At times I have wondered if some of the world’s church related statistics have not been worded in such a way as to discourage parents—especially Christian parents.
It’s hard to miss that ugly declaration in bulletins and periodicals everywhere. One such report from George Barna’s stats proclaimed that an average of 70% of teens will leave the church after high school graduation.[i] Should we be frightened? What should be our response?
One blogger testifies that families and the church are dysfunctional and that kids want to get away from both. They want to find their own “functionality” for their lives without the problems they see around them.[ii]
Not only are the children leaving, but scores of women are said to have already left the church for institutions where their voices may be heard from the pulpits and stages. Supposedly even preachers are leaving for systems where they are not so restricted by laws.[iii]
My husband and I have given birth to three strong-willed, independent-thinking children, beginning with our firstborn in 1963. Later we adopted two more equally strong willed children whose families were not there for them. While I was a public school teacher, my husband was a full time minister, and after more than a half-century of investing our lives in our children’s spiritual development, supplementing their education, eventually beginning to home school, we have learned a whole lot about what it means to transfer the baton to the next generation.
Early on we learned that home educators are particularly blessed with an edge. They have the benefit of access to their children 24/7, leading by example and exercising a powerful influence, primarily because they have the luxuries of time and togetherness. Yes, after I became a homeschooling mom, my thoughts have often been occupied with pencils, papers, and curriculum, but my overriding mission and passion has always been more about imparting spiritual concepts to our children than simply pursuing an academic agenda.
The average Christian parent whose children are sent out to be educated doesn’t get to see his school-aged child for seven to ten hours of each weekday, because during those hours children are on the way to school, being influenced by the world in school, or on the way home from school. That same child may spend about as much time sleeping in his bed at night. The hours left for meaningful parent-child interaction are not only few, but they also are chock-full of stressed carpools, debriefing, dinner preparations, chores, homework, and assorted extracurricular activities. The fact is, the world’s formal schooling holds families hostage to a system that dominates their days, nights, and weekends. Within that system, only crumbs of time are left for directing the children toward discipleship.
Worse yet, while the vice of secular academia grips these vulnerable kids in its jaws, they are likely to be exposed to all manner of negative influences during their countless hours on campus. In public schools it’s no secret that their course of study will be permeated with secular humanistic philosophy,[iv] while at the same time they could be dodging bullets,[v] bullies,[vi]blatant sexual perversity,[vii] and peer pressure, to name a few of the dangers they could encounter daily. And let’s be honest, private schools cannot guarantee a child exemption from such hazards.
On weekends (if there’s time after soccer, hockey, band, and football), this same parent may drop his children off to attend church programs designed to save them from the deplorable indoctrination experienced while engaged in their educational institution. Crazy, wouldn’t you say? Such programs are just one more way for the world to take the children away from the influence of the parents.
Local churches too often offer elaborate décor, Wii games, basketball, air hockey, and other age-appropriate amusements. These folks are serious about impacting the youth, but in my decades of experience, I have learned that providing myriad special youth nights and extravagant pleasure for teens doesn’t keep the teen sheep in the fold. Institutions will not save our kids. It’s up to parents to create our own revolution in our homes for our sons and daughters.
I said “home educators have an edge,” but I didn’t say “they have it in the bag.” Many enthusiastic homeschool parents are smugly touting their youngsters the “signs and wonders following them,” but a word of caution: babes under your wing aren’t yet adults who’ve decided to follow Jesus.
I’ve met many disappointed parents and heard much debate related to this topic. I don’t have all the answers, but I’ve found what I think is the non-negotiable in this all-important matter of getting—and keeping—our kids in the race (Heb. 12:1-2, KJV).
It begins with us. The good news is that we are the models! Wow! There is so much power in our very own hands to impact the next generation! The bad news is that we are . . . the . . . models. Sigh! What a huge responsibility we have before God to make right choices for the sake of our children.
It’s my conviction that we pass on to our children far more than our physical DNA. Our sons and daughters will reflect what we are. We establish the standard and cast the mold, and that’s serious stuff. We can preach truth day-in-and-day-out, but if we aren’t living it, kids know that. You can’t get anything past them.
So . . . what are you? I’m not asking if you’re a church member, a homeschool parent, how much money you give, or what good works you do. What we are and what we do can be two very different things.
Are we simply religious followers in systems, attending to those duties prescribed by the church or traditions of men, or are we decidedly dedicated disciples of Christ, recognizing that “…he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again” (2 Cor. 5:15, KJV)?
As Christian parents, we are far more than educators equipping our students for a future vocation; we are the primary ministers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to our impressionable youngsters. Isn’t that sobering?
If we believe Jesus’ statement that “The disciple is not above his master: but every one that is perfect shall be as his master” (Luke 6:40, KJV), our mission is paramount. We cannot deny that our toughest job is to first lead ourselves strongly (with the baton firmly in hand) to grow into the image of our Master (Eph. 4:11-13). Let’s be done with lesser things and “. . . So run, that ye may obtain.” (1 Cor. 9:24, KJV)!