These are words we typically use to describe that child who has walked away from the church, from the faith, and from the Lord.
They may walk away in defiance or they may drift away. It doesn’t matter.
For this season, they have put up a “Don’t talk to me about God,” sign, and they’d like to not be disturbed.
So, what can we do as concerned parents?
How can we rightly respond to that child or those children who have seemingly walked away from the Lord?
I’d like to share you with 4 tips for parenting a child who is not interested in your faith.
These come from several wise mentors, from older friends, and from personal experience. I’m praying that you will be greatly encouraged as you read!
4 Tips For Parenting A Child Who Is Not Interested In Your Faith
First, Stop Pushing Your Kids to Love Jesus.
As parents, we feel like we must do SOMETHING when that child walks away and is not interested in your faith.
What do we do?
We begin to push. We send them Bible verses and prayers. On Saturday, we start bugging them about going to church with us. On Monday, we ask them why they didn’t go.
One especially eager mom I know regularly sends her children, nieces, and nephews texts with verses and warnings about their sin. These kids have confided in me that this only makes them angry. Her pushing doesn’t drive them to their Savior; it drives them far away.
Ephesians 6:4 in the Voice Translation puts it this way, “And, fathers, do not drive your children mad, but nurture them in the discipline and teaching that come from the Lord.”
So many well-meaning believers are making it worse with all of the pushing. So, stop pushing your kids to Jesus. It’s not working! You are driving your kids mad!
Second, Stop Pulling Your Children to Love Jesus.
One of my children’s favorite ways to describe someone is to call them, “passive aggressive.”
To be passive aggressive is to indirectly or covertly make demands of another person. It’s more subtle and more sneaky, but it’s still aggressive. Often, pouting, humor, or little hints will be dropped to express a message
For example, I might say, “I sure wish everyone could locate the dishwasher. I seem to be the only one in the house who knows where it is.”
Often, Christian parents will try to direct or re-direct their children to Jesus with passive aggressive humor, comments, and hints.
What does passive aggressive parenting look link?
- Leaving a Bible or devotional book laying on their pillow.
- Putting a church bulletin where they will see it.
- Teasing them about not coming to church… “If you’d been at church…”
- Digging at them about not reading their Bible.
- Embarrassing them by bringing a topic up that you know they won’t like in front of others. Sort of a shaming mechanism in front of others.
This type of parenting is much less combative and confrontative, but it may hurt even more. It’s stealthy and sneaky. It’s confusing and hurtful, but it’s so easy to do.
For me personally, this has been the one parenting issue I’ve had to struggle with most. And, my children have clearly let me know that they hate passive aggression.
May I encourage you to consider your words, your humor, your sarcasm, and your sneaky ways.
If you are trying to cleverly pull a child to Jesus, it won’t likely work!
Third, Pray Daily for Your Kids to Love Jesus
The words of James 5:16-18 come to mind as we think about praying.
“Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with. Elijah, for instance, human just like us, prayed hard that it wouldn’t rain, and it didn’t—not a drop for three and a half years. Then he prayed that it would rain, and it did. The showers came and everything started growing again.” (MSG)
Your prayers are something powerful—to be reckoned with!
Lysa TerKeurst tells the story of her daughter Hope who was away at college and away from the Lord. As Lysa prayed for Hope, God led her to pray one thing – that Hope might fall in love with Jesus again.
For months, Lysa prayed. She didn’t push or pull Hope to change. Instead, she just covered her in prayer each morning and sometimes at night before bed. Her constant prayer was that God would put people around Hope who deeply loved Jesus—making Hope want what they had.
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Toward the end of the college semester, Lysa was visiting Hope at her dorm. On the bedside table beside Hope’s bed, Lysa spotted an open Bible. It was Hope’s. As Lysa listened to Hope talk, she realized something had changed. Once again, Hope was excited about the things of the Lord.
What had happened? A group of international students had moved into Hope’s college dorm. They were on fire for the Lord and passionately in love with Jesus. Their lives impacted Hope’s, and she was changed.
