Why is the subject of our kids leaving the church such a hard thing to speak about?4 min read

This is a question I often ask when I lead seminars. When we look around our congregations, this subject of kids leaving the faith is often hard to speak about, especially for parents. Parents often do not want to admit the deep pain and hurt that they experience day-in and day-out for fear of judgment on their parenting skills. Pastors or church workers especially worry what members of the congregation would think if they only knew—after all, they are supposed to be the leaders and have it all together. But really, have we ever seen a perfect family? When we look at accounts in the Bible, we do not have any examples of perfection except through the life of Jesus Christ.

So what are some responses from parents? I would like to share a few:

“I think it is so hard because as parents we believe we have failed. We wonder what we could have done or should have done. It is hard to admit this and scary to think that our kids might not go to heaven and that we are somehow responsible.” —Mother of a prodigal

“We tend to feel ashamed to admit that our children have left the church and we in some way have failed to ground them in the faith. When we confront these realities and confess our failures, our Lord forgives us, motivates us to pray for them and ourselves, and enables us to stay in touch with them, to love them and possibly restore them to God’s people.” —Father of a Prodigal

When children have left the church and faith in Jesus Christ, parents that are left behind often find themselves feeling isolated and alone. The feelings of guilt and shame can become overwhelming as they wonder what they did wrong, could have done better, or what they failed to do. The end result makes parents feel as though they are living solo with the need to carry this burden on their own.

Faith Family Reunion encourages congregations to pull together like-minded parents that share similar stories to find they are not alone on this road. One way they do this is through seminars where they address such questions geared toward parents as:

  1. Are you a parent whose children have left the church?
  2. Why is the subject of our kids leaving the church such a hard subject to speak about?
  3. What are some of the feelings you experience as a parent? What are some of the common feelings that parents experience?
  4. How has this experience changed you? Has it affected your faith?
  5. Do you know why your kids left the church? If not, why not ask them? We want to encourage you to inquire once you feel comfortable doing so.

Who Is Behind Faith Family Reunion?

We are a family much like yours. A prodigal daughter that returned to faith in Jesus Christ, along with her father, a retired LCMS pastor, and her dear loving mom, all with hearts for the hurting parents and their prodigal. During retreats, we provide a warm, comfortable, loving, and non-threatening environment where you might feel the freedom to express yourself. Our hope is that this time together can break down the walls of shame and secrecy. We hope to create a community within the church family where one feels safe to open up a dialogue and begin the conversation with others. We do not tell you what to do or tell you what you could have done better, but rather offer you a time where you can hear from a prodigal that has returned to the faith, and be surrounded by other parents going through similar situations in life and perhaps also learning to be more comfortable with your prodigal to interact with them more freely and openly. Faith Family Reunion’s goal is to have you leave with hope inspired by the Holy Spirit, realizing that you are not alone and maybe even form new friendships.

The Michigan District is partnering with Faith Family Reunion to offer two retreats on “Being a Parent of a Prodigal.” The first retreat will take place on October 21, 2017 at St. Matthew, Grand Rapids, and the other will be at Good Shepherd, Lansing on November 18, 2017. For more information and to register, click here. For more information on Faith Family Reunion and what they can do for church leaders, click here

Photo (c) Anggie/Lightstock

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About the Author

Paula Isakson grew up in a wonderful Christian home, with loving and supportive parents who raised her in the faith. But life took Paula in a different direction. She abandoned the faith of her childhood to find her own spiritual way in the world. Paula’s family and friends never gave up on her. The Holy Spirit continued to work in Paula’s life. Now she brings Faith Family Reunion together to share the story of a God who never gives up on His people and encourage attendees never to give up on the lost people in their lives!

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