I am disturbed by a trend among parents to "let their children figure things out for themselves." This parenting style is seen when kids are given a lot of freedom, allowed to break rules with little to no consequences, and have no consistency.
While I agree there are some things that children must figure out for themselves, something in my heart breaks when parents take this approach in regards to their kid's faith.
There are some fundamental flaws that lead to this approach:
1. "My child doesn't really care what I believe." Studies have shown again and again that PARENTS are the NUMBER ONE spiritual influence on their kids. So guess what? If parents have a negative attitude or an apathetic one towards faith and church, the kids will probably inherit it. Even if the child doesn't follow their parents' faith, they will at least respect it.
2. "My child complains when we talk about going to church." Yes, and don't they also complain about going to school, family reunions, or back-to-school shopping? Since when does "I don't want to" register as a legitimate reason NOT to do something? You wouldn't pull your kid out of school for that excuse, would you? If parents cave in to this reasoning, they are teaching their children that church is a consumer product instead of a FAMILY of diverse people (meaning they don't always look or act like me!) who are desperately dependent on GOD!
3. "My child has no friends at church." I hear this one quite often. Most of the time this is uttered by people who are not good friends themselves. They want everyone to care all about them and don't want to take time to extend friendship care to anyone else. I'm not saying that church folks are always the best friends, because sometimes they are not! But church is not supposed to be the place where your best friends are (meaning, people with exaclty your same interests!) but the place where your FAMILY is (meaning, the people you would die for, even thought they are bizarre!) Besides, if church is about being with friends, you can do that in a gang, at a bar, by joining a cult, etc. What I'm saying is that it's also about defining truth.
Where in the Bible does it say "let thine children find their own way in life?"
What I find are sayings like these:
"Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates..."
"Come, my children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD." (Psalm 34:11)
"Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD." (Joshua 24:14-15)
Please don't misunderstand me. I know that you cannot force children to accept faith. At some point, faith must be owned by the child.
But, if there's anything worth standing up for, if there's anything worth fighting over, if there's anything worth being passionate about...I would say it is worth it if it has to do with your child's soul, and leading them into a loving relationship with Jesus Christ!!