Yeah, I’m a Christian and, yes, you read that title right.
You see, aside from what the Bible tells us clearly, I can’t offer great insight into what it takes to raise devoted, lifelong followers of Christ. I don’t even have my own kids raised yet, so fool-proof advice from me on how to bring up God-fearing children would probably be a little premature.
But, then again, I’m no stranger to working with kids. In fact, I’ve been working with children and youth for over 25 years now, since I was barely more than a child myself! I’ve had plenty of opportunity to observe the natural course of things, and if there’s anything I’ve learned along the way, it’s some of what NOT to do if I hope to raise devoted servants of Christ.
In other words, if I wanted to raise my children to walk away from their Christian faith, I would be sure to do the following things. I’m sure there are more, but these are the ones that stick out in my mind and memory the most. I’ve seen these specific actions by parents successfully drive children away from God and the church time and time again:
Tip #1: Never make spiritual things a priority in your home and schedule.
You’re too busy for things like daily Bible reading and study and personal prayer. That’s what church is for! Of course, you can’t help that your daughter’s cheerleading practice sometimes falls on Sunday, or that friends from school keep scheduling birthday parties during church times. But everybody knows going to church doesn’t save anybody anyway, so missing a lot occasionally shouldn’t be a problem. Your kids will somehow figure out that you love Jesus and that they should, too, even if you don’t really emphasize worship, personal devotion, Biblical study, or service to God in any way.
Tip #2: Talk religiously often, but don’t live it out.
Use lots of Christian terms and phrases around your children. Be very emotional in church and cry when you talk about Jesus, but then cuss out the store employee who won’t let you make that exchange or casually lie to your sister-in-law about why you can’t babysit her kids on Saturday. Children don’t pay attention to stuff like that anyway.
Tip #3: Leave all the biblical teaching to the church.
You didn’t go to Bible college, so you can’t be expected to read the Bible to your kids! All that stuff in the scriptures about parents teaching their children the things of God would work great if we were living in a perfect world, but since we’re not…
And that’s what children’s church and youth group are there for anyway, right? Those people have the burden for that sort of thing, so you’re free of that responsibility. Plus if your kid’s faith ends up shipwrecked, it’s kind of nice to have somebody else to blame for it.
Tip #4: Don’t answer your child’s tough questions. Instead make them feel like they’ve sinned just by asking.
Faith is supposed to be blind, right? Like we just accept what we’re told and daring to question it is nothing short of rebellion.
Never mind that Christianity is logical, that there are actually answers to even the toughest biblical/life questions! Finding and expressing them can sometimes require time and effort, and we don’t have that to offer. (Refer to #s 1 and 3.) Condemning sincere questions is far easier, cutting off all communication on the matter and driving the questions deeper where they develop into robust doubt and disbelief that is sure to resurface later.
Tip #5: Always criticize church leadership in front of your children.
There’s nothing like tearing down the authority within the church to give kids a good dose of reality and help drive their rebellion. It doesn’t matter that church leaders are often criticized for things they don’t even realize they have done or said, or that they agonize over decisions they know will not please everyone. Nor does it matter that church leaders are human and sometimes make mistakes just like everybody else. Criticizing them mercilessly, always within earshot of your children, keeps those in leadership in their place and helps ensure your child never fully respects or trusts the very ones placed there for their care and guidance in the faith.
Tip #6: Point out the sins and shortcomings of every Christian as often as possible.
(Though similar to #5, this tip applies to ALL believers, not just those in leadership positions.)
Every failing, every hypocrisy, every misspoken word or questionable deed done by a Christian, (with the exception of yourself, of course,) should be duly noted and the offender verbally abused in conversation before your children. Demanding perfection of other Christians is very effective in doing one of two things: It can either, A.) build a strong sense of self-righteousness, in which case the real need of a Savior is never fully recognized, or it can, B.) encourage the idea that salvation is earned, not freely given, which almost always leads to hopeless despair when kids naturally discover their complete inability to ever be good enough. So why even try, right?
Tip #7: Take your child’s side in conflict. Every. Single. Time.
Turn your kids into victims at an early age and years’ worth of perceived injustice and hurt feelings will drive them to depart the church at an early age as well. At some point someone in the church is sure to hurt your child. Never, EVER tolerate it by listening to the other side of the story. Defend your child’s every word and action and blame everyone else when they are not noticed, praised, and promoted to your liking.
So your daughter misses 3/4 of the children’s choir practices. That shouldn’t keep her from having regular solo parts. After all, she’s obviously the most talented singer.
And so what if the pastor’s kid already has all the lines memorized for the Christmas play! Your child deserves the lead part. The youth pastor’s wife even kind-of-sort-of-almost-implied that the part was already his anyway. If it wasn’t the pastor’s kid, would we even be talking about this? Obviously it’s favoritism and your kid can’t get a fair shake.
And so what if the boy who said those mean things to your child comes from a fatherless home? So what if he comes to church with his grandparents because his mother is usually in bed with a hangover on Sunday mornings? None of that matters so much as your darlings’ feelings, so be sure to rake those grandparents over the coals, and maybe even give the drunken mother a call as well. No doubt a good tongue-lashing will show her the error of her ways and draw her to your church where she can hear the gospel. Lord knows she needs to!