So, your kid’s a teenager now. I guess that means your job leading them to faith is done, since they don’t listen to you anyway. Might as well hand them over to a youth minister. And if your kid’s in college? Well, expect them to sow some wild oats, and don’t expect them to ever show up in church. It’s just that time of their life.
In It’s Not Too Late, Dan Dupee puts out seven myths of bringing emerging adults to faith and keeping them there. He presents the myths and shows why each is false, using statistics, personal anecdotes from his position as a chairman for a national campus ministry, and lots of Scripture. He then shows how parents can use their influence to help their children continue walking with Christ.
Short review: Buy this book. Read it. Even if you don’t have a teenager or your children are grown, this book will be useful to you. Dupee points out that when infants are baptized, the entire congregation is asked if they will support the parents. That means every teen that has been baptized is part of every member’s responsibility to encourage.
And for parents whose children have walked away from the faith, Dupee offers great advice. “As a parent, you are not god and not in control of the universe, let alone the mind and heart of another human being, even if that person happens to be your child. Your emerging adult kids are individuals who do things for their own reasons. They are responsible for their own choices” (173). Dupee reminds parents to repent where they have sinned, and find forgiveness in the cross. Jesus has already died for them; they are forgiven! And if they feel guilty for their children’s sins, well, those aren’t their sins!
Most of the book, though, is aimed at parents of high school and college-aged kids. He presents a laudable goal for Christian parents: “The young adult Christian owns his or her faith in Jesus Christ, reflects it in priorities and decisions, and lives it in community with other believers, seeking to influence the watching world” (28). That is a greatly-phrased goal, and one that’s lacking. Many parents who want to raise Christian children don’t allow their kids to own the faith, and many kids don’t seem to exercise the desire to live in Christian community (in part because they don’t often see their parents live in real community).
In a book like this, it would be easy to focus on practical applications and ignore or assume the Gospel. While Dupee doesn’t spend tons of time on it, he doesn’t skimp on Jesus, either. In a chapter talking about letting our kids suffer so that they learn to trust Jesus, he writes,
Jesus was forsaken in our place, undone and forgotten, that we could be remade and remembered. Yes, he has suffered what we have in every way and then some. Our kids need to know that God can understand their pain, not just in theory, but by virtue of his own experience. (165)
That chapter is probably worth the price of the book alone. It effectively applies the theology of the cross to parenting. It doesn’t say that we should cause our kids to suffer, but that when suffering comes, we point to Jesus as our strength.
For instance, sometimes difficult questions come. Dupee suggests we don’t give easy answers as our children get older. “The challenge will ultimately be the child’s, not ours, so allowing the child to wrestle with the question rather than us spoon-feeding the answer is the preferred way to go” (153).
Dupee underlines that the parent remains a source of influence even as children grow older. One of the themes he returns to is that parents should expect that children can make it to church, even during college. Yes, it is the child’s choice whether or not to go, but that child is capable of going and should be encouraged to do so. But what if there isn’t a church of your denomination around? “But if it is a choice between attending a non-Catholic church that feeds the faith of your child or dropping out of Christianity altogether, I would counsel you to be open to the former” (40). I’ve had this conversation with others, especially when people leave our congregation. Look, if the choice is someone never attending worship again and losing their faith, or leaving our congregation to hear the Gospel elsewhere, I’ll pick “hear the Gospel elsewhere” every time. (Though I’d prefer they don’t leave in the first place!)
So, yes. Grab this book. I encourage you to read it and apply it in your own life. An excellent encouragement to parents and congregation members to help teens and college-aged kids grow in faith, even during those hard years of life.