From Christianity to Atheism: Parenting Millennials Under a Biblical Worldview
This article is adapted from Jason’s book Abandoned Faith.
Clayton, a sophomore in college, was influenced by a couple of classes taught by a professor from The Jesus Seminar. Clayton shocked his family by announcing, at his brother’s birthday party, that he was now an atheist. “Dad, I know you may not like this, but I don’t believe in the Bible anymore. I’ve come to learn that the Bible can’t be trusted. The church has doctored it up through the centuries. It’s all a lie.”
The family was shocked, and Clayton’s “coming out as an atheist” put a damper on the birthday party. “Don’t worry,” Clayton said, “I am still religious. I worship Richard Dawkins.”
I remember sitting with a (different) college student over a cup of coffee. He was pretty shaken up, but I didn’t know why. I sat back in my chair and asked him why he was so uneasy.
“I guess you can say that I’ve really been struggling a lot lately with what I’ve been raised to believe. I know it’s not entirely my parents fault, but thinking through a lot of different stuff, I gotta say, I don’t think they did a really good job teaching me the Bible and demonstrating how a Christian should live.”
Appreciating his candor, I said to him, “That may be the case. But rather than focus on the failures of your parents, are you open to figuring out what it is that you believe?”
Thankfully, he agreed.
After months of discipleship and meeting with the student’s parents—it warms my heart to say the family is reconnected and continues to live boldly for Christ.
I’ve seen a lot of similar situations. Despite the footprint of Christianity in America, its mark on Millennials is not as visible as it was with previous generations. LifeWay Research and Fuller Youth Institute estimated that over half of high school graduates will leave church and become disengaged in their faith.
Without parents who know and teach the fundamentals of the Christian faith to their children—the hearts and minds of millions of Millennials have become less inclined to become authentic followers of Jesus Christ.
In their book UnChristian, David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons write, “Our research shows that many of those outside of Christianity, especially younger adults, have little trust in the Christian faith, and esteem for the lifestyle of Christ followers is quickly fading among outsiders. They admit their emotional and intellectual barriers go up when they are around Christians, and they reject Jesus because they feel rejected by Christians.”
Millennials desire to live authentic lives marked with credibility. If you were to ask them, they will tell you they believe in significance and yearn to make a difference. There’s just one problem: They don’t know how to do it.
We don’t believe we will win back the hearts and minds of this age of “nones” by overtly trying to make Christianity “attractive.”
But we have faith. We have faith that God will do a miracle in the lives of our young people. That a revival will break out in the midst of this generation. That the child who abandoned faith will once again stand strong for Christ.
The Scriptures make it clear; it is incumbent for every parent to teach and train their children in the timeless truths of the Bible (Deuteronomy 6; Psalm 78). Paul writes, “What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 1:13).
When parents strive to be a pattern of Christianity to their Millennials, they are far more likely to follow in their parents’ footsteps. If parents lack the passion and drive to live it and teach it, then the world will ultimately mold children. You don’t want that, and neither do I.
More Christian parents need to be armed and ready to wage war for the hearts and souls of their adult-children. We are knee deep in a culture war for the faith of our children, and also for the fate of Christianity in America.
What do you and your spouse do to sharpen your Millennial’s biblical worldview?