I Raised my Children in the Church and They No Longer Attend. Did I Do Something Wrong?

An Interlude in Our Series on Lessons of the 20th Century      

Answer: No, probably not. (Of course, I don’t know your situation, but I find most people do the best they can in the situation they’re in.)

Part of what I am trying to show in this series is that church in the 21st century is in a much different place than it was at the beginning of the 20th century, when most people went to church as children and kept going as adults. Why did this happen? Part of the reason I am writing this series is to show that this trend is the result of LOTS OF DIFFERENT EVENTS. The consequences of these different events all added up over time.

One of the consequences is that our society in the West gradually became more and more secular. Secular just means ‘pertaining to this world’, as opposed to things eternal or concerning religion. Over time, more and more of our communal life in the West has become secular. Governments are largely separated from religion; so are our patterns of shopping and entertainment. Public education is secular, as well as our calendar and rhythms of life, for the most part.

Over time, attendance at church gradually declined to where we are today. Most people don’t attend church on a regular basis. Your children are part of a historical trend that is far bigger than any decisions you made as a parent. Again, I know there are many nuances and individual circumstances involved. But we need to realize that inviting people — even our children — to church means swimming against a strong current. As people of faith, we are excited about where God is bringing the church. But we need to proceed with eyes wide open.

(Personal note: I see secularism as both an asset and an acid. It is a trend I celebrate. I am glad religion plays no role in who gets to vote or have a job or run for office. I appreciate that people of all faiths or no faith have the freedom and space to exist according to their conscience. But I am also aware that secularism can act as an acid. It can dissolve bonds of community, family and faith. I take it very seriously.)

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3 Replies to “I Raised my Children in the Church and They No Longer Attend. Did I Do Something Wrong?”

  1. These are great insights about the use of ‘in’ language. I know that I do this all the time. It is actually quite hard not to. And I hear that about the other ways of learning and hearing the story. In some ways, I think that should be part of the Christian faith but we have lost it.

  2. Language is very in group, in churches. And rarely do we address topics the secular world addresses like mental health issues, fear in this century, job opportunities, competition in higher education. LBQT issues, assisted dying, and the list continues.

  3. Thanks Stephen great topic. I try to imagine what it is like for one of my later teens walking into one of our typical Sinday services. I struggle to find one aspect of their daily lives they would find there.
    We form ourselves into a context that is hierarchical in nature; there is little opportunity for eye contact or connection. We use lots of “in”language that is not inclusive to the unitiated. In many places children are torn away from their parents to go into a place where they no few if any people and certain behaviours are an expectation. I wonder how my then young grandchildren, some of whom are gifted with different ways of seeing the world, were expected to do hand eye coordinated handicrafts when they needed more kinetic ways of entering the story. Without change, and radically so, I fear that my beloved church will become totally irrelevant. This is my lament; neither criticism nor conflict is invited here. Thank you for these ‘returning to basics’ thought pieces.

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