It’s no secret that the millennial generation (those born between 1980-2000) is not as religious as the generations before it. According to Pew Research, 36 percent of millennials are unaffiliated with religion and 17 percent do not believe in God at all.
Perhaps you have raised, or are raising, a millennial who falls in this camp and you are worried about him or her. Or perhaps your child is younger and you are worried his generation will be even less religious.
Regardless of where your child falls on the religious spectrum, I do believe teaching your child to have faith in God is important for many different reasons. Having faith in God affects your child’s self-esteem, relationships, and a chance for success in life. And, I don’t think these statistics about millennials should make us hopeless. Parents, you hold a lot of power in your child’s life—the power to give her faith in God or make her want to walk away from God. If you want to make sure you prevent the latter from happening, consider the following approaches when talking to your child—millennial or not—about God.
Practice what you preach.
In his book, Abandoned Faith: Why Millennials Are Walking Away and How You can Lead Them Home, Dr. Alex McFarland sites “lack of spiritual authenticity among adults” as one of the top ten reasons millennials are walking away from the church and religion. They find it hypocritical.
I say this about little kids all the time, but it is true for all children: More is caught than taught. This is especially true for faith and religion. If you say you are a Christian, but your child sees you gossiping about your neighbor all the time, how will she believe that Christians really do love their neighbors? She won’t. She’ll just think Christians are hypocrites.
Before you tell your child you want her to have faith, make sure you are modeling the faith you want her to have.
Don’t shy away from the topic.
One of the biggest concerns I hear from parents about teaching faith to their kids is they are worried they don’t understand it well enough themselves, so they avoid talking about it altogether. I understand that. Teaching your child about God, heaven, and hell, and what the Scriptures say can be intimidating. But it is worth the courage it will take. If you never talk about God with your child, how will he get to decide what he believes in? How will he get to even explore faith and religion if the topic isn’t allowed in your home?
Don’t be afraid of what you don’t fully understand. Faith is somewhat mysterious for us all and so is a lot of life. Help your child embrace that mystery by talking openly about it.
When parents hear their child say something they disagree with, they feel the need to hurry up and convince him he’s wrong. The temptation is to preach first, listen later. But parents, you must reverse this. The more you preach, the less he’ll listen. Then, whatever you have to say about the goodness of God, going to church or religion, he will naturally tune out.
Show your child you are there for him by listening to him first. If he says something you disagree with about God or the church, don’t tell him so; simply be curious. Ask him more questions. This will make him feel known and cared for and later when he is deciding if he wants to go to church or if he believes in God, he will remember those conversations and feel confident he can make the choice himself.
Teach your child to have faith in God but be careful the way you go about it. Resist the urge to preach or Biblethump. Practice what you preach first and foremost and don’t avoid the topic and the hard questions—they will lead your child to an authentic faith and real belief.