If you’ve suffered the pain of seeing one or more of your adult children leave the faith, you may feel as if there’s nothing you can do to lead them back to Christ now that they’re no longer living with you. But it’s never too late to help your kids re-connect with Christ. No matter what’s happened in your children’s relationships with Christ and with you, healing and reconciliation are possible.
Here’s how you can lead your adult children back to Christ:
Set a goal and commit to doing all you can to reaching it. Aim for helping your adult kids love God with all of their hearts, put their full faith and trust in Christ for both their present and their future, and arrive in heaven to join you someday. Keep that goal in mind often as you work to encourage faith in your kids.
Offer your heart to Christ. You must get your own heart right with Christ before you can lead your adult kids back to Him, since you can’t lead your kids in a direction that you’re not going yourself. Keep in mind that you don’t have to be perfect; you simply have to make your relationship with Christ your top priority and keep growing closer to Him. Accept the fact that you’re partially responsible for your adult children’s current alienation from Christ, because the way you raised them impacted them spiritually. But don’t wallow in guilt and shame over your mistakes; no parent is perfect. Instead, go to God in prayer and confess what you said and did wrong while raising your kids. Repent of your sins by committing to turn away from them moving forward. Then accept the complete forgiveness that God offers you, and be confident that there’s real hope for you and your kids to enjoy close relationships with Christ in the future.
Turn your heart toward your kids. Ask God to give you a compassionate heart toward your adult children so you can relate to them without judging and criticizing them. Recognize that your kids are being attacked every day by evil forces in the spiritual realm who want to keep your kids away from Christ. So pray for your children often, and ask God to help you see them through His eyes as you intercede in prayer for them.
Forgive and apologize. Your children have hurt you, and you’ve hurt your children, through some of what you all have said and done to each other in the past. But don’t allow bitterness to poison your relationships with God and each other. Realize that you won’t be able to lead your kids back to Christ if you don’t follow His command to forgive and apologize. Remember that God has forgiven you of many sins. So forgive your kids, as an act of your will, despite your feelings. As you rely on God’s power to help you through the forgiveness process, your feelings will gradually change. Acknowledge the specific mistakes you’ve made relating to your kids, and ask them to forgive you. Whenever your children are willing, pursue reconciliation in your relationships. Take the first step to try to reconcile with them.
Draw your children’s hearts to yours. Ask God to help you connect with your adult kids in new ways. Pray for the courage you need to spend more time with them and speak the truth in love to them. Keep in mind that you still have plenty of power to influence your children’s faith, even though they’re adults, but your influence will flow into their lives only through a warm heart connection with them. So do everything you can to develop a warm relationship with your kids.
Rebuild the relationship bridges between you and your kids. Talk honestly with your adult children about the fears and anxieties you struggle with when you try to discuss spirituality with them, and encourage them to share their own fears and anxieties about talking about faith with you. Ask your kids to tell you whether they truly feel loved by you, or whether they know intellectually that you probably love them, but they don’t actually feel your love. If your children give you hard answers, thank them for their honesty and ask God to help you make the changes you need to make to successfully communicate your love to your kids. Keep in mind when relating to your children that it’s important to speak with gentleness to daughters and to speak with respect to sons, so they can truly feel loved. Work on listening to your kids more than talking to them, seeking to understand them before seeking to be understood yourself.
Point your children’s hearts to Christ. Whenever an opportunity arises for you to share the Gospel message with your adult kids, do so, trusting that God will use your efforts by working in your children’s lives. Don’t ever be ashamed of the Gospel, because it carries God’s power for salvation. Take the risks of pursuing regular conversations with your kids about faith—even when it’s awkward or difficult to do so—because the alternative of not trying to help your kids will only lead to regrets for you and tragic spiritual consequences for your kids. Talk with your kids in person and on the phone about faith, and also engage in written conversations about faith by e-mailing, texting, or writing them notes or letters. Share stories of how God has worked in your life to help you repent and grow spiritually so they can learn from your example. Communicate your unconditional love to them that reflects God’s unconditional love for them. Invite your kids to let you know regularly what concerns they have that they’d like you to pray about, and ask them to pray for you in return. Encourage your kids to put their faith and trust in Christ alone.
Pray for a great spiritual legacy. Keep praying that God will show His glory to your adult children and draw them into relationships with them. If your kids return to faith, rejoice in the fact that everyone in their circle of influence will be blessed as a result. Ask God to give you a great spiritual legacy, expanding His kingdom through your family.
By: Rob Rienow
Rob Rienow (DMin., Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary) has served on the pastoral staff of Wheaton Bible Church for 18 years. His most important ministry is loving and encouraging his wife and six children to follow Christ. He and his wife, Amy, are founders of Visionary Parenting, a ministry that exists to inspire parents and equip churches to pass faith to the next generation. Rob speaks at churches and conferences around the country, serves on the Family Ministry Team for the Association of Marriage and Family Ministries, and volunteers as chaplain at The Greenhouse, a classical Christian school. Rob and his family live in Wheaton, IL.