What If Your Kids Don’t Think Christianity is Cool?

What If Your Kids Don't Think Christianity Is Cool?

My husband and I had a spotty record of church attendance in our first few years as a married couple. We wanted to go to church, but none of the churches we attended felt much like a church “home.” We wanted to connect with other people our age, but every church we visited had an older congregation. During that time, an idea started to take root in my head: Young people like me don’t go to church. Maybe I’m supposed to be doing something else.

When we had been married 5 years, we moved to another city. We decided to look at churches again and randomly selected one around the corner to check out. A friendly elderly man greeted us at the coffee table that morning and told us how happy he was to see a couple “like us.” He then asked a question we still laugh about today:

Have you met the other young couple that attends here?

It was funny enough to think that there were only two young couples (including us) in a rather large church. It was funnier yet that when we met the other young couple, they were at least 25 years older.

Funny, but disheartening. The idea that young people don’t “do” church became more firmly planted in my mind.

As a last ditch effort, we tried a local megachurch to see if we could find three or four other young Christian couples (we like to push our limits).

That church – which we’ve now attended for 10 years – changed our whole spiritual trajectory.

We found hundreds of young couples there. For the first time in my adult life, I looked around each Sunday and saw people my own age. These young people were passionate about their beliefs, they looked like they wanted to be at church, and they were people I knew I would relate to. I was exuberant.

Can I tell you something I didn’t realize at the time, and really don’t want to admit today? Please hear me say this in a whisper, because I don’t want to say it out loud:

It was only after I saw thousands of passionate young believers in one place that I felt being a Christian was normal enough and cool enough that I wanted to go “all in” with my faith.

Ugh. I really wish it weren’t true, but it is. It wasn’t until I felt it was socially acceptable to be a Christian that I opened my heart to fully seeking God.

 

Coolness Should Never Matter…But It Often Does

 

The totally rational, black-and-white side of me wants to believe that if we are successful in 1) teaching our kids that searching for what is true is all that matters, 2) equipping them with an understanding of the evidence for Christianity, and 3) demonstrating how to live our lives as a response to the Gospel, they’ll likely become Christ-followers.

But what if, in spite of all this, our kids turn away from Christianity because they just don’t think it’s cool?

Regardless of how much I want to shout that coolness should never, ever be a factor in spiritual decision making, I’ve experienced how it can play a role myself. Pastor Matt Rawlings recently wrote on his blog about how college students are often lured to atheism because they want to sit “at the cool kids’ table.” We have to accept that peer influences are strong and do what we can to address them.

Don’t worry. I’m not going to suggest that you somehow work to make Christianity super hip for your kids. We don’t need to make Christianity cooler. But I do believe there are things we can do to help lessen our kids’ concern about coolness:

  • Make sure they have Christian friends. No, not just the kids they interact with each Sunday at church. Please don’t assume your kids’ “church friends” are a primary influence just because they rub elbows each week (and don’t assume that church friends are truly Christian friends). Look at who they spend time with on their own. Meaningful peer relationships with other believers make a big difference.
  • Give them perspective. By and large, the most well-grounded Christian kids I’ve encountered have been heavily involved in service. When kids have built houses in Mexico, served their local homeless, or come to the aid of disaster victims, they are more likely to have a level-headed perspective on why the perceived “coolness” of their beliefs doesn’t matter. Faith becomes a living, breathing part of their identity.
  • Be a family that is comfortable living counter-culturally. In the book Revolutionary Parenting, George Barna analyzed years of research data to determine what common factors exist in the child-rearing efforts of parents whose children remained strong in their faith into their adult years (he calls these kids “spiritual champions”). One major finding was this: “Parents are more likely to raise spiritual champions if they accept the fact that from day one their parenting efforts will stray from the norm and will put them at odds with parents who are pursuing a more conventional approach.” When kids are raised in a home where they become comfortable living differently than the world around them, they are prepared to carry that confidence into adulthood.
  • Give them Christian heros and role models. Our kids need to know that the world is filled with amazing people who love the Lord: athletes, scientists, missionaries, actors, writers, government leaders, business owners…the list goes on. Wherever your child’s interests lie, introduce them to Christian role models in that area and the stories of how they’re making a difference for God’s kingdom.

 

Has your faith or your child’s faith ever been influenced by peer factors? I’d love to hear your story in the comments!

