In a 2021 Gallup survey, 47% of all Americans belonged to some form of a religious congregation (church, synagogue, or mosque). These numbers are down from 70% in 1999. Prior to the 21st Century, the statistics in this area hardly moved. The first year that these statistics were recorded by Gallup was 1937, and in that year, the percentage was 73%. Now, in 21 years this statistic has dropped 23 percentage points, while hardly moving for the previous 62 years.
These numbers indicate a massive exodus away from all religious institutions, especially churches. Not a single religious congregation is immune from this retreat, including all cults, false religions, or eastern dogmas.
At the same time as this exodus is happening, 9 in 10 still say they believe in God in America.
Many of you would be right in being skeptical in the form of god that America believes in nowadays. Belief in god is all over the place, and there is no consensus. However, it is not controversial to believe in God. It’s well-accepted.
What is controversial is belief in Jesus Christ, but that is a subject for a different email!
Depending on who you believe, there are anywhere between 60% and 80% of young people from church-attending families that are leaving the church as soon as they leave the home. For Christian parents that truly love the Lord today, this is a terrifying percentage.
For many Christian leaders, the idea of raising a “Prodigal” is inevitable. Pastors and teachers no longer handle the subject as an “if” but a “when”. As in, “when your children get to be about 18 years old, you need to love them even when they leave the church for a little while.“
To that statement, I want to share a few more statistics with you. And, this actually gets to the mission of what Teach Them Diligently is about.
The statistics above are actually representative of the fact that genuine faith in Christ is passed through family homes from parent to children more so than through churches and institutions. In other words, children leave the church because it has no meaning to them.
Therefore, the home was the only thing keeping them in church but it was not because of faith but coercion or merely family practice. The children were ready to leave the church long before they left the home.
In a 2017 study from Focus on the Family, only 11% of young people leave the church if they claimed a strong faith as a child, or grew up in homes that taught a genuine walk with Christ. The other 89% say that they never really believed and didn’t feel a strong push in their families to believe. So, what this study is pointing out is that church congregations ARE shrinking and people ARE leaving them. But, they are being left by young people that had no meaningful faith to begin with from families that really had no meaningful faith in Christ, or they lived in families that simply broke religion down to a bunch of works and not faith.
So, the greatest erosion of our faith is happening in churches and families that would be called “Cultural Christians” and out of homes that don’t teach a deeper understanding of the Bible or practice a genuine life and faith in following Christ.
When I was much younger, Leslie and I attended a church in which the pastor used to say often that the goal of most Christian parents was simply to keep their children out of jail and to not embarrass the family.
As Focus on the Family states it in their study, kids are switching lanes, not roads. American homes for the most part are not focused on raising kids with a deep faith in Christ because it is not important to the parents. This gets back to goals.
What is the “Big Why” for most families?
I know, that is pretty harsh to say because there are a lot of parents reading this that have a genuine love of the Lord, but they have a child that is a “prodigal.” And, it is true that parents can’t save their children. No one is grandfathered into heaven. So, how are all these statistics to be taken??
First, families do not spend any time together. With hectic schedules, families spend less than 45 minutes together on average per day. (There are a lot of studies that corroborate these numbers.) I would say that with all of the rushing around, and children and parents spending more time at jobs and school then they do in their beds at home that statistics like 80% leaving the church are not surprising. Then when families are home they are watching television, looking at their phones, and playing video games in separate rooms.
How are parents to pass down a legacy of faith if they never spend time with the children?
Our belief is that spending time with our children and engagement of parents in the discipleship of their children is the tipping point in flipping the above percentages.
As Christ said, “Suffer the Little Children come to me, and do not hinder them…” (Mt. 19:14)
Our mission as parents is to bring our children to Christ, and let him do the work of saving them. Yes, it’s grace that saves our children, but God has put us in the lives of our children to bring them to Him. That is our mission and our calling.
But, before we do this, Jesus has to be a big deal to us!
As I have said before,
We reproduce who we are, but we teach what we know.
We are to be intimately involved in bringing our children to Christ in every opportunity that we have. When we sit down, when we walk by the way, when we lie down, and when we rise up (Dt. 6: 7-9). We are to surround our children in the Word. Soak them in the Scriptures. And, we are to live as though they are true.
Thankfully, the call on parents is not to be perfect. But, we are to bring our kids to Christ and let Him do the work of redeeming them.
The question of homeschooling is wrapped around anger with schools or a teacher or bullies or a failing education system or “woke-ism” or Covid protocols. I don’t think any of these are bad reasons. These would be a catalyst to homeschool, but they are not our calling as parents.
My encouragement to you is to wrap big decisions around the Big Why of Christian parents. Your mission is to bring your children to Christ. Set them at His feet and allow Him and His Word to work on their hearts.
What will bring your children to Christ the best? Every big decision, rehearse this question…
- Should mom or dad come home and quit their job?—What will bring my children to Christ the best?
- Should we go to church?—What will bring my children to Christ the best?
- Should we leave this church and find another?—What will bring my children to Christ the best?
- Should we move?—What will bring my children to Christ the best?
- Should I have my devotions?—What will bring my children to Christ the best?
- Should we homeschool or send them to a private school?—What will bring my children to Christ the best?
Maybe, you think I am being extreme when I encourage you to order your life around this calling of Christian parents…I hope so! Life is too short and your time with your kids is too short. Sometimes you need to be extreme…
For the sake of the heart of your kids…Extreme is not always foolish.This is actually the mission of Teach Them Diligently. We want to equip parents to bring their children to Christ. Obviously, we believe homeschooling is a powerful tool in bringing your children to Christ, but we also believe that homeschooling for the sake of homeschooling is not the mission. And, just because we homeschool does not mean that we are discipling our children.
A thriving Christian home is centered around discipleship and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As parents, our home is our Jerusalem. Do you believe that? If so, Praise the Lord!