According to the book “Sticky Faith: Everyday Ideas to Build Lasting Faith in Your Kids” (*affiliate link) by Kara E. Powell and Chap Clark, an incredible 60 percent of high school students will walk away from their faith upon high school graduation, and many will never return.
An article on crossexamined.org lists the statistic even higher — at 75 percent.
Think for a second about your children and their two or three closest friends. According to the statistics, only ONE person in the group will remain a Christian after graduation.
The good news, however, is that there ARE several things you can do to help prepare your children for life as a Christian in the real world in order to improve their chances of remaining strong in the faith – and the sooner you start, the better.
Don’t send your children out into the real world unprepared, where unfortunately there are plenty of people just waiting to laugh at their religion and pick it apart.
Here are seven ways you can prepare your children to be Christians in the real world – starting today.
*This post contains affiliate links. Please see my full disclosure policy for additional information.
1. Make Sure Your Children Know What They Believe and Why
Your children have spent years in Sunday School, but do they REALLY know what they believe and why? Enough to explain and defend it?
Unfortunately, all too many kids (and adults!) spend years learning Bible stories without actually ever learning the major tenants of the faith. Then, when push comes to shove, they don’t have a solid foundation to stand on – just a bunch of stories and half-hearted Christian-isms.
The Bible isn’t true because you say so, because they think it is, or because they feel like it is. The Bible is true because there are historical facts that lead us to the conclusion that it’s the absolute best explanation.
Curious what those facts are?
You can read all about them in my series, Christianity: Fact vs. Fiction? Examining the Evidence You Need to Know. Read it, and then talk to your kids about it.
Or grab one of these really good books on apologetics (a fancy word for the defense of the faith), written by people way smarter than me:
- The Case for Christ: A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus by Lee Stroebel – one of my favorites! (comes in a kids’ version too)
- Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side by Natasha Crain – I’m a huge fan of her site, Christian Mom Thoughts – it has tons of great articles on raising Godly Kids in today’s world.
- Cold-Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels by J. Warner Wallace (comes in a kids’ version too)
2. Encourage Your Children to Make Their Relationship Real
Of course, being able to spout off a few timely Bible verses or interesting Christian History facts is nice, but it’s not enough to keep your children walking in faith. They also need a real relationship with God that they can call their own.
And the best way for children to develop this relationship? Two ways:
- To see you model your faith in the midst of every day life (Not sure how to do that? My book, Putting God First, will help)
- To have the time and space to develop this relationship.
Make your faith an integral part of your life, and encourage your children to do the same.
- Let your children see you praying and reading the Bible
- Talk about the sermon after church and how you can apply it to your real life
- Don’t be afraid to share some (age-appropriate) fears and struggles with your children, and how God is helping you get through them.
- Model what it looks like to go to God when you want to make the right decision.
- Read the Bible together and talk about what you read – put yourself in the story. How would you respond?
- Encourage children to have a regular quiet time and space where they can pray, read their Bibles and journal.
3. Be Honest About the Struggles Your Children Will Face
While it’d be nice if we could all stick our heads in the sand and pretend like nothing bad is ever going to happen and our children are never going to make poor choices, the fact of the matter is: it is and they are. So instead of ignoring the issues, why don’t we prepare for them and help our children do the same?
Did you know that almost 50 percent of high school seniors have abused a drug of some kind or that 71 percent of high school seniors have used alcohol – even though they’re still three years away from the legal drinking age? (Source) Crazy. But that’s the world we live in.
Your kids aren’t that old yet? That doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. Boys typically try alcohol for the first time at age 11, girls at 13.
Yes, there’s a chance your kids aren’t doing these things, but it may not be as good of a chance as you think. That’s why you have to make sure they are prepared–and the sooner the better.
Do your kids know how to tell a friend no, excuse themselves from a questionable situation and stand their ground even when being mocked?
Do they understand the real risks, or is it more of a “Well, I know I’m not supposed to, but I’m sure I’ll be fine?”
According to an article on DoSomething.org, “About 50% of high school seniors do not think it’s harmful to try crack or cocaine once or twice and 40% believe it’s not harmful to use heroin once or twice.”
Better make sure your teens are in the half you think they are…
4. Encourage Your Children to Find Good Friends
“Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character,'” according to 1 Corinthians 15:33.
And it’s true. The friends your children make throughout high school, college and beyond will have a tremendous impact on them spiritually, especially when one of those friendships eventually turns into something more.
And yet, most people aren’t intentional about their friendships. They often simply hang out with whoever happens to be around, or they gravitate toward people who like them, who make them feel good about themselves.
Teach your children to choose their friends wisely. Instruct them in what to look for, what to do when a friend starts heading down the wrong path, and what to do if they are having difficulty making any friends at all.
And then, go one step farther. Get to know your children’s friends. Have them over. Find out what kinds of things they like and what they are into. Sure, they may push back at first, but be nonchalant and bribe them with pizza and laser tag or shopping. Whatever works. Just stay involved.
5. Help Your Children Set Goals and Think Through Their Choices
Chances are, you’ve probably sat down to talk to your children about what direction they would like to head in career-wise, but have you ever talked to your children about what they would like their spiritual life to look like or what kind of people they would like to be?
All too often, kids (and adults!) make their choices based on what feels right and looks good in the moment. Instill in your children a strong sense of identity and purpose, however, and it may be just the driving force they need to make it through the rough teen and college years, when so many decisions are made that will impact the entire rest of their lives.
Not sure how to start this conversation? Say something like, “So, I happened to glance through the obituaries earlier and I came across this interesting story. [Insert a few details.] Anyways, it got me thinking about what kind of life I want to have and how I want to be remembered after I die. Have you ever thought about that?”
Open up and share some of what’s on your heart, and even if they don’t respond right then, chances are, you’ll get them thinking.
6. Make Sure Your Children Know that You are ALWAYS There
As difficult as it can be to see your children making choices that go against your religious beliefs, the fact is that your children are going to make poor choices. Making mistakes is a part of being human, and all too often, that’s how we learn.
The question isn’t if your children will make poor choices, but how will you respond when they do?
I strongly encourage you to let your children know that you will ALWAYS be there for them, no matter what. Make sure they know that they don’t have to be perfect to earn your love and that you accept them just the way they are.
- The night it’s 2 am and your kids are drunk at a party – you want them to call you to come get them, not go to some “friend’s” house so you don’t find out.
- The afternoon your teenage daughter looks down to see two pink lines and the rest of her life flash before her eyes, you want her to call you, not a friend who will talk her into going to the clinic.
I could go on, but you get the idea.
7. Pray Like Crazy!
And last, but certainly not least, PRAY for your children!
Yes, prayer is the go-to, super common Christiany answer, but there’s a reason for that. It works. And honestly, some days it’s all you can do.
Your kids are growing up. Soon, they’ll leave the house and go out on their own, if they haven’t already.
They’ll make new friends, have new experiences and try new things.
You won’t always be there, but God always will. Ask Him to protect them. He loves them even more than you do.
Print them out and place them somewhere where you’re sure to see them often. Maybe on your nightstand, next to your Bible, on the fridge or in the car.
They’ll remind you to pray without ceasing and help you to pray deep prayers for your children’s protection.
How old are your children currently? Have you started taking steps to prepare them for the real world yet? Do you think they’ll be ready?