Every Christian parent wants their child to correctly grasp the gospel. We want them to understand what it means to place their trust in Christ and follow Him.
As a student pastor, I had parents come to me with tears in their eyes about their teenager who was rebelling. The young person no longer had any concern for church and was actively pursuing a life contrary to Scripture.
In almost every instance, the teen’s actions were the fruit of seeds the parents had unwittingly planted years ago. Choices made, priorities set by the parents, directly influenced the current decisions of their child.
If you want to find yourself in that situation one day, lamenting a rebellious teenager who has left the church, here are five key steps to help your child misunderstand the gospel and what it means to be a Christian.
1. Don’t pray with them or for them. Be sure you never kneel beside their bed at night to pray with them and for them. Keep them unconcerned about prayer and unaware of the power that comes from spending that time talking with their Heavenly Father.
Since you aren’t praying with them, it probably won’t be very difficult to avoid praying for them as well. If you have to pray at all, just thank God for your food. Don’t bother asking Him to make you the parent you need to be or to draw your son or daughter to Himself.
2. Never ask for forgiveness. You don’t want them to think you are weak and in need of something or Someone to save you. Teach them, whether actively or passively, that only weak people need to ask for forgiveness.
Sure, you and they both know that you mess up, but don’t admit that to them. Show them we move past our mistakes by ignoring them and refusing to learn from them, not by acknowledging, confessing, and repenting of them.
3. Drop them off at church. Sometimes you just need some you time and that’s frequently going to happen during church services or activities. You need to run to the store, go exercise, do anything and everything except go to church with them.
Teach them that most of the church services are just for kids. Real grown ups don’t need that stuff more than a few times a month, if that. Oh and make sure to plan lots of weekend trips for the whole family so you don’t get too involved in the church.
4. Focus all your attention on their mistakes. They need to learn that you will not tolerate their mistakes. You’re going to continually bring up things they’ve done in the past to rub it in their face.
Let your kids know that grace, mercy and forgiveness are fine for church talk, but in the real world that won’t cut it. They don’t need encouragement and praise. They just need tough love—heavy on the tough, light on the love.
5. Keep them away from mission trips. Whatever you do, don’t let them go on a mission trip. Remember, you’re trying to make sure they misunderstand the gospel. If you let them go serve somewhere else, they may see just how big and life-changing the gospel truly is.
It could be dangerous for them to fly across the world to tell other people about Jesus and spread His love. It’s much better they stay in your house and watch self-obsessed celebrities on TV. That way, they can value things like popularity and money, instead of service and sacrifice.
What to do instead
Hopefully, no one reading this actually wants their child to misunderstand the gospel, but you may be doing one or more of these five things unaware of the potential results.
You may not realize the impact you have on the spiritual life of your child. As a parent, you are the greatest influence, even when they slam the door to their room or tell you that they hate you.
A Focus on the Family study found that among the religious unaffiliated—those who have no affiliation with any faith—only 11% say they had a strong faith as a child and grew up in a home where vibrant faith was practiced and taught. If you love Jesus and teach them to do the same, chances are they will.
Don’t read this, however, and think the solution is to try harder in your own strength or beat yourself up if you’ve made mistakes in the past. That would mean you were misunderstanding the gospel yourself. It’s bigger and greater than all our mistakes and failures, even our parenting ones.
Love Jesus, rely on His Spirit, and let the gospel work in and through you as a person and as a parent. If that’s the case, you won’t have to worry about your kids misunderstanding the gospel. They’ll see it you and understand it just fine.