Focus on the Family has long been know as a great source of parenting resources. In a new Abandoned Faith: Why Millennials are Walking Away and How You Can Lead Them Home examines trends among the young adult demographic and encourages parents in connecting with their millennial children.
FOTF/Tyndale House book, Alex McFarland and Jason Jimenez offer help for parents of adult children who have wandered from their faith.
In a sense, Abandoned Faith is a "horse out of the barn" book. In spite of the authors' encouraging words to the contrary, I could see some parents reading this with regret and despair, wishing they had some something differently. But it's not too late. Just as parents' examples influence young children, so can they continue to do so: "When parents strive to model a pattern of Christianity to their millennial children, those children are far more likely to follow in their parents' footsteps. . . . There is nothing more compelling and persuasive than a parent living out his or her faith with great boldness and conviction." (xiv)
The flip side, and what may discourage parents, is the obvious link between their own failures and their children's loss of faith. McFarland and Jimenez put it in sociological terms: "Prior to the mass exodus of millennials from the church, there was a
mass exodus of fathers leaving their families. Before millennials
stopped attending church, their fathers had already stopped making
church a priority. Before the doubts took hold of millennials, fear and
doubt were already embedded in their parents' lives." (35) If Mom and Dad aren't going to church, they should not be surprised when Junior opts out as well. What they want to see is faith that makes a difference in their parents' lives, actions and attitudes, reflecting their stated beliefs. "The compelling proof millennials truly seek is found in an authentic life." (60)
One way that even committed parents can drive their children away is to try too hard and be too controlling. Some parents "think that by enabling their kids, they are doing them a favor. . . . Millennials raised by enabling parents are far more likely to rebel, abandon church, and hang with the wrong crowd." (17) We want to smooth the road for our kids, and sometimes try to do too much.
McFarland and Jimenez's advice for the fixer-upper parent is to repeat this mantra: "When I interfere, my child will not persevere." (195)
Abandoned Faith won't give distraught parents a magic bullet. I don't want to minimize the amount of research and sound guidance they offer, but the best takeaway from the book is simply to love much, be patient, and model grace. Jimenez gives an acrostic for "what every member of the family needs." L.O.V.E. Laugh. Open. Value. Encourage. If a house is full of laughter, if relationships are honest and open, if children feel valued, and if parents abound in encouragement for their children our homes will be much better places.
It's hard not to read a book like this without regret. I'm about to send my oldest son to college, and can think of many ways I've failed him and opportunities missed. I would imagine every parent has similar feelings, whether sending their child to preschool, college, or anywhere in between. Abandoned Faith is descriptive, but also encouraging for those of us who have regrets. It offers good news and encouragement for moving forward. Love your kids more. Value and cherish them. Pray for them--this especially. I was moved and challenged.
Thanks to the Tyndale Blog Network for the complimentary review copy!
This is my 1000th Reading Glutton review! Thanks for reading!
A couple other quotes from the book that are worth preserving:
"Perhaps the one leadership trait that will cause a young leader to
stand out from others is the ability to endure. . . . When we choose to
keep going when others will not, we stand out from the crowd and truly
become the leaders whom others look to for influence." (139)
the average teenager spending the equivalent of a full-time job each
day on media, a person can quickly move from online gamer to an online
entrepreneur, online college student, or digital missionary, changing
lives and growing in the ability to provide for his own needs and help