What Fewer Christians in America Means for Christian Parents

What Fewer Christians in America Means for Christian Parents

Each day in America, it’s getting a little less normal to be a Christian family.

Study after study shows the trend of fewer people identifying as Christians, and more people identifying as atheist, agnostic, or “nothing in particular.” Frankly, I don’t think most of us even need the studies to find that out. It’s blatantly obvious in the media, in the government, in schools, and online.

America is indeed changing, and that fact has many implications for Christian parents. In this post, I’m going to look at six of those implications.

Before we jump in, however, I’d like to make something clear: This is not a doomsday post. I’m not shouting from the internet roof tops to prepare for cultural disaster and that Christians have suddenly become a tiny, persecuted minority. Not at all.

This post, however, is an acknowledgment that our culture is steadily changing, and the direction of that change is away from Christianity. The more we understand about the nature of these changes and how they may impact our kids’ faith development, the more effective we can be in our role as Christian parents.

So what will it mean for Christian parents if there are fewer Christians in America? Here are six major implications.

 

1. Parents will need to intentionally make their kids less comfortable in their faith.

Perhaps that sounds like a bad thing. Don’t we want our kids to rest comfortably in their beliefs? Yes and no. If by “comfortably” you mean that they’ve had the opportunity to thoroughly examine their faith and, as a result, they have a strong conviction that Christianity is true, then yes.

But if by “comfortably” you mean that they are passively riding whatever faith train their parents put them on, then no. Kids who haven’t thoroughly examined their beliefs will be too unequipped to confidently engage in this increasingly challenging culture.

We need to help our kids handle their faith like a kaleidoscope: They should hold it up to the light, spin it around, and examine it from many different angles to fully understand what it’s all about.   

If you need help with that, here’s how to get your kids to ask more questions about their faith, and my new book, Keeping Your Kids on God’s Side: 40 Conversations to Help Them Build a Lasting Faith, will walk you through 40 of the most important conversations you need to have with your kids today.

 

2. Many parents will need to relearn the difference between good values and Christianity.

Christian values have always been more popular in our culture than the Christian gospel itself. Unfortunately, for many people—both professing Christians and nonbelievers—Christian values have become synonymous with Christianity. As a result, many parents are raising their kids as Christians simply because they see it as a means to an end of desired moral behavior.

The world, however, doesn’t need Christianity in order to have well-behaved citizens. The world needs Christianity because it’s the truth of where we came from, our sinful nature, the problem of separation from God, and the good news of reconciliation through Jesus.

Now that the world is increasingly throwing out Christian values, those who call themselves Christians will be forced to make an explicit decision and parent accordingly: Either get serious about the real gospel, or abandon Christianity along with the values held synonymous with it for so long.

 

3. Parents will have to stop ignoring the tough parts of the Bible.

A critical part of making sure your kids understand the real gospel (and not a value-based proxy) is studying the Bible with them.

But that doesn’t just mean retelling the same handful of stories found in any standard children’s Bible. It also means going out of your way to learn about and discuss all the tough biblical stuff that your kids will increasingly hear about in secular discussions: Old Testament slavery and rape laws, questions of the Canaanite “genocide,” issues of human and animal sacrifice, ancient Near Eastern laws, and all kinds of other things you can read about at evilbible.com.

This isn’t what kids learn about in Sunday school, but it is what they’ll learn about from skeptics…with a very hostile spin. The gap must be bridged, and parents are the ones who will have to do it (while likely grappling with the answers for the first time themselves).

 

4. Parents will need to answer tough questions about Christianity and other beliefs starting at a much earlier age.

Because there are more secular adults today, there are now more secular kids…kids who, from a young age, are already aware that there is a general divide between a naturalistic and theistic worldview. For example, I regularly hear stories from parents whose elementary-age kids are being challenged by young classmates saying God doesn’t exist or that they believe “in science, not fairy tales.”

That’s quickly going to become the new norm, and it simply won’t be optional for parents to wait until they think their kids are “old enough” to talk about deeper issues of faith.

If your kids are in school, they’re old enough.

 

5. Parents will need to give their kids good reason to have thick skin about their beliefs.

In an increasingly secular world, kids will see and hear the media mocking their beliefs. They’ll experience their friends’ jokes about faith. They’ll be challenged by unbelieving teachers and professors who claim the authority of knowing that religion is just wish-fulfillment and a by-product of evolution.

No one continues to hold lukewarm beliefs in the face of such challenges. Shame will soon set in and it’s as easy as saying “I no longer believe” to remedy the perceived problem.

