Parenting can be tough. It can be even tougher when your children have become adults. But what do you do if your grown child leaves the church and lives a secular life?
Sometimes covenant children do not continue in the faith once they leave the home. While we hope for the best, we know that many children don't end up continuing in the faith.
Parents may feel as though there is nothing they can do. But this couldn't be farther from the truth. Parents forever remain the single most effective agent in their child's spiritual nurture.
What's more, Scripture gives us guidelines to how to parent to the glory of God even after they have left the house.
1. Pray: Never underestimate the effectual working of parental prayer (James 5:16). Augustine, who is considered one of the church's greatest theologians, attributes his late-in-life conversion to the prayers of his mother, Monica.
Since it is God who convinces and converts sinners, get on your knees. Pray for their hearts, pray that they meet other Christians, pray that they read and hear Scripture, pray that they may be kept from temptation, pray that they would be convicted repeatedly, pray that they may recollect the spiritual nurture they received in early life (John Newton was converted later in life by remembering Scripture verses which were drilled into him when he was 6 years old).
2. Evaluate yourself and get right with God: Our child's road to repentance may begin with our own. No parent is perfect, but sometimes parents can be guilty of "provoking their child to wrath." Some households have missed the boat on "bringing them up in the nurture and instruction of the Lord." (Eph. 6:4)
If this is the case, there is no need to wallow in guilt. God's grace covers a multitude of sins. What's more, there is still great opportunities to parent in the adult years. But we need to be honest, confess where we failed, and make efforts to change. We don't want our ongoing parenting to continue to make the same mistakes.
3. Ask for forgiveness (if necessary): Show your child true brokenness for sin. If you were legalistic, overly harsh, or critical in their younger days, go to them. Admit you were wrong to do that and sincerely ask them for their forgiveness. This is what God wants, and it can go a long way to opening new, deeper lines of communication.
3. Testify about Christ: Christ is a part of your life. Talk him up. Not in a cheesy or forced way - they will see right through that. But at the same time, don't feel that you have to hold back. Your child may have rejected Christ, but you haven't. And you have every liberty to proclaim the goodness of the Lord.
So be open about it. Talk about the things the Lord is doing in your life. Talk about the interesting people and programs at church. Let them know how helpful the church's leadership is. Offer the wisdom of Scripture where appropriate.
You don't have to preach. All you need to do is be a witness. You can talk about how great Christ is, just as you'd chat up a good game or vacation. Each time you do, you set before your child a little gospel invitation.
4. Discuss their life's choices: You are still the parent. You still parent the child, no matter how old they are. And parents talk with their kids when they make bad choices.
You may not nag or harp on them. You cannot command, scold, or rebuke them like you did when they were little. But you can have a mature, grown up conversation with them. As a matter of fact, your child expects you to discuss these things with them. That's because it's your job.
5. Let it go: "Once you’ve lovingly shared your opinion on the situation, there really is nothing else to say. Your child is an adult now and free to make his or her own decisions, even if you don’t agree."^ In sum, it's time to let the Holy Spirit take over. He is the one who brings conviction (Jn. 16:8).
6. Love them; enjoy them; bless them, praise them, have fun with them: In other words, keep that relationship alive and reflecting the fatherly kindness and lavish interest of God. The gospel is the good news of life and acceptance with God. Let your child know know something of this by the way you interact with them.
To be sure, there is no magical wand or unique parenting trick that will ensure your child embraces Christ. But you can still use your covenantal position to point your child to God and His grace.
LEARN MORE - Parenting Lost Children and Adult Children who Have Strayed from the faith
Are you interested in learning more about how to parent a wayward child? Whether that child is in your home or grown, you can still be a great blessing to them and point them to a relationship with Christ.
Contact our pastoral staff to get counsel in this area.