Why Do Christian Children Stay Christian?

Anthony Baker has an interesting article in Christianity Today on training children to embrace Christian discipleship and the life of the church.

This is a topic that, as Baker notes, causes no small amount of anxiety among Christian parents.  We want our children to own and claim the Christian faith for themselves.  That’s something about which we can have much influence but little control.  And those who try to assert control usually drive their children away.

Baker has touched on some important elements in this discussion, but it’s obviously a huge issue with many dimensions.

Here’s my question: If you have Christian parents and were raised in the church, why have you stayed?  What are the reasons you’ve continued in Christian discipleship?  Conversely, if you have Christian parents and have left the church and are no longer Christian, why did you leave?

10 thoughts on “Why Do Christian Children Stay Christian?

  1. Matt Jenson

    My parents were never surprised and rarely (if ever) shamed me. Nothing bad I did freaked them out; in fact, they were quick to empathize, help me frame what had happened and forgive me. I could ask them anything, tell them anything. They erred on the side of grace with a kid who erred on the side of self-condemnation. Bless them.

  2. athanasius96

    My mother gave me a lot of room to think through things for myself, but she was also invested. I think some parents try too hard and others are not engaged at all. The other thing that helped me was being in a community. I had many adults in my life that gave further support to my faith.

  3. Bob MacDonald

    My parents seldom went to church; my wife’s, after the loss of a brother in WW-I never – or only for funerals. Our children are 1 First Nations, 1 African Islamic, and 2 genetically related – one of whom is ‘in’ the Church and the other ‘not’. I would not wish the label ‘Christian’ on anyone as a necessity for grace and salvation. The label is torn, tarnished, and troubling. Let there be no label rather than one that bears such innumerable contradictions in its history and such troubled political manipulation in its present. God is with us – all of us. All these are ‘in’ because I am ‘in’ and they are ‘in me’ and I ‘in them’. Our time and space is redeemed (Psalm 49) not by virtue of our assent to this or that confession but by virtue of the one through whom we see the face of love. God is love – so one who bears the Gospel does not need a label.

  4. Whitney Wood

    My parents and my family have pursued a simple, faithful walk with Jesus. In college, however, I began to ask more questions and become aware of the multiplicity of viewpoints and doctrines associated with Christianity. I also became more aware of the areas of conflict that the church seemed to overlook so easily. Faith didn’t seem so simple anymore. I realized that much of the evangelical culture in which I was immersed ignored points of tension and conflict rather than addressing these areas honestly and humbly. As the accepted “truths” of many doctrines became challenged, I found myself wondering 1.) what I could believe about Christianity and 2. with whom I could honestly discuss these doubts/questions without simply receiving a rote answer.

    It was community that helped to stabilize my faith in Christianity. Doing life with people who attempted to live the way of Jesus together, who recognized our limitations, our differences, who acknowledged and lived with the tension of different viewpoints — this allowed me to see that the gospel of Jesus could remain strong even among the complexities of faith. Community provided me with a more tangible picture of Jesus intersecting with our world and gave me hope that the beautiful truth of the gospel, Jesus reconciling the us to God and to others, could remain constant even among the doubts and complexity.

  5. joey

    My parents were missionaries in Africa when I was a boy. It was their passion for Christ that they lived, I believe, that shaped me the most. They actually believed what they said they believed – and lived it out (and I’m not just talking about “moral living.”)
    I’m convinced that we are losing our children these days because they see no difference between Christianity and any other moral code by which one can choose to live. They see no difference because so much of what passes for “Bible” teaching and preaching is nothing but ceaseless moralizing – the same kind of thing one can get at the local community college.
    What our kids need to hear is the richness of the Gospel – who God really is; what he’s really doing; and who we really are in relation to God.