But shame isn’t a necessary outcome of holding contrarian beliefs. When kids have confidence that what they believe is really true, they can stand firmly against hostility and be a witness for the Kingdom. That confidence comes from an understanding of the strong evidence for the existence of God, the resurrection of Jesus, and the reliability of the Bible, as well as from the internal witness of the Holy Spirit as they grow in their relationship with Jesus.

 

6. Parents will need to more explicitly help their kids ask the right question about competing worldviews.

As America becomes less Christian in general, kids will encounter a greater diversity of claims about the nature of reality. Some people will say there is no God; some will say there’s no way to know if there’s a God; some will say there’s a God but any religion can lead you to Him; some will make generic claims about being spiritual but not religious; some will mysteriously say they have their own beliefs; some will say there’s only one way to God, but that it’s a way other than Christianity.

What will your kids do with all of that?

Will they decide their worldview based on what they like best? Based on what makes the most subjective sense to them? Based on what’s easiest? Based on what works best for the life they want to live? Based on what simply makes them happiest?

Your kids may end up using any one of these faulty consumer-oriented heuristics…unless you explicitly gift them with the understanding that the right question to ask is this: What reasons are there for believing a given worldview is actually truean accurate picture of reality? 

Make sure that question is firmly planted in your kids’ hearts and minds.

 

How else do you think our changing culture affects Christian parenting?

11 Comments

  1. Dana Fought on September 24, 2015 at 7:41 AM

    Dear Natasha,

    I don’t know about your other readers, but each time I see a new post from you I have two simultaneous reactions. First, I’m always excited to read what you have to say. Second, however, I prepare myself to learn something that I could/should have taught my own children as they were growing up, but didn’t. While there is definitely an element of sadness to that, you have also inspired me to act on what I now know to be true. I have a deep desire to make a difference in the lives that God, in this phase of my life, allows me to touch. My husband and I are serving as missionary high school teachers, so we have plenty of opportunities! As iron sharpens iron, I am so grateful for your insights and I hope to use your book as a tool for a parents workshop/Bible study when my husband and I return to the States in a couple of years. Thank you for all you are doing and may God bless you and your family!



  2. Rob on September 24, 2015 at 12:58 PM

    So the USA is becoming much more like New Zealand, Australia and Europe. In the New Zealand context, people do not even know what Easter is about. I too was like that in my pre-Christian (secular) days.

    Another thought: given the riches and resources that the USA has had for many decades, it seems that the USA has done a very poor job at exporting Christianity. Compare for example the legacy that was left to us by missionaries that left England many years ago on ships, and how far they travelled and the influence they have had in, for example, China. When I think if the USA I think that they have mostly exported poisonous Hollywood worldviews, Christian cults, and sexualized TV.

    I fear that for the USA, the hens are finally coming home to roost. The coming implosion will leave the USA like New Zealand and Australia in just a few years — unless Christians are prepared to harden up and start wielding their apologetics swords and standing firm against the culture shapers like the universities and media and government.

    Blessings for a great website !!!



  3. Sam McKee on September 29, 2015 at 2:32 AM

    That Evil Bible web page made me very cross!

    Thanks for your work. Let’s continue to see an extraordinary generation of young, thinking Christians grow who love the Lord their God with all their mind!

    Your posts are so clear and concise. Thanks very much



  4. Heather on October 1, 2015 at 10:51 AM

    Good post. Scary post, since it is so true that biblical faith is less common. Along with all you said, I think it means that we parents better take our faith very seriously, know what we believe and why we believe it, be ready to defend it and be persecuted or mocked for it. We need to be living it, not just saying it. And we need to learn to do this compassionately and with the ability to ‘agree to disagree’ with those who want us to deny what we believe because it makes them uncomfortable. In fact, I think the other side needs to learn this too, that tolerance means ‘agreeing to disagree with respect for the other person.’ We should not be forcing our beliefs – for God or against God – on anyone. But we should be living out our faith, knowing what we believe and having answers ready. And we should expect that our views will not be popular. In this changing, ‘fewer Christians’ culture, we will face more intolerance and more pressure to deny what the Bible says. And it will be all-too-easy to compromise if we do not really know what God’s Word says and why we believe it. Basically, in this culture, we cannot be casual about our faith anymore. There will be no place for lukewarmness.



