In recent years I’ve grown close to a group of friends from church. Because we’re middle-aged folks, we talk a lot about very serious subjects, such as bifocals, bunions, and blood pressure. No, I’m kidding, we’re not painfully boring ALL the time. Once in a while we discuss a topic about which we feel very passionate: our adult children who rarely go to church anymore. It seems that many other people our age also find this to be a really big problem. Why don’t our adult kids go to church? And what can we do about it?
Statistics show that young adults in the U.S. are leaving organized religion in droves. Some have become atheists or agnostics, while many others have latched on to the trendy concept of “spirituality,” the idea that as long as you feel spiritual and try to be a nice person most of the time, you don’t need any of that traditional religious stuff.
Yeah, that may sound nice, but unfortunately, it’s the exact opposite of what Jesus said. He founded His Church on the rock of St. Peter, and then when instituting the Eucharist at the Last Supper, He commanded us to “Do this in remembrance of me.” So, it’s pretty clear that the Lord wants everyone to be part of His Church and receive Him in the Eucharist on a regular basis.
My friends and I privately admit that we often feel the urge to command our kids to go back to church, while adding this gentle reminder: “Don’t you know you’re going to HELL?! You’re practically sprinting there!!”
Thankfully, we only blow off steam among ourselves and don’t actually say that to our kids. If there ever was an effective technique to get young adults NOT to go to church, it’s to threaten them with eternal damnation.
Rather than arguing with our children, we instead should focus our efforts in two other directions. First, we must pray like crazy that the Lord will touch their hearts and draw them back to Him. After all, it’s really the Holy Spirit who gives people the gift of faith. We have to remember that God loves our kids even more than we do, and we have to beg Him to help them see the light.
The second thing we must do is live genuine Christian lives, free of hypocrisy and selfishness. Those same statistics show that most young adults who no longer attend church are turned off by what they perceive as the rampant hypocrisy and cold judgmentalism of organized religion.
Jesus clearly said that people would recognize His followers by their love for one another. When we truly live this way, the Gospel becomes irresistible. But when Christians behave no differently than non-believers, then the Gospel loses its attractiveness.
If we say anything at all to our kids, we should gently ask them always to seek the truth. They can’t really argue with or get offended by that request. And if they sincerely do seek the truth, they just might discover the truth they’ve been seeking has a name: Jesus, who is the way and the truth and the life.
So even though it’s painful to watch our kids drift away from the faith, there is always hope they’ll return. After all, many of my church friends, including myself, did not come to believe in Christ and start attending church until well into adulthood. God can, and quite often does, perform miracles. And if the Lord draws our children back to the faith, that will take a big load off our shoulders and free up more of our time to discuss very serious subjects, such as bifocals, bunions, and blood pressure.