Thoughts on Why Our Children Leave the Church.

This is an insightful article on why some children stay in the church and some do not. My own experiences have shed some light on this subject as well. I was not brought up in the church and my “conversion experience” wasn’t the lighting bolt, fireworks flood of experiences that mainstream “Christian Media‘  often portray them as. In fact, as an aside, I think profound conversion experiences are suspect and any valid ones are the exception not the rule.

In an ironic twist I have come to the conclusion that children brought up in the church often times have a more difficult time in truly becoming a follower of Christ. My reasons for this are as follows:  A child who attends church and church related functions frequently learns not only some basic bible truths, but also the attitudes, habits and traditions of those in the “churched” culture. Additionally there is a tremendous amount of peer pressure to conform to the culture in order to be accepted as “Christian”.  The problem is many times, ( and I am pointing fingers here), as the children grow up in this culture real demonstrations of someone developing a deep and intimate bond with Jesus are a rarity among their peers as well as with their parents and other authority figures. This hypocrisy often alienates and indeed at times creates a disdain for authority.

I was guilty of this in my own life because I often didn’t demonstrate with any consistency the habits of prayer, meditation and Scripture reading. These were personal things to me and I did them in private in front of no one… if I did them at all. I also had this sub-conscious idea that my children would love and seek God simply because that is what we did. Children do not become followers of Christ by proxy, each person is a unique individual and each one needs to do their own due diligence when deciding whom they shall follow. As parents working out our own faith with fear and trembling we of course want our children to find the same mercy and unconditional love that we have… realizing we can no more force this on them than God does, tests our own faith and stretches our emotions like nothing else does.

Whether you believe in God or not, how have you seen your children or the children of someone close to you impacted by their peers?

After reading this article, please tell me what effect if any it might have on your thinking?


About JT

I am a happily married man with 6 children and have an autoimmune disease. I hope to share my story and explore others' stories and perhaps together both of our lives will be enhanced.
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18 Responses to Thoughts on Why Our Children Leave the Church.

  1. I came into formal membership of a baptist church following my baptism at the age of 16. I came close to resigning my membership at my very first members’ meeting a few weeks later when I saw the in-fighting and unpleasantness that was going on behind the scenes. It seemed that very few adults in the church were living the ideals that they had drilled into us kids from such a young age and the glaring hypocrasy was almost enough to make me walk away. I found exactly the same in my university days when I transferred my membership to another church.

    A personal commitment to Christ, honest, down to earth youth leaders, vigorous debate with non-church going/non-believing peers in the youth group, the example of my parents living their faith outside of church, adults in the church who took a genuine interest in my well-being and a minister who was keen to involve the youth and encourage us to develop our personal giftings were the main reasons I remained in the church throughout my teens despite my disillusionment until chronic illness left me housebound in my early twenties.

    • JT says:

      I simply must find out more… your comment while I agree with all the assertions makes me also want to hear ‘ The rest of the story” in the words of the late Paul Harvey.

      • A faction within the church were trying to oust the senior pastor in favour of his assistant. Some of the members involved were in positions of leadership or involved in youth work within the church. The very people teaching us about the importance of unity, forgiveness and grace were tearing the church apart from the inside out. Seeing prominent Christians who were all hugs and smiles on a Sunday morning but being disruptive in meetings, disrespecting other members and making extremely unChristian remarks under their breath from the back of the meeting room told me that their faith didn’t mean enough for them to live what they were preaching.

      • JT says:

        Ouch… The rest of the story I was referring to was more just more of your personal journey. I am sorry to hear of this and I wish yours was the only one… unfortunately the enemy causes many of us to stumble. The church often has little realization that so much of the petty things destroy us from within.

      • I came to faith in the Anglican church at the age of eight before moving to an evangelical baptist church at the age of ten. Difficult circumstances caused a crisis of faith in my early teens but the example of older Christians helped bring me through. I was one of only three teenagers to remain in the church after our small youth group and bible study group were closed down (to redirect resources to an ultimately unsuccesful attempt to reach unchurched youths in the area). I might have abandoned church altogether at this point had the minister not challenged me to get more involved in the life of the church and develop my giftings through leading, preaching and other forms of service. When I was leaving for university the minister contacted several churches on behalf of each of the students leaving the church and my parents encouraged me to email several churches too. One church in particular responded very warmly so I had a potential church already lined up before I left. Unlike most students I intended to remain in the university town after graduating and being part of a welcoming church was an important part of making a home there. Several families in the church regularly invited me into their homes and I was encouraged to get involved in the running of the church and made to feel a valuable part of the community. I guess it was adults showing a personal interest in me that kept me in the church even through difficult circumstances.