This happened because a mother prayed fervently for her daughter.
Are you praying for your wayward child?
Why not begin to pray every day for them to fall in love with Jesus? Ask God to put people in their lives who will point them to the Lord.
Fourth, Keep Loving Them and Showing Them Grace
This sounds like something that would be easy to do. But, this final step may be the hardest.
Because that wayward child breaks your heart almost every time you talk to them on the phone or have a meal with them.
You took them to church, read them Bible stories, and poured truth into them all of their lives. They saw you and your spouse model what is was to love Jesus and made prayer a priority in your home.
You sent them to youth camp and choir tour and on mission trips. You drove them to youth group and Bible studies. They even sang in the choir.
But, somewhere along the way, they rejected you and rejected your God.
How can you keep loving the child who is not interested in your faith and showing them grace?
- Talk about more neutral topics. Don’t engage in topics you know will cause a battle. It will do no good.
- If a hard topic comes up, resist the urge to lecture. Listen. Ask questions. You will learn a lot!
- Wrap your arms around that child – even if they don’t hug you back.
- Do kind things for that child – even when they don’t act kind.
- Continue to invite them for meals and enjoy time with them.
- Be gracious to their friends, spouses, and children—no matter what.
- Keep the door open to them—always.
- Take lots of deep breaths and bite your tongue if necessary.
- Don’t ever give up on them!
Remember how patient and how gracious God has been to you, with you, and about you! He has never given up on you or me. He is the ultimate example of a kind Heavenly Father.
Consider the words of Romans 2:4:
“Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?”
God’s kindness is intended to turn us from our sin. Our kindness can also help to turn our children from their sin. As hard as it is, we must follow the model of our God.
An Example of Parenting A Child Who Is Not Interested In Your Faith
Did you happen to catch the funeral of Billy Graham as it was televised?
My pastor relayed one of the children’s comments as she talked of her father at the funeral.
This particular Graham daughter (I believe it was Gigi) considered herself to be the black sheep of the Graham family—always making mistakes, choosing poorly, and hurting her parents.
However, at her daddy’s funeral, she told the story of how her father responded to her after a particularly bad season in her life.
As she drove up the long driveway to her parents’ home in North Carolina, she saw her father sitting on the front porch. When he saw her, he got up off the porch and walked out to her car. As she opened the car door, Dr. Graham threw his arms around her and welcomed her home.
She never doubted that her daddy loved her, and she was never afraid to come back home.
Why? Because she knew that her kind and gracious father dearly loved her—no matter what she did or didn’t do.
Billy Graham is a great model for us to follow. Although it must have been extremely difficult at times to watch his daughter stray and make such horrible choices, he never gave up on her.
And, that is how we must be… diligently determined to not push or pull. We must pray for and love that challenging child no matter what!
“So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.” Galatians 6:9
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How to Parent Your Prodigal Child Series Contributor:
Melanie Redd is a woman who loves to encourage, equip, train, and motivate other women. With her easy smile, warm personality, and positive outlook, she enjoys offering hope in all that she does.
One of her favorite Bible verses is 1 Thessalonians 5:11, “So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.”
Melanie wrote Sunday school curriculum and magazine articles for Lifeway Resources before launching her own speaking, blogging, and writing ministry. As a speaker and as a writer, she inspires others using the Bible, practical applications, a little wit, and a whole lot of common sense. She’s known for taking complicated biblical and relational concepts and making them simple to understand and put to use.
Her days are filled with ministry both online and offline. You’ll find Melanie encouraging a friend at a local coffee shop, cheering on a group of MOPS, writing an article for her blog, working on her latest book, and spending time in prayer with friends – all on the same day. She’s an energetic woman who loves to share the love of Christ with everyone around her.
Above all, Melanie is a wife and a mom, who greatly enjoys spending time with her family. She’s a pastor’s wife and the mother of two amazing young adult kids. Melanie and her family live in the suburbs outside of Memphis, Tennessee.