Much good material has been written of late about why children abandon the faith in which they were raised. Children may also leave the faith because they were made to be the most important people in their home. Let me explain.
Parents, your highest priority in life cannot be your children. As wonderful as children are, if they become the main focus of your life you will provide a distorted view of God’s world for them. Your primary focus is to know and honor God. You must love and know God first and foremost. That is why Jesus sums up the commandments by saying that first you should love God with all that you are (Matt. 22:37-40). If this isn’t what motivates you, you will not be able to exercise faith when difficult times come. Faith in man cannot sustain life. If your hopes and dreams are bound to your children or your spouse, you will be disappointed, perhaps even bitter. If you expect your spouse and/or your children to provide the comfort and support that can only come from God you will be deeply hurt. You will set yourself up to be disappointed and crushed when your family fails you. No spouse, no child can provide comfort that can only be found in God. God will have no other gods before him. Your first loyalty must be to God and God alone.
After God, your husband or wife is to be the focus of your life. In Ephesians 5 husbands and wives are instructed to relate to each other as they would to the Lord. Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loves His church. Wives are to submit to their husbands as they would to the Lord. The point is that your spouse is to be the most important person in your life apart from God. God intends for your relationship with your spouse to be permanent in this life.
Children, then, come next. You are to train your children to know God and then prepare to leave your home. Yet, things get turned around. Husbands and wives often spend time attempting to change each other—to train each other, if you will. When the spouse doesn’t respond well to this “training,” then some conclude it is time to leave. Children, on the other hand, may be accommodated and not trained, and parents may want them to stay forever. In the end, for far too many families, both the spouses and children leave and nothing is left but relational rubble.
It is this relational rubble that can also lead to children becoming cynical and disaffected by Christianity. Children who have been the misplaced objects of worship by their parents cannot bear the weight of being idols for their parents. Children who are a means to their parents enjoyment and personal fulfillment will often despise the beliefs of their family and church. Children who have been relationally abandoned in the service of the god of performance will find no comfort in a gospel that appears to be rigged in their parents favor.
These are also reasons children turn from God. Perhaps they are even the underlying reasons for the departure of youth from church. Parents, love God, love your spouse, and in love, prepare your children for the dangerous world that is waiting for them. Doing anything other than this will make your faith appear self-serving. God deserves better than to be represented this way. Self-service will ultimately destroy you and your children. Attempting to save your life through your children will consume you and them. Do not live for your children. Live for God!