Here are four ways that we might unknowingly push our children away from God.
There may be no greater way that parents push their children away from God than by professing Christ but not living it. I am reminded of a time when a child was told to answer the phone and tell the person that mom was not there. What does this tell the child? It seems to give them permission to lie, and children learn early on that lying is okay in some circumstances. When parents behave one way at church and then live totally different lives at home, children can see through that hypocrisy or duplicity a mile away. This drives them away from “religion” but also away from God.
Pushing Them Toward God
It’s ironic that when we push our children toward God and into a relationship with Him, we can push them away from Him. Jesus never forced Himself on anyone but only said, “Follow Me” (Matthew 16:24), not “You had better follow Me.” When parents are trying to put pressure on their children to be saved, they might cause a false conversion by their caving into their pressure just so the parents will get off their backs, or they might say they’re saved just to please their parents. But parents make a poor imitation of the Holy Spirit and can do more harm than good when they try to force their children into being saved. Let the Spirit of God convict them of their sins. It’s not a parent’s job to save them but only to point them to Christ.
The Hand Off
When parents abdicate or give up their role as their children’s primary spiritual teacher and hand off all that responsibility to a Sunday school teacher or a youth leader, they are giving up the greatest influence their children will ever have, which is his or her parents. What happens is that the Sunday school teacher’s or youth leader’s opinions are held in greater esteem than the parents’ opinions in spiritual or biblical matters.
When parents try to compare their own child with other children, the child might feel inadequate in the eyes of his parents. If parents say, “Look how good Jacob is at church, and see how well he behaves,” then they are sending their child the message that he is to be more like Jacob and not more like God. Also, when he sees the parents brag on another child and not him, then he’ll feel like a failure, which might even make them give up on trying since “when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding” (2 Corinthians 10:12).
A great way that I was told to help children stay in the faith or come to Christ and be saved is to remind them of the great things God has done in the past so they can trust God with their future. The Old Testament command for parents remains the same today, as parents and grandparents are told, “You shall teach them to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers to give them, as long as the heavens are above the earth” (Deuteronomy 11:19-21).