  2. A Dissenting Opinion

    “I was guilty of this in my own life because I often didn’t demonstrate with any consistency the habits of prayer, meditation and Scripture reading. These were personal things to me and I did them in private in front of no one”

    You weren’t *guilty* of anything. You were in fact doing what Christ insisted was the right way of conducting yourself.

    I notice among Christians that there is an obsessions about “the church” (the one that they are attending. The clique, as it were.)

    “In an ironic twist I have come to the conclusion that children brought up in the church often times have a more difficult time in truly becoming a follower of Christ.”

    That’s true of everyone. The more people feel as if something is being force-fed something against their will, the more they will push back. That’s the reason for the decline interest in religion. Jim Morrison is a good example. His father was an authoritarian Admiral in the US navy. Important historically for the false flag operation “Gulf of Ton-kin Bay incident.” Well, we all know what affect this oppression had on Jim.

    Anyway, I actually came over here just to say “hi,” but as usual I ended up shooting my mouth off.

    • JT says:

      🙂 shoot away … your always welcome here.

      • How are things with you, my friend? Still planning on going to Romania? I feel sorry for all those abandoned children, who I guess by now have their own homeless children.

      • JT says:

        Hello Donald, I am hanging tough, Romania is I feel in my future but details are not in place soooo we’ll see. In the meantime I am content to wait and watch and listen. Besides bantering with you is always something to look forward too! 🙂

      • Thanks JT. There’s plenty of stuff to banter about on my blog, also. Seems my book “Badlands” had quite an effect on Don Allen. (Turns out that he loved the first draft, but didn’t care too much for the second one, where I tried to amend some of the deficiencies that Sean Durity thought it had.) Well, I’m satisfied with the final draft, which I have on my weblog.

        Problem I think I might have with getting people to read it is that it’s a religious book. As you know, a lot of people can be hostile to religion, thinking that (in this case) I might be a religious nutjob with nothing meaningful to say. 😦

        It’s about a demon-chasing bounty hunter/preacher. I sort of based the guy a bit on Don’s comments on his blog about taking on demons.

      • JT says:

        I started to read it a bit but at the time I think it was only partially written. I will read it through.

  3. Paul Miller says:

    DMdSnore’s story sounds like one that is way too common in church’s to me. We’ve been wrestling with interior issues and it’s been very straining on my faith, but in the end my inner battles have helped me to weed out destructive parts of my own personality, and brings parts of scripture alive for me. What better way for God to test us, perhaps.

    We can’t have much hope for our children’s faith to be real if it is not for us. A real, genuine love for God and His love moving through us and towards others may convince them to keep searching. I believe there comes a time in everyone’s life when they need to wrestle with God, but what picture of Him do we have when that time comes. That image comes from what we see of other Christians mostly, and hopefully steers us to look deeper into the bible.

    My two cents, at least for now until we’ve completely phased out the penny. Then you might get a full nickel! Cheers.

    • JT says:

      I think those are good observations Paul, Unfortunately the church culture often doesn’t extend much grace to those “wrestling with God” the funny thing is, I would rather see someone wrestle with God than act like they have it all figured out. That to me is a much more realistic expression of finding faith and one I can relate to. Those that appear to be spiritual dynamo’s can inadvertently leave others feeling like a sin soaked sack of potatoes and feeling like they must not be someone worthy of God’s attention, though it’s almost never admitted or said out loud.

  4. Hey JT,

    I came across an interesting blog post I think you might like. I only read the post; I didn’t visit the site. But it looks like it might be something you’d be interested in.

  5. I never liked church (Catholic) because each week after mass, everyone would congregate in the parking lot, break into their cliques, and then gossip about everyone else.

    I asked the daughter of a Baptist preacher to marry me and daddy said no.

    The final straw was when I was dating a Catholic girl and we were getting serious enough to meet the parents and go to church. The church she went to was a couple of blocks behind me but she lived about ten miles away. She came to pick me up, but she was 20 minutes late. She backed into a parking spot “so she could get out quickly” when mass was over. However, we left at communion time, which means about 20 minutes before mass was over. So all in all we had 20 minutes out of a 60-minute mass.

    I have only been back to church once and that was because I was singing in a friend’s wedding. If I had only known one of the two getting married, I would have declined the invitation to sing, but I had known both of them for many years.

    Now my church is the outdoors, the Church of Mother and Father Nature.

    • JT says:

      Hi Russell, thank you for sharing your experiences here. I think, unfortunately, that many people end up with similar stories. It is sad really that those that should be least critical and most loving seem to end up the other way around. My faith is in Jesus and although I try to love people from that perspective, I am sure I screw up on a regular basis. My hope is that people will look to Christ and not me or other people for their inspiration.

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