Years ago, a friend gave me Voddie Baucham’s book, Family Driven Faith, as a gift. Over the years I have come to really appreciate that gift as I’ve read, reread, and even in God’s providence become friends with the author himself. In his book, he writes, “Modern American Christianity has a failure rate somewhere around eight (almost nine) out of ten when it comes to raising children who continue in the faith. Imagine the alarm if nearly 90 percent of our children couldn’t read when they left high school. There wouldn’t be room enough at the school board meeting to hold all of the irate parents.” 
Yet, when I talk to families in our community and ask why they chose to join their church, they often tell me that at the end of the day it was a decision based around what their children wanted and what would make them happy. Could that be why we see so much of a consumer and marketing approach to the way we “do” church in our present culture? People are shopping, and churches are selling. Yet, the statistics continue to point to disturbing trends. “Youth programs and parenting routines designed to pass on religious practice appear to be failing, and 1 in 4 Americans are considered nones today, compared with 12 percent 20 years ago, PRRI reported.” The “none” category is a reflection of what it means to not identify with any religion and it continues to grow.
Could it be that parents are capitulating on a serious minded approach to the faith and a serious minded approach to the local church because they want to make their children happy? Why is this a dangerous idea? Why should parents refrain from allowing their children to make the decision regarding the family’s church membership?
Your Children May Not Be Converted
Have you stopped to consider the sobering reality that your child may not yet be converted? An overwhelming percentage of youth who attend church every Sunday are in fact—unconverted. Will you make your choice of church based on what your child desires, when in all reality, those desires are selfish, carnal, and not exactly God-honoring? Listen to the way the Bible describes the unconverted person’s life:
Titus 3:3 — For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.
Although your child may not be the adult version of what is described in Titus 3:3, your unconverted child has everything necessary in his depravity to make decisions based on selfish motives and carnal desires. Such decisions and desires should not be allowed to make the final call on what church a family joins. Remember, your child needs to be discipled—not entertained.
When we read statistics about teenagers walking away from the church by the end of their freshman year of college, we tend to shift in a direction in order to accommodate their tastes. That very decision could be the cause rather than the solution for children remaining unconverted (many with false professions and baptisms) until they finally part ways with the church. They never understood God’s intention for the church because they were being fed a steady diet of gospel-lite and likely segmented away into fun groups for their appropriate age rather than crossing paths with adults who exemplified before them what it means to be a follower of Jesus.
Your Children Are Not Called to Lead the Family
We are living in a day where parents and grandparents are making choices for church membership based on what their children or grandchildren desire. When we look at passages such as Deuteronomy 6 and Ephesians 6—the responsibility of family discipleship is clearly placed on the shoulders of parents—not children.
Every evening when you sit down for supper around the table (supposing you do this on a regular basis), the meal is most likely not based on what your child wants to eat every evening (unless you want to become very unhealthy). When you chose your home, you didn’t make your choice based on your child’s desire for a certain neighborhood. In like manner, when your child is sick, you don’t ask what doctor he wants to visit, so why would you choose your church based on what your child wants?
The Bible is clear about the structure of the family and the leadership that is ordained by God. The husband is the head of the family—providing both material and spiritual leadership. Parents together lead their children, and this is God’s ordained role. Just as Christ is the head of the church—so is the husband the head of the wife (Eph. 5:22-24). Both father and mother are called to take the leadership of their children and the children are called to obey (Eph. 6:1-4).
Your Children Lack Necessary Practical and Doctrinal Wisdom
Children enter this world as young, immature, and inexperienced babies. As they grow and mature, they glean knowledge and wisdom along the journey of life. It’s the role of parents to instill into their children such knowledge—especially as it pertains to the gospel and the knowledge of God. We should not expect our 12-year old child to possess the knowledge and capability to drive a 300 horsepower sports car. That would be absurd. Likewise, we shouldn’t expect young children to be capable of making the necessary judgment call on membership in a local church. They simply have not been alive long enough—lacking the necessary practical and doctrinal wisdom.
Why would we allow our children, who lack the necessary wisdom in life and the journey of faith, to choose what church the family should join? Many people claim that the church they joined was the right one for their children—and their teenager’s desire clinched their decision. Below are some important issues that children often overlook when visiting a church:
- Does the church practice biblical church discipline?
- Does the pastor properly fence the Lord’s Supper in worship or is fencing the Lord’s Supper a priority at all?
- Does the pastor guard the baptistry to prevent false converts?
- Does the pastor avoid manipulation tactics at the end of his sermon?
- What is the preaching methodology and philosophy—topical or expositional?
- What is the doctrinal conviction of the church’s leadership on matters of salvation, ecclesiology, and matters of worship?
- Is the church a mile wide (with lots of “stuff” to offer the family) but only an inch deep regarding doctrine?
- Is the youth group more interested in being “relevant” rather than doctrinally sound?
- What is the church’s position on social issues such as marriage and homosexuality?
- Does the church have a Sunday evening service? What about a prayer service?
Face it, most children are interested in social networking, the music, and the fun atmosphere surrounding the church campus rather than the doctrinal distinctives of the local church. It is the role of the parent to shepherd, lead, and guide children through the search for a church home. It is not the role of the child to take the lead—and it’s certainly not the parent’s goal to be friends with their children in the process. Sometimes a helpful no is necessary in life.
If you find yourself looking for a church home, use this opportunity to disciple your children so they will gain wisdom to use in their adult life. Don’t lean on their advice for your decision. Lead your children and make careful biblically informed decisions that will benefit your family spiritually. You don’t want your children to grow up and become church hoppers and shoppers, so teach them now through your choice for a local church by showing them first that you have biblical reasoning for leaving your current church, that you’re leaving in a biblical manner, and that your choice of a local church will not be based on fads and cultural trends—but on the necessities of a local church as taught in the Scriptures.
- Voddie Baucham, Family Driven Faith, (Wheaton: Crossway, 2007), 10-11.