Children are like human sponges. They are constantly taking in everything they see and hear from us, but as sponges, something will inevitably happen. These little sponges will spill out all they have heard and seen to others. If you are a parent of little children like me, you have probably experienced this scenario before with one of your kids. Our youngest child loves to raise his hands in the air, as if he just won a gold medal at the Olympics, and screams with resounding joy, “I pooped today!” Cute? Yes. Hilarious? Absolutely! Embarrassing when he does it in front of church members? Um…you decide. He is a human sponge after all.

Christian parents, we are all aware that our children soak in everything we project to them, but I’m not quite sure we truly understand the implications of these living, breathing sponges as it pertains to their involvement in Christ’s church. LifeWay Research recently posted an article about the drop out rate of young adults (see article here). The article revealed that 32% of those interviewed dropped out of church because church members were seen as being judgmental or hypocritical. Parents, we might be part of the problem for seeing the mass exodus of our children from the church.

To prove we might be part of the problem, ask yourself: Have I ever criticized the church in front of my children? Have I ever judged the style of worship or the charisma of the pastor while driving in the car home from church when my children were in the backseat? What about judgmentally gossiping about another church member or criticizing a church decision around the lunch table after service with my kids sitting there? Sometimes I fear we as parents in our hypocritical and judgmental conversations are driving a wedge in between our children and Christ’s church.

I am not saying we shouldn’t think critically about sermons or music when it comes to theology, but I am saying we should not present a critical spirit to our children by voicing everything we see wrong in the church–the bride of Christ. The bride, by the way, he shed his own blood to save and purchase for himself (Eph 5:25-27). Therefore, here are three questions to answer in front of your children in order to help them fall more in love with Christ and his church to help combat the mass exodus of young adults.

  1. What did God reveal to you? We live in a day where you can hear many preachers on the internet (some good and some not so good). One of the problems with access to a variety of online sermons is internet pastors are not your pastor. Therefore, we might be tempted to compare the sermon we heard on Sunday to another sermon we heard on the internet. We might pick a part all that the pastor said, didn’t say, and should have said. However, when you sit under biblical preaching, you should be listening with an open heart and expecting to hear what God has spoken through his Word. Instead of criticizing or comparing the preaching to others, talk about what God revealed to your heart. What did you take away? What did God show you about himself? What did the Bible say about something you were experiencing that week? When God’s Word is preached, God speaks, and he speaks to you each time. Talk about it in front of your kids.
  2. What do you see God doing in the local church? We live in a culture that criticizes nearly everyone and every institution. We are notorious for finding flaws in all of our experiences. No church is completely perfect, and we are not expected to be the perfect place of worship. Nevertheless, our imperfection as the bride of Christ points to the perfection we have received in Christ. Look for things that God is doing in your local church. Celebrate where you see God working in front of your kids. For example, highlight for your children when the church you attend is sending missionaries, reaching the lost, or serving each other with loving-kindness. By speaking highly of the church, your children will begin to fall more in love with the body of believers they see God working through and in for his glory.
  3. Where do you see the gospel at work in the lives of others? One of the greatest joys as a pastor and church member is seeing people grow in their walk with the Lord. When you see people growing in their relationship to God, try to acknowledge their transformation to your children. The gospel is life changing. When people believe in Jesus, their lives are truly transformed and being transformed into the image of Christ. Acknowledge the gospel’s power in the lives of others. Show your children how the gospel propels volunteers to serve children and youth with joy. Point out the man who gave his life to Christ, and the way he interacts with his wife and/or children because of it. Maybe point out how the gospel has turned you from being judgmental and hypocritical to compassionate and kindhearted. By pointing out the gospel’s impact in the lives of others, our children will observe the power of the gospel firsthand.

While teenagers and young adults are abandoning the church in droves, perhaps God can use us to point out all the ways we see God working in our lives and within our local churches to prevent them from leaving. Let us speak often and uncritically about God’s Word, goodness, grace, and power, and watch our children fall more in love with Jesus and his bride. May they love the church as much as, if not more than, their mothers and fathers.

Are there any additional questions you would like to add? Please feel free to share them with us in the comments section in order to encourage others.

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