January 25, 2016

Ministry Myth: Your Children Will Reject the Church

“A lie told often enough becomes the truth,” said Vladimir Lenin. Are we starting to believe what is not true and think that our children are doomed? We hear that the most rebellious children in any church are the elders' offspring. And, the pastor's child is often said to be the ringleader. We might be tempted to think that God is powerless among children of elders, who are destined to leave the church and reject the faith. That is a myth.

Example: My own children, offspring of a teaching elder, were raised in the church. They were privileged to hear the Word regularly preached and to see it applied in believers' lives.

Anecdotal observations suggest that they had fewer doubts and rebelled less than children who grew up in homes without a high regard for the things of God. With God's help, neither my daughter nor my son was a leader in disobedience. And, they grew up to love and serve the church. Furthermore, they are each raising pastors' children in the Lord. (To read more about my kids' experiences in the Church, see God's Family and Yours on this blog.)

Science backs up what I observed first-hand. A Barna Research Group study seems to show that, while pastors' kids have spiritual doubts like other people in the church who are their age, they don't reject Christianity more often. In 2013,  Barna reported on nationwide survey of Protestant pastors about their children, which found that pastors' kids "are pretty normal—about as likely as other kids raised in the Church to experience significant spiritual doubts." Statistics showed that "two out of every five pastors (40%) say their child, age 15 or older, went through a period where they significantly doubted their faith." This compares with about 38% of Millennials with a Christian background who report the same lack of faith.

In addition, only 7% of the pastors said their children no longer identify with being called a Christian, according to Barna. This closely matches the national prodigal rate of about 9% among Millennials. Ultimately, it appears that most of the kids, both of elders and laypeople, resolved their doubts. 

Therefore, it seems that some of the pastors' children are wandering, but not all are doubting, rebelling, misbehaving or turning their backs on the beliefs of the Church forever.

We need to do our part by spending time with our children, praying faithfully for and with our kids and setting good examples of godly obedience. But, we shouldn't have a fatalistic view that the baby on our lap today will undoubtedly reject the faith tomorrow. And, even if we do have a rebellious teenager in our family, we should not give up hope and assume that she will never repent. As Tolkien said, "Not all who wander are lost."

From Barna.org.  Prodigal Pastors' Kids: Fact or Fiction? Accessed 1-24-16.

Other Ministry Myths:
You Must Know All, See All
You Must Have Musical Talent or Teaching Gifts
You Can't Have Close Friends in Your Church 

Your Husband is Married to Your Church


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