Why Children Leave the Church When They Leave Home

{Heads Up! September 4th, I’ll be launching a brand new website, and no longer posting here on Mother of Pearls. In fact, you can take a look now at Cheri Dee Johnson. For those who subscribe, I’ll be send you a free printable: The Nonbiological Mom’s Declaration of Truth.}

To this day I remember how I landed …

stunned and pouty, on the floor where my mother had suddenly plunked me. I hadn’t realized I had been so squirmy, nor that the sanctuary was stifling hot in the crammed pews. All I know is that I was suddenly surrounded by big shoes attached to adult legs. Adults who sat transfixed by a captivating awareness of God.

When I was four- and five-years-old my dad was on staff at a church that experienced a move of God so powerful it impacted the entire town—the news of it landing bold-faced on the front page of the paper. Even as a young child, the overwhelming, loving presence of God was so palatable, it changed my life forever.

I remember. I remember sitting in church (most of the time on the pew) and watching faces glow and tissue boxes empty as people shared their life-changing stories. I remember seeing my mother on her face, weeping before God. I remember telling my grandmother how we had a peace in our home we hadn’t had before. (Yes, even church leaders and their families need life-changing encounters with God.)

I believe the reason many children raised in church grow up and leave the church is because they are missing two important ingredients. They don’t encounter God at church and they don’t experience Him regularly at home. It’s not that church is irrelevant – although that might be. But frankly, God is irrelevant.

Aug 21 Relevance
Photo by Angello Lopez on Unsplash

I know full well that revival (as they called this move of God) can’t be manufactured. It’s not the result of following a set of formulated steps.

But somehow we need to usher our children into tangible experiences with God if we want them to follow Him the rest of their lives.

I have a couple suggestions for you.

Make sure you’re in a church where the leadership visibly practices humility before Christ (the Head of the church). It needs to be a place where people linger before God. A place that puts God’s Word as the foundation. A church that’s not in a hurry to accomplish the Sunday morning routine and then go home.

He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.
Colossians 1:18 (NASB)

And I cannot urge you strongly enough, the best place for your children to encounter God at church is in the worship service with the adults. I can testify loud and clear, that sitting in the sanctuary, even as a four-year-old, and seeing God change lives right before my very eyes, is what set the course for my lifelong lean into the Savior. I love the way John Piper explains it in this podcast: “Should Children Sit Through ‘Big Church’?”.

Then in our homes, our personal walk with Jesus has to be real, endearing, and top priority. We have to demonstrate more than just a commitment to an organization. We have to model more than just following a set of spiritual disciplines. Our children need to witness our hunger for the person of God. They need to watch us walk in daily relationship with Jesus. The need to smell that this relationship is fresh—not packaged. Something we breathe moment by moment, drink until we’re satisfied, and feast on as if we’ll never eat again. We must offer our children much more than leftovers thrown down like dog food in scheduled increments.

I’m not saying to not follow a routine or to ignore the disciplines. I’m saying use them as a means to experience, and model, an irresistible relationship with Jesus.

But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death;
Philippians 3:7-10

Now, let me say …

this is one area of parenting I feel like I totally failed at.

Partly, because I was so overwhelmed in running a household of seven, while attempting to keep a lid on trauma-induced behaviors. And partly because if children can’t attach to a parent, they can’t attach to God, and I had no idea how to get this message across.

But, I can also say, it was still clear that following God and living according to His Word the best we knew how was of utmost importance to both Bob and me. Our kids got to watch us do so for the four to twelve years they lived in our home.

More importantly, even though my children are all grown up with their own families, this modeling is something I can still do. Just because I’m an empty-nester doesn’t mean I’m a hollowed-out shell. Neither do I have to stalk my kids for opportunities to pry the gospel into their thinking. I just need to live it. Day in and day out.

This is a simple answer to a complicated question. But in truth I think it boils down to …

Aug 21 Soaking in Jesus. jpg

When it comes down to it, it’s not church that offers redemption. It’s Jesus. And when Jesus is alive and real in a person’s life, they tend to want to hang out with other Jesus-lovers. Church just happens to be a great place to find such people.

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When You’re Really Not Being Helpful to Your Teen, and How to Fix It

I’m so pleased to introduce you to brand new blogger, and veteran nonbio mom, LuAnn Kern. She’s currently in the middle of teenage messes with her two adoptive daughters. She writes clear and practical truths we can all employ. You’ll be encouraged by her words today. Head on over and check out her blog where she’s shares empowering insights.


I did it again.

My teenage daughter had been complaining for weeks, about some kids in her science class teasing her.

“Why do they have to keep mentioning that I’m adopted? That I’m from Guatemala? Why do they have to keep telling me I’m short? I know I’m short! I’m just sick of it.”

Cue the heart break.

I asked her if she wanted me to step in, talk to the principal. She said no, she’d manage, the school year was almost over. I promised I’d stay out of it; told her I’d pray for her.

But there’s only so much a mama can take,

… seeing her girl in anguish every night. Seeing how this treatment was weighing down on her spirit, was weighing down on mine.

May 29 LuAnn Kern

But I didn’t take it to God. Instead I took it to the principal.

Hit SEND.

He was quick to respond, said he’d talk with the other students. Offered to let her switch classes. I told him we’d get back to him.

Then I had to ‘fess up to my daughter.

“Mother, what did you DO?”

She handled it well, listened to my excuses, my explanations. Only said, “May I go to my room now.”

I shouldn’t have been surprised by such a mature, measured response from her. She may have trouble forgiving her classmates, but she can forgive me. Ah, the grace of a 14-year-old.

I haven’t mentioned it since. Neither has she. I know she’s trying to be independent; always has been. She wants to handle these types of things, but it can be so hard for a middle schooler. Just as hard for a loving mom to not step in and solve her problems. Maybe this is why adolescence is such a tough time for teens and parents. They’re trying to cast their own identity, apart from us.

And we’re needing to recast our identity,

… away from being a problem-solver and toward being a sounding board and a life coach.

We didn’t change her schedule. She still comes home frustrated. Some days are worse than others. She’s learning to navigate her way through it. I’m learning to listen better. To empathize more. To ask “what are you going to do?” instead of suggesting telling her what to do.

And I’m learning to pray harder for her.

Because, after all, isn’t that the best thing we can do for our teens?

May 29 I'm learning to pray harder.

When it comes to parenting our teens, let us rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. (Romans 12.12)


20170529 LuAnn KernLuAnn Kern is a writer and mother raising two teenage daughters who were both born in Guatemala. She knows first-hand that when adolescence hits an adopted child, it hits hard. In addition to a changing body and evolving emotions, adopted teens are searching for independence from not one but two sets of parents. To help share what God’s teaching her and her husband, she hosts the blog Ripples and Rip Tides: Raising Your Adopted Teen.