12 Comments

  1. Erin on July 15, 2014 at 7:36 AM

    So good! I struggled with this heavily as a teenager. Yet I kept going back to the beatitudes. “Blessed are you when men persecute you, revile you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” To our heavenly Father, we are not only going to be uncool, we are going to be persecuted. And yet we are blessed. I think if we prepare our kids for the idea that the Christian life at times can be very lonely, and yet great can be our reward in heaven, they will feel much less swayed by feeling like they need to “fit in.”



  2. Mark Henninger on July 15, 2014 at 3:39 PM

    When I left for college in the ’70s, I avoided Christians for a bad habit that Jesus wouldn’t find cool either, not being personal.

    SO PERSONAL TODAY

    Thy word is so personal today
    Not a thorn unto my tongue.
    Thy word is so personal today
    Not a thorn unto my tongue.

    When I talk in school
    The kids don’t think I’m cool.
    So, my words deny Thee.
    Oh, I love my cell.
    My party line was hell.
    Please don’t be untimely.

    Thy word is so personal today
    Not a thorn unto my tongue.
    Thy word is so personal today
    Not a thorn unto my tongue.

    I am not a freak
    Nor speaketh like a geek,
    Please give me some enlightening.
    Please Thou be my guide
    Thy word not put aside.

    Guide me all the day.
    Not my will doth I pray.
    So more like Thou I will become.

    Thy word is so personal today
    Not a thorn unto my tongue.
    Thy word is so personal today
    Not a thorn unto my tongue.

    Nothing shalt I fear
    As long as Thou art near;
    Be Thou near me to the end.

    Thy word is so personal today
    Not a thorn unto my tongue.
    Thy word is so personal today
    Not a thorn unto my tongue.
    Not a thorn unto my tongue.
    You’re so personal today.



  3. Destiny on July 15, 2014 at 5:23 PM

    I came to Christ at age 28 by my now husband talking to me about The Lord (he was a new Christian himself). I’ve never been to a church where there weren’t young couples like us. We live in St. Petersburg, FL, it’s a mixed culture here. Anyway, I was amazed at all the youth groups and summer camps for teens. Our 4 year old is in Vacation Bible School this week and is having a “total blast!” Not to mention the contemporary Christian music on the radio ( I have a Joy FM bumper sticker on my car.) My plan used to be to have all my fun and then when I was old, then get right with God. Now I see all I missed out in , if I would’ve known it was this much fun as a Christian I would’ve become one a long time ago. Not to mention it would’ve been much better to live a godly life as in not having to deal with the consequences of sin. The friends that I used to have weren’t true friends anyway. People will always let you down . Now that I’ve gotten to know how amazing The Lord is, how present and real this invisible God is, the confidence He’s given me, I’m so glad I get to pass this on to my daughters.



  4. […] Crain at Christian Mom Thoughts had some practical advice for dealing with this, and in a minute I’ll give you my advice, […]



  5. Julia on July 17, 2014 at 9:26 PM

    I really appreciate your blog. I feel like our lives may have followed a ‘somewhat’ parallel course. In my case, while I experienced weekly exposure to church as a child, I had no depth of faith — no devotions or scripture reading at home, no Christian friends, no Christian media (as a Canadian, I actually had no idea that Christian pop music, fiction, bookstores or television existed).

    While we were coached on dressing nicely on Sundays and the importance of this weekly 60 minute commitment, we did not have conversations around what it meant to be a Christ follower, and I simply didn’t see my peer group or many other young people at church.

    When I became a teenager and a more autonomous young adult, there seemed to be no real reason to continue attending what I saw as “my parents’ church”.

    I had the opportunity to backpack extensively in India and Thailand. This coupled with my chosen studies in Sociology at university and what I saw on campus as an embrace of globalism, inclusivity, feminism and atheism, left me viewing my parents’ religion as dated at best.

    World travel left me wondering why the poorest caste in India, who had never heard the name of Jesus, would be judged as unbelievers and left out of heaven. Volunteering and making international and homosexual friends left me less willing to believe one belief system should work for everyone.

    Sociology of Religion class had me analyzing places of worship to identify commonalities that drew people in — music, children’s programming, service times — in the exact same way Sociology of Sport had me analyzing the structure and appeal of a professional hockey arena or football stadium. I admired my professors and would have been shocked if any one of them were a Christian. I assumed that they were ‘above’ subscribing to a faith — instead, we collectively studied why other people sought a faith system (or followed professional sports!)

