical foundation for their children. She is also an award-winning writer whose regular articles on family, faith, and culture reach hundreds of thousands of readers. You can find Catherine’s work at www.catherinesegars.com.