  5. Heather on October 1, 2015 at 1:19 PM

    Oh, and when I say we should not force our beliefs on others, I want to clarify something. Simply sharing our faith, praying in public, saying ‘Jesus’ or ‘God’, saying Merry Christmas or ‘God bless you’ after you sneeze, putting up a Nativity scene or wearing a cross, etc., is not ‘forcing our beliefs on others.’ People are all-too-quick to cry ‘foul’ whenever anyone utters a syllable about their faith or Jesus. They want to stop people from displaying their faith at all, even in small, non-aggressive ways. This is what I mean when I say that they need to be more tolerant of Christians. They need to let us have our faith and live it out, as long as we are not hurting anyone. You don’t have to like it and you might be offended by it, but you need to be more tolerant of it. Just as we Christians need to be tolerant of and respect other people’s right to disagree and not believe. We can share our faith but cannot bash people with the Bible until they see it our way. All we can do is share our faith, live it out, pray for others, and let them decide if they agree with God’s Word or not. I do not mean to go off on a tangent here, but this whole ‘tolerance’ issue (and the fact that we have redefined it to mean that no one can disagree with us or think there is a right and wrong) bothers me. Simply living out and talking about our faith forces it on no one. And I just wish our country could understand that and get back to the real definition of ‘tolerance’ – agree to disagree with an attitude of respect. It is scary to see the ways the country is persecuting Christians for living out their beliefs in quiet, non-violent ways.



  6. Jani B on October 13, 2015 at 8:46 AM

    Wow…my husband is no longer a believer, dropped his faith a little over a year ago. We have 2 boys. I have done “underground” Bible study with them since. Last week, I felt God wanted me to be bold, and I presented a Bible study that was just that. It was from Ellerslie, a video called The Gospel. About not being lukewarm for your faith. I explained to them that if they chose Christ, that many things of the world would try to change their minds, make them feel stupid, try to change their minds (like it did with my husband, who grew up in an atheist home). He overheard the study and told me I was indoctrinating the boys, that he didn’t want me to teach anymore because it was a form of abuse. I am standing firm because I believe that if I do not teach my boys, then they will be indoctrinated by the world. This, obviously, has become a issue for us. For over a year, as my faith exploded, I’ve had to hide my daily worship, etc. from him. So, yeah, I understand this, but I never expected to have to deal with it in my own home.



    • Sharon on October 14, 2015 at 4:34 AM

      Jani B, I am praying for your family!



    • Heather on October 14, 2015 at 9:33 AM

      I will pray for your family too. I am sorry to hear it. But you are right to keep teaching your boys. They are looking to you for spiritual training since your husband cannot do it anymore. God will reward your faithfulness in the face of persecution. It is just so sad that it is coming from your own husband. Praying for you.



    • Natasha Crain on October 14, 2015 at 11:17 AM

      Wow, Jani, I’m so sorry to hear what you’re going through. That is a difficult situation. Is your husband open to talking with you about his own atheism? Can you have conversations about why he believes what he does, and why you believe what you do? Perhaps if there is more understanding between you, you can work out an agreement of what you’ll discuss with your kids. As a Christian, you can’t hide your faith…especially from your kids, who will hear about atheism in their own home, as you said. But you have truth on your side. If you and your husband BOTH discuss your beliefs with your kids, you can be confident that there are good answers to the questions they’ll have. It’s going to take more effort on your part, of course, to learn more about the questions that come up. I feel silly recommending my own book, but, to be honest, it was written specifically for parents to be able to engage on the questions skeptics ask, and I think it could be really helpful in your situation. It doesn’t come out until March, but if you email me through my contact form, I’ll send you a PDF of it for free to help you out. 🙂 (I haven’t promoted the site yet but you can see more here: http://keepingyourkidsongodsside.com/) Finally, I’ve written a post about the whole idea that Christians indoctrinate their kids…you may want to read this to help you respond: http://christianmomthoughts.com//are-christians-indoctrinating-their-kids/

      Stay strong!



  7. […] With fewer Christian adults in America, there are now fewer kids being raised as Christians as well. Just as we want to raise our kids with a belief in Jesus, most atheists want to raise their kids with a belief that God doesn’t exist. If your kids are in a public school, they will certainly hear conflicting comments from other kids about Christianity…and friends are powerful influencers. […]



  8. Faylinn on May 3, 2016 at 6:46 AM

    It is so important for parents to answer their children’s questions about the Bible, no matter how difficult they may be. Growing up, my family went to a Christian church and my family made it a rule for us kids to read the whole New Testament before we got baptized so that joining the congregation could be our own decision. I remember that I was reading the Bible when I was 10 and came across a part where Jesus was saying that he did nothing of his own will and only of the father. For me, that put into question the trinity, because I thought that it was saying that they were two separate individuals. I asked my parents about it and they really didn’t give me a good answer. They thought that I would forget about it, but it took years for me to come to terms and be a true believer in the trinity. I think that answering questions honestly will help children to understand the gospel’s teachings and help them to develop a real faith in it.