“Abandoned Faith” by McFarland and Jimenez: A Book Review

Several years ago, as I began writing my book, Pouring In, I talked to a mentor friend of mine who had three adult children. Deb was/is older and wiser and we have known each other since I was in high school. I wanted her thoughts on the idea of passing on faith to our kids. Deb is a godly woman whom I greatly admire and I fully expected her to say her kids are passionately following the Lord, or at least still going to church.

As awesome as Deb is, as much as she loves God, and even though I know she has modeled Christ in her home, the directions her kids were taking caught her off guard. She wrote of her dismay at her kids wanderings in an email to me. I didn’t know what to think. She loved the Lord like no one I had ever known. She probably did almost everything right. How could they stray?

In a recent study, LifeWay Research, and Fuller Youth Institute estimated that over half of high school graduates will leave the church and become disengaged in their faith. (page xvi)

As a result of much research, I am painfully aware that a majority of kids raised in the church leave the faith when they leave their home. With a daughter graduating this year, this reality scares the begeebees out of me!

Abandoned Faith is an excellent resource for parents whose millennial has walked away from theABANDONED-FAITH-BUY-NOW-1 faith and for those who are currently launching. This book offers parents encouragement and hope that they can still make a difference in the lives of their grown children. The voice of a parent always matters.

As I must entertain the possibility that either one of my daughters could walk away from their faith, I am starting to face the regret McFarland and Jimenez talk about in the book.

Living with a seventeen year old is difficult. I find myself in turmoil as the familiarity of life as I once knew it fades away. I grieve the fact that our family unit will never be the same.

There is a sorrow that comes as kids become young men and women. Sorrow because you miss those little people that adored you, and sorrow for the sinful, imperfect human beings they have become.

It’s too easy to overlook the pain of parents when all the attention is on the problems of their children. Yet, if we are going to win millennials back to Christ, we first need to win parents back to hope and healing. (page 9)

I remember when I was eighteen to twenty-something. I was young and stupid. Most eighteen to twenty-somethings are. We all know that wisdom comes with age and experience. It is what it is.

My eighteen year old daughter is beautiful, smart, kind, and loving. In the words of Aibileen from The Help, “she (you) is smart, she (you) is kind, and (you) is important!” She always did well in school and loved God. We couldn’t be prouder of her.

At the same time, I worry. I see the flaws in her character—flaws we all have. I see her trying to get away with things. I see her being uninterested in her faith. And I grieve the better person she would have been if I had been a better parent.

You can’t help but think, What went wrong? Even if the answer is, nothing. Nothing other than your kids had an imperfect parent, and they happen to be human. As a wise person once said, even Adam and Eve rebelled, and they did have the perfect parent!

The fact is, there is not one single parent alive in this world free of regret. We all have regrets and know other godly parents who do as well. (page 11)

As a parent, it is impossible to look back and believe you did everything perfectly—because none of us have. Hindsight is 20/20.

What do I regret? Here are some things, to name a few.

  • I regret not having a consistent prayer time as a model for my kids.
  • I regret that I didn’t start reading Scripture with them when they were little.
  • I regret not making my kids do band, choir, or a sport—they struggle to have a consistent friend group.
  • I regret not being more consistent with our discipline.
  • I regret not controlling their screen time/social media time better
  • I regret that we brought our baggage into our parenting

I sometimes wonder how much better of a parent I could have been if I had not brought myself into the mix.

Holding on to regrets prevents you from experiencing true freedom in Christ…Being tossed around by waves of regret is actually where Satan, the great Adversary, wants you to be. He doesn’t want you to let your regrets go. (page 13)

Satan wants our regrets to eat us alive. Abandoned Faith encourages parents to look at their mistakes, learn from them, and move forward to a better relationship with their child. We must stop feeling responsible for our young adult children. Did we make mistakes in parenting—yes. However, we probably did a better job than we realize despite the wanderings of our kids.

At some point, parents need to let go of the guilt from mistakes their young adult children make. At some point, they are no longer responsible.

Let there be no more regrets—only anticipation of the coming blessings. No more doubts—only hope in knowing that God has placed you in your millennial’s life for a divine purpose. God has uniquely equipped you to minister to your children. (page 19)

How are my girls going to survive my parenting? By the grace, immense love, and goodness of our God. When my parenting job is finally done, and it soon will be, I must put my kids in God’s hands—far greater hands than mine.

 

Is Your Church Growing Young?

growing-young-book-3d-transparent-e1474419441508I recently had the opportunity to be a part of the launch team for a book called Growing Young by Kara Powell, Jack Mulder, and Brad Griffin based on research from the Fuller Youth Institute that addresses the vitally important issue of young people and our churches.