    Somehow I came to believe the norm was thinking person = atheist.

    ——–

    My journey to a personal faith in God came later at 27. Despair from a destructive relationship and a host of choices I’d made as an atheist, led me to the place where I was willing to ask, “God, are you there?”

    Gratefully, God responded.

    I wish that was the end. But I feel like I have to fight hard for my faith, and consuming apologetics texts has been part of that journey. Attending a mega church with my husband & kids and meeting Christian believers has also helped.

    All this to say, for me, it may not be exactly a “coolness” factor. It is more a “plausibility” factor. The apologetics texts make it seem plausible that thinking, educated, discerning people (smarter than me) have grappled with faith questions and still believe. If they can do it, can’t I?

    Attending a mega church with other young families (our kids are 7 years and under), makes it seem plausible that in the midst of today’s secular thinking, some people are actually reading the bible & following Christ — unwavering morals and all

    I needed to know that others believed. It had to be plausible.

    I’m praying now that immersing my kids in a faith-filled home will help them to avoid a similar decade of atheism, and that they won’t be left saying, as I sometimes still do, “I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24).

    I pray that my children will have a deep, rich Christian heritage — faith in abundance — and that while they will understand that not everyone shares their faith, it will be easier for them to believe in Jesus than to doubt.



  6. Kelli on July 22, 2014 at 6:59 AM

    I was really curious as to how you were going to handle this topic. I was VERY pleasantly surprised! Thank you for sharing your heart and helping me to remember that being “different” is well worth it!



  7. […] – which usually involves ditching their faith to some degree (see recent posts by Christian Mom Thoughts and Wintery Knight as […]



  8. Richard Lombard on September 2, 2014 at 8:26 AM

    Thank you, Natasha, for this post. The coolness factor is a big one for teenagers, especially those who constantly worry about what their classmates think of them.

    I became a Christian when I was 26. Although I was invited to Bible studies in my early twenties, I chose not to go because I didn’t think a Bible study was cool (nor did I think that the people that invited me were cool). The Lord softened my heart and I finally saw my need for Him.

    After I became a Christian, learning of well-known Christians meant a lot to me. People like C.S. Lewis, tennis player Michael Chang and basketball player Pete Maravich. It was a way of validating my fledgling faith.

    I also had the wonderful opportunity to be exposed to Christian intellectuals, many of whom were apologetics advocates and teachers. Some of the heroes of the faith in my early years as a Christian were Francis Schaeffer, R.C. Sproul and Charles Colson.

    So, I wholeheartedly agree with your suggestion for parents to expose their children to Christian heroes and role models.



  9. Madelyn on October 11, 2014 at 6:28 AM

    Be a family that is comfortable living counter-culturally is essential. We must be reconciled to this. We are swimming in the opposite direction from those around us. If our foundational worldview is different, it will manifest in acting and looking different.
    Unfortunately it is peer-dependent parents who have the most difficulty with this. We want to fit in and hold on to our faith, and that will necessitate compromise. They say, “We have to hold a party that people want to come to.” that’s only fine if you’re having a party.



  10. Rudy Pineda on January 28, 2015 at 11:58 AM

    I love this article! I wrote about this a few weeks ago on my blog. I feel that there is a certain amount of over emphasis in our congregations to make Christianity cool to the world. It’s the faulty idea that if we don’t make church cool for our youth they wont come. At our congregation, my primary focus as a youth leader is to preach the gospel message. Never losing sight that on it’s own merit the message has the power to captivate and change lives. I am not discouraging us not to use innovative and creative means to present the message, but to avoid shifting the priority from the message to providing more entertainment value at the altar. At that point don’t you think it becomes counter productive? That the over production and big sets at these mega churches drown out the message as to why we are there to begin with?



  11. Kelly Doan on July 30, 2015 at 3:08 PM

    A few years ago at middle school other students knew I’m Christian and then they started thinking I’m weird and they think Christians are dweebs,but that would never stop me from being Christian



  12. Kelly Doan on July 30, 2015 at 3:15 PM

    And what they thought what was so dweeby is that I wear shirts that say “I ❤️ God and Jesus “and that I bring my bible to school to read at lunch and recess