Proverbs 22:16 says, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” According to a 2008 study commissioned by the Bush Administration, parents are attempting to do just that. The article, entitled Children in Christian Families more Likely to Attend Church Services, reveals that more that 96% of Christian children attend church. At first glance, this is great news. But don’t celebrate too fast. In a 2009 article, entitled How many Youth are Leaving the Church, researchers astoundingly disclose that “as little as 4% [of the 96%] will remain Christian”. So what happened to the other ninety-two percent?
It’s no secret that more and more young adults, after being raised in church, are choosing to leave their faith for the world. They are sprinting to the very things that they were taught to avoid; excited to indulge in that which they know could eternally separate them from God. But, why?
The answer is simple. Our children are attending church, but the enmity of their hearts towards God and His laws have not been altered. Week after week, Sunday after Sunday, we create, for our children, an attractive experience in church. They participate – doing all the things that Christian youth do – but never have a true encounter with God.
The enemy is after our youth, and in a zealous effort to save them from the world, we have missed the essentials. We’ve become so caught up in the “how” to get them in, that we’ve lost focus of “why” we’re trying so hard to draw them in the first place. The desire of every parent for their child should be salvation – conversion of the heart, alteration of mindset, deliverance from sin, and not just participation in church.  If our children are to remain faithful into young adulthood, they must have a relationship with God which is not possible without, first, having an encounter with Him.
Nowhere in the Bible will you find someone who had an encounter with God, and was left unchanged.
Consider Paul. Born as Saul of Tarsus, Paul was a very religious man. Even before he became a follower of Christ, he was actively involved in his ministry. Having received the best possible training under Gamaliel, a great teacher of Jewish beliefs, Saul was a good Pharisee who knew the word and sincerely believed that his conduct and participation in certain activities was supported by God.  With much knowledge of God, Saul zealously headed to Damascus in hopes of capturing Christians for persecution. But it was on this trip, that Saul, now Paul, had an encounter with God and received salvation.
Who would’ve known that prior to this trip, Saul was not saved! After all, he knew the Bible and was zealous about the work of God even volunteering to participate in the activities.
It wasn’t until after his encounter on the Road to Damascus that Paul says his new life in Christ began (Acts 26:12-20). It was here that God took off the mask and revealed to Saul who he was and who he was to be (Paul) according to His will. Paul made the decision, after meeting God, to follow Him. This meant forsaking that which he was knew. How is it possible for Paul to, now believe the Gospel, but continue to persecute Christians – those who also believed the Gospel? Would it make sense for Paul to follow Christ, but continue to fellowship with those who persecute Him?
It is for this reason that people cannot be saved without being separated from the world. We are trying to save our youth, but at the same time tell them that it’s okay to still be a part of the culture from which God saved you. They have to choose – just as Paul did. But they can’t have both. There is no dual citizenship with God. Paul not only confessed with His mouth that His new life in Christ had begun, but also with his actions (which were now contradictory to his previous actions).  But walking away from that which he once knew was an automatic once he had a personal encounter with God.
So, now I ask you, “How can one live in Christ never having a face-to-face meeting with Him? Meeting God is essential to building a relationship with Him.
Do you think that maybe our children are leaving the church because we’re asking them to follow, and even more difficult, live for, someone they’ve never even met? Would you spend the rest of your life with someone you don’t know – only hear about?
So, now what?
For direction, let’s look to Peter and John’s example. Acts, chapter 3, tells the story of Peter and the Crippled Beggar.  The Bible tells us that there was a lame man who was carried to the temple gates everyday to beg. In the Jewish religion, it was considered honorable to give money to the poor.  So, people would, on their way into the temple courts, give him what he asked – money.  And at the end of the day, the lame man would leave, just to return the next day reliving the experience – still crippled and in a position to beg.
[Like those who carried the man, we carry our children to church. They have an experience, some even get to show their talent, and they go home. Soon, returning just to relive the same experience all over again.]
On this particular day, Peter and John, were on their way to the temple to pray when they were asked by the beggar for money. Peter and John looked at the man. Then, Acts 3:4,5 reads, “And fixing his eyes on him, with John, Peter said, ‘Look at us.’ So he gave them his attention, expecting to receive something from them.”
[Just as Peter instructed the lame man to look at them, we should be able to tell our youth to look at us. When they are struggling in their walk or just in need of assistance, what they need to see is the example of those who have gone before them – us. We must be a living epistle of the very words we teach them. Many times, it’s through our lives that God’s word (His power) is illuminated for them.]
Peter and John didn’t, however, give the man money. They were able to see that this man needed something different. Had they given him what he wanted, like all the others had, he would still need someone to carry him to that same spot the next day.
Peter told the man that he didn’t have what he wanted, but instead he could offer something he needed. What he was offering would be life altering. The lame man would undergo a radical change that would be the beginning of a new way of life for him.
Acts Chapter 3 continues:
“…Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” 7 And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. 8 So he, leaping up, stood and walked and entered the temple with them—walking, leaping, and praising God. 9 And all the people saw him walking and praising God. 10 Then they knew that it was he who sat begging alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.
So, what was it that Peter and John had to offer that all the others didn’t? We find out in Acts 3: 11-12.
11Now as the lame man who was healed held on to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them in the porch which is called Solomons, greatly amazed. 12So when Peter saw it, he responded to the people: Men of Israel, why do you marvel at this? Or why look so intently as us, as though by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk?
Peter goes on to tell the people that it was not by his own power that the lame man was made to walk. Rather, by the power of God through faith. God gave a man with a church experience (routine) a God encounter (inconceivable) in which no one else could take credit for.
The humble lives of both Peter and John testified to the Power of God. God was able to use them because they did not desire to be recognized and lived lives that others could follow. If we want the young folk to change, we have to change. How can we lead the younger generation to a place we’ve never personally been?
Ask yourself, why do you come to church? Why do you drag your children to God’s house week after week? Are you looking for a temporary experience or do you desire a personal encounter with God?
If we want our children to be among the 4% that remains faithful, we must make changes in our own lives. We have to stop bringing people to church and start bringing them to God.  We must allow God to change us so that we’re in a position to share the power of God with our children when they’re in need.
We have missed the mark as a church! Let’s get back to God’s original purpose. Each individual starting with oneself.
If we truly desire to see our children change by the power of God and become the individuals God is calling them to be, there are a few things we must put a stop to.

  • Don’t give them what they want just to keep them. Church becomes entertainment and they attend for the wrong reasons.
  • Don’t prophesy to a call just because there’s a talent. Pre-maturely prophesying to a child’s gift may cause them to place their talent above their obedience to Christ.
  • Don’t allow those that are struggling in their sin to exercise their talent in the church. It leads them to believe that God accepts their offering because of their ability to perform versus their life of sacrifice (holiness).
  • Don’t focus on bringing your children to church, rather bringing them to God.  By doing so, you leave them open to seeking Him instead of all the other non-essentials that make up the church.
It is important to remember that God will not only hold us accountable to train our children in the way they should go, but also for being an example after which they can follow, and a vessel upon whom they can draw power.
by Pastor Tavares Robinson