  6. Jaime Hancock

    My parents loved me in a way that I felt confident in their love. They were willing to admit their mistakes. My father and mother regularly apologized for their mistakes against us children, and asked for forgiveness, from the time I was very little till the time that I became recognized as an adult.
    Also, my parents almost always explained their reasons for disciplining, or for saying no to something. I never felt that I was being controlled, I felt that I was being guided. In other words, I think my dad was trying to live out the command, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children.” I also had a lot of freedom to think, to ask good questions. I grew up seeing my parents as friends, not because they tried to act like one of my friends, but because I knew that they cared more for me than my school or church companions. When I had questions that they didn’t know how to answer, they didn’t get defensive, but simply admitted their ignorance and tried to help me find some answers.
    My parents were also never devoted to any one denomination, and therefore, we had a broad denominational exposure, but a narrow focus on Jesus as what is truly important. That was key, because it is Jesus that has kept me a follower. They also celebrated my devotion to Jesus in a genuine way. I never felt that my parents were happy that I was a follower of Jesus because it made them look good, or kept us in the “right” crowd. My parents seemed to genuinely enjoy my walk with Jesus and enjoy watching me deepen and mature, even when I eventually had to look for other disciplers because I was asking questions they didn’t have answers to, they celebrated that growth.
    But all of these things: the safety of love, the confidence in my parents concern for my good, their trust in me, the way that I and my siblings were treated as having important opinions and contributions, even from a young age, these helped me stay true to Jesus, when other things, even my own heart and struggles were tempting me away.
    “Love covers a multitude of sins.”

    Grace and Peace,

  7. Sean Leroy

    While I was a kid or young adult, I would’ve said I *left* or did not participate in church because of my parents (in part) and the church’s irrelevance, for lack of a better word. Now that I’m a grown man, I’d say it was because of my sin and proud nature. There were some wasted years, and only I am to blame.

  8. stephanie

    It wasn’t until I was my junior year of high school that I remember having deep conversations about faith with my parents. They sent my brother and me to religious high school and they tried to make sure we were strict on the time church goers. They were both heavily involved in our community and church, worked full time and always made sure we made it to all of our after school activies as well. Life was busy. Often too busy to have an actual conversation. Instead of having conversations, I would be given a book to read or advised to go to a Christian conference or youth group. I never doubted my parents faith becuase I saw them live it, but even if they still thought of me as a child, I wanted to have real conversations with them, like in Deut. 6:8 when it talks about impressing God’s commands on your children when you sit at home, walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. I didn’t want to hear it from a book or from a stranger, but from my parents. Since we have been able to have those conversations, I feel like I can relate to my parents so much more now. Communication is key! Honest communication. Authenticism and not just Bible devotional time of vauge connotations that seem distant and far off.

  9. Grace Got Me

    I left the church because I saw nothing there that was different from the world. My parents are not well, and I confused their mental issues with what it meant to be a Christian. I didn’t want to repeat their patterns and so I rejected their faith.

    However out in the world, after a number of years, I experienced God’s grace and presence in a way that was undeniable. There are parts of my upbringing in the church that I am now thankful for, but in the end it was an experience of God that made the difference in the end. I still struggle with the forms of church life and liturgy that comprised my childhood experience of faith.

  10. Paul W

    I was raised in the faith and was active in youth ministries during my later teen years. Early in my 20’s I became a bit jaded with my experience of church having unrealistic expectations upon it.

    I quit attending and became rather agnostic about religion for about a year or so. I was, however, uncomfortable leaving things there. It seemed to me that the questions religion answered were actually quite important and went about searching for some answers. I ended up right back where I started with the faith of my parents with a rationalistic bent to it of an Evangelical apologetics flavor.

    Since then I’ve become more than a little sckeptical of that approach to things. Nonetheless, I personally find quite a bit of explanatory power in religion and find it intuitively compelling.

    So why did I come to believe in God? Because mom told me so. Why do I continue to believe? I suspect that most of us have a built-in “conservation impulse” when it comes to our fundamental presuppositions and beliefs. (Conversions later in life are the exception rather than the norm.) It not only has intuitive power to explain my experience of reality it also stretches me in positive ways. It shapes my life in a trajectory that is good it helps me to aspire to be a better person than I am now.

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