It’s happening in greater and greater numbers. Some polls and surveys say as high as 50%. Our youth – our kids – are going off to college seemingly grounded in their faith and returning home either disillusioned with the church or worse, having completely abandoned their faith.
This is not just happening at secular colleges but at Christian-affiliated schools as well.
One explanation offered by research at the Christian-based Fuller Youth Institute is that in the past 20 years, more and more parents are abdicating their Biblical mandate to play a central role in the spiritual formation of their children (Proverbs 22:6, Ephesians 6:4, Deuteronomy 11:19, etc).
Dr. Kara Powell, Executive Director of the Fuller Youth Institute, suggests that as we have “professionalized” youth ministry over the past several decades, more and more parents feel they can “outsource” their child’s spiritual upbringing to the paid staff at their church.
The result? A faith life that is built on dozens of hours at youth group instead of rooted and strengthened by thousands of hours at home.
Being one of those “professionalized” ministry-type people, I don’t disagree with the premise. After all, it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve heard, “that’s what you get paid to do” when it comes to either discipleship or winning people to Christ.
But here’s the thing (and this might hurt a little):
Fathers: How much time do you spend with your son at sporting events? Either practicing, coaching, or attending?
Mothers: How many girls’-day-outs have you had with your daughter? Shopping, manicuring, or eating out?
The honest truth is we make time for what we want to do. We make time to parent in the areas we want to parent. Most often, the hard stuff gets left to “someday soon” that quickly turns into “too late now” as you say goodbye to your child at the threshold of their dorm room.
The good news is that while the statistics may seem disturbing and daunting, the solution is quite simple: We need to make the discipleship of our children not just a priority but THE priority in our parenting. After all, eternity outweighs anything earth can offer.
And more good news: it doesn’t have to be complicated!
Discipleship within our families can take on many different looks. It can be as simple as cracking open the Bible at breakfast, reading through scripture, and discussing what you’ve read. Or, it could be more involved like setting aside a structured time to walk through a family devotional together.
The key is not so much choosing a method as it is choosing the action.
The hard reality is that someone will speak into your child’s spiritual life – and that won’t always be a good thing. By the time s/he leaves for college, it’s either going to be parents, peers, or professors.
Who do you trust most with your son’s or daughter’s spiritual future?