Part 1: Unspeakable Pain

This article is adapted from Jason’s book Abandoned Faith.

Many millennials have said that although they were raised in a Christian home, Christianity was never at the core of everything they did. I remember one college student tell me, “I think the only reason my parents go to church is to feel better about themselves.” Another said, “The only time we learned about the Bible was when we went to church.”

Millennials are saying the gospel was not at the center of their home. Millennials may have received a degree of faith from mom or dad, but it wasn’t enough for them to see the value and importance faith has in their own lives.

This is a painful reality for parents. Painful because their millennials are right. Faith went as far as going to church. Sure, you throw in a few extra-church activities, a few family devotions, and lectures about doing the right thing. But the truth is, many parents feel they failed in leading their children spiritually.

Furthermore, parents have become so overly protective that we have neglected the protection of God over our children. We love our children, but God loves them so much more. We know our children better than anyone, yet God knew them before they were born.

Too often we pick on the millennial for being lazy or too dependent on mom or dad. In reality, the actual problem is often mom and dad. The fear-driven parenting creates an unhealthy level of dependency. Out of fear, mom and dad never adjusted their level of attachment in their kid’s lives as they got older.

The church pews are filled with parents experiencing deep pain. Pain over the fact that their child is no longer living for Christ. Pain over the fact that they may be to blame.

Many parents will tell you they are hurting. Hurting over the bad choices their adult children are making. Hurting over the lost intimacy they once had with their son or daughter.

Often times we are so worried about the spiritual state of millennials that we have neglected to care for the condition of parents. The amount of pain experienced by parents is overwhelming. They are getting hammered. Take this email I received from a mother about her son:

When your children were younger, it was so much easier to involve yourself in their lives. But when they get older and leave home, it’s much more difficult to know your place. When your child pushes you away and makes their own bad decisions and then wants your help, only to disregard it again, breaks your heart. As a parent, instead of looking forward to talking with your adult children, you begin to dread the calls because you know that there will be another issue to deal with. You want to be the hero and have all the answers. But you know no matter what you say, they won’t always listen. It’s a tough place to be in because you feel disrespected, and angry—and on top of it all…you feel like you failed your child. When all I want is to have mature and healthy relationship with them. All I want is for my children to need me in their lives.

What a moving email. The heart of this mother captures what many more parents feel. If we are going to win millennials back to Christ—we first need to win parents back to hope and healing.

Stay tuned for part 2 to see how parents can overcome this painful reality.