Across the United States, churches are losing both members and vitality as increasing numbers of young people disengage.  ~Growing Young

Church attendance is declining. Congregations are aging. According to the research found in Growing Young, “no major Christian tradition is growing in the U.S. today.”

After researching the topic of young people and their faith for my upcoming book Pouring In: Pouring The Passion Of Christ Into Our Kids, the sobering truth was undeniable. Though the numbers varied slightly from one study to the next, they all came to the same conclusion—we are losing our kids.

The decline in overall church attendance is linked with young people’s religious practices or lack thereof.   ~Growing Young

According to Ken Ham’s 2009 book  Already Gone, “A mass exodus is underway. Most youth of today will not be coming to church tomorrow.”

Seven years later does the picture look any different?

According to David Kinnaman in his book You Lost Me, “Most young Christians are struggling less with their faith in Christ than with their experience of church.”

So the problem we face is two fold; first, our kids are abandoning their faith; and second, our kids are walking away from the church.

Why is it so important to focus on bringing young people back to our churches?

Aside from the obvious reason of winning young people to Christ, there are great benefits for the church as well.

If your overall hope and prayer is to have a vibrant congregation, there is arguably no better starting place than the contagious passion of teenagers and young adults. ~Growing Young

For the church to thrive and be healthy we need young people. We must understand that young people are vital to the health of Christ’s church.

And knowing that Christ’s disciples were likely young, how can we be satisfied knowing that teenagers and young adults are extremely underrepresented in our churches?

Growing Young identifies six essential strategies to help young people discover and love the church.

The Warmth Factor

I have been feeling tension about the ‘American church’ for years. Something didn’t feel right. Something was missing. For a long time I couldn’t put my finger on what was troubling me.

When I got to chapter 5, Fuel a Warm Community, of Growing Young, I almost jumped out of my seat and shouted, “That’s it! Warmth . . . . that’s it! That’s what’s missing from our churches!”

The qualities of a warm church include authenticity, hospitality, caring, welcoming, accepting, and belonging.   ~Growing Young

As I ponder the welcoming and inviting qualities of warmth, I think about church greeters.

I guess it is nice to have someone shake your hand when you walk in a church building, but do the greeters really care about who they are greeting? My guess would be probably not. And if I were a greeter at my church, I probably wouldn’t either. There’s too many people.

Greeting people verses warmth is the difference between shaking someone’s hand and looking into a person’s eyes and seeing their brokenness.

Going through the motions to check ‘served the church’ off of our list doesn’t count as warmth.

Could the lack of warmth in our churches be repelling young people? Warmth radiates out of authentic community. It can’t be faked.

One pastor said, “We can hire and buy cool, but we can’t hire—or fake—warmth.”   ~Growing Young

Warmth provides a fertile atmosphere in which love and relationships can grow.

Warmth is really caring about the answer when we ask, ‘how are you?’ Warmth says, “I see you” and “I want to know you.”

Warmth says “you are welcome here and you belong.” Warmth says “you don’t have to have it all together to be loved and accepted.”

Come As You Are

“Come as you are” is a popular catch phrase in churches today. Many of us claim this platitude. But do we really mean it?  Is “come as you are” the feeling that people get when they walk through the doors of our churches?

If we say “come as you are,” we had better mean it. Because if young people “come as they are,” but everything around them screams, “not good enough,” we will lose them. It’s that simple.

Young people won’t tolerate judgement. The church instead needs to offer them acceptance. The church needs to offer them a family.

Warmth is more than superficial community. It’s like family.   ~Growing Young

It’s Not About Being Nice

I don’t think anyone in the church would characterize Christ as nice. I certainly wouldn’t.

By suggesting that churches need to grow warmer, we don’t mean adults should be nice to young people. Nice does not cut it.  ~Growing Young

Jesus went far above and beyond nice. Jesus was all about love and relationships. He was about truth. And warmth radiated from His spirit. Maybe that is why so many people were drawn to Him.

If we want to get young people back in our churches, warmth and connection in relationships are key.

Today’s teenagers desire real relationships that are characterized by depth, vulnerability, openness, listening, and love—connectedness in their disconnected, confusing, and alienated world.   ~Walt Mueller, Youth Culture 101

Young people today are starved for authentic relationships. And they don’t have the time or relational energy for nice.


Teenagers and young people matter. Church matters. And teenagers and young people matter in the church.

Are teenagers and young people a priority at your church?
Is your church welcoming and warm to young people?
Does your church have a good number of teenagers and emerging adults?

These are great questions to ponder within the context of your church and of mine.

Thanks to Kara Powell, Jack Mulder, and Brad Griffin and the Fuller Youth Institute for bringing us Growing Young. This book could revolutionize the American church as we know it.