Issues and Answers

Why Kids Reject Their Parents Faith

Three Angels Broadcasting Network

Program transcript

Participants: Shelley Quinn (Host), Martin Weber


Series Code: IAA

Program Code: IAA000321

00:30 Hello, I'm Shelley Quinn and welcome again to
00:33 Issues and Answers. Today I think we're going to
00:36 have a fascinating program. We are going to be talking about
00:40 the attrition of young people from the church. Why do they
00:44 leave the church? I wanted to read you a scripture that came
00:47 to my mind when I was thinking about this topic. This comes
00:51 from Jeremiah 3 and verse 19. This is the Lord speaking and
00:55 listen to what he says. I thought how I would set you
00:59 among my children and give you a pleasant land, a goodly
01:02 heritage, the most beautiful and best among all nations and I
01:08 thought you would call me my Father and not turn away from
01:13 following me. Can you hear the Lord's broken heart in that
01:17 scripture. He is saying I have such a good inheritance for you
01:21 and I've got a plan for your life and I really didn't think
01:26 you would turn away from me. Why do people turn away? Why when
01:30 children are raised in a godly home and in the church, why
01:34 do they leave the faith of their fathers? Well here to talk with
01:38 us today is Martin Weber and he comes to us from Lincoln,
01:42 Nebraska. Martin has just finished his doctoral studies
01:46 and your focus was on this issue, right?
01:50 Yes. Yes the attrition of clergy children, specifically within
01:54 the Seventh-day Adventist Church although the principles apply to
01:58 all clergy children and other children as well.
02:00 Now you did your studies at the Carey Theological School and
02:07 is a Baptist School. Yes. It's on the campus of the
02:11 the University of British, Columbia in Vancouver and it
02:14 was very interesting to work through them to study my own
02:17 denomination. That is interesting. Now why did
02:20 you choose that? Well they have a specialty with
02:23 reaching to the post modern world and so I was greatly
02:28 blessed through their approach and they also were very
02:32 respectful of my faith and we share, of course, a common faith
02:36 in Christ. So it was a delightful experience.
02:38 Amen, praise the Lord. Now I know that in the past you told
02:41 me that you were a chaplain for the law enforcement. You were
02:45 also a pastor, but currently you're serving as the
02:49 communications director for the Mid-American Region of Seventh-
02:52 day Adventist churches. What does that mean?
02:55 Well it's a big long territory. It stretches from Canada down to
02:59 Oklahoma, then from the Mississippi west through the
03:01 the Rockies. So yeah, a lot of territory to cover.
03:04 So what exactly does the communications director do?
03:07 Well we communicate the news of the church. Also if there's some
03:11 scandal or crisis, which, thank God there hasn't been for the
03:15 last three year since I've been there, not because I have been
03:19 but you know. That's how long you've been
03:21 there? I'm supposed to help deal with
03:23 that. Yes, well praise the Lord.
03:25 So what we're going to be talking about today is a study
03:29 that was done and this is with clergy and their children.
03:33 How many people did you study and tell us a little bit about
03:38 how you went about gathering this information.
03:41 Well there were actually 222 in the group that I reached out to;
03:48 clergy parents of children 20 years or older and about 113 of
03:56 them specifically responded, so almost half.
04:01 All right. What types of questions did you ask them?
04:04 We had a big long list, 111 questions, everything I could
04:08 think of; everything about the family background, basic profile
04:14 personality profile and then experiences regarding the church
04:19 regarding their own family which was kind of touchy actually.
04:24 Of necessity it was personal information, highly confidential
04:29 and all that. And then kind of a summary section as well, so
04:33 lots of information. So give us, Martin, if you will
04:38 kind of a synopsis and then let's break it down. Can you
04:43 put your finger on it and say here are some clear cut reasons
04:46 why children of the clergy actually leave the faith of
04:51 their fathers, where they leave the denomination and here's
04:54 some things that are positive influences, here are some things
04:58 that are negative influences.
04:59 Sure, sure. There are 21,000 data cells in my base of
05:04 information and out of that come 40 factors, some of them
05:10 positive, some of them negative as to why the kids growing up
05:16 will leave or stay. Now, of course, they make their own
05:20 decision. I studied the clergy parents. The question was, what
05:26 home environment is more likely to see the children stay versus
05:32 leave. Okay, give us a clue of what
05:36 those factors are. Most important of all is the
05:40 relationality of the family. The family can be like Noah's
05:44 ark sailing through some very troubled waters with lots of
05:48 dangerous stuff going on and nasty stuff within the community
05:53 or even the church family. But if there is relationality and
05:59 love in the pastor's home, love covers a multitude of sins.
06:04 So when you talk about having this relationship, it's not just
06:09 parent-to-child but parent-to- parent and parent-to-God as well
06:14 would you agree? Oh yeah. It's all this
06:17 relationality versus a kind of a silence, alienation, or people
06:23 going their own way. For example, if dad is so wrapped up
06:26 in the church, and I'm saying dad being the pastor because
06:31 in my survey almost all the older, in fact, indeed, all the
06:36 older clergy were male. Okay. If dad was all wrapped up in his
06:41 church and didn't take so much time with the family, yeah, that
06:46 was a major problem. So that was one of the major
06:51 things that you could see as a determining point that might
06:55 make a child then leave the church as they grew older.
07:00 But you know, that makes perfect sense because when you think
07:05 about it if a pastor and oh how we all, it doesn't matter or
07:09 just a parent who is working hard to make a provision for
07:13 your family, if we are preaching the gospel to our children and
07:17 we're trying to tell them this is the way in which to walk but
07:22 we don't model it, if we don't show that love and that
07:25 graciousness at home, if we're not there when our children need
07:30 us, then they really even lose faith in the Bible is quite
07:36 possible because they don't feel like it's real. Sometimes it's
07:40 called practicing what you preach isn't it.
07:42 Yeah, yeah. Now it's interesting one thing here, Shelley, is that
07:46 parents that talked about praying a lot were actually
07:52 slightly more likely to see their kids leave and the
07:57 emphasis there is talk. When they talked a lot about their
08:04 religion and didn't live it in practice, if the love wasn't
08:09 there, if there was a lot of talk and not so much love, that
08:15 was a negative factor.
08:17 I have a saying that I use all the time and that is rules
08:25 without relationship result in rebellion. You know as children
08:29 are being brought up and it would seem that it would be
08:31 particularly easy for a pastor's family to fall into this because
08:37 you know that you are under the microscope if you will, that
08:41 people are watching you and you should be modeling what you're
08:46 teaching. But if a parent brings a child up with a lot of rules
08:50 from the Bible and saying this is what you can and can't do
08:54 but they don't teach them that personal relationship with Jesus
08:58 Christ, then it seems that quite frequently those children rebel
09:02 and is this something that you found?
09:04 Oh yes, major, major. You touched on a couple of things
09:08 there. First of all, with the rules. The parents' conservatism
09:12 like if they were personally strict, that was not a factor
09:17 one way or another. It was not a negative if dad was kind of
09:20 real conservative and strict with himself as long as he was
09:24 nice about it and loving about it and he and mom didn't try to
09:30 impose it on the kids. Freedom for the kids to discover God for
09:35 themselves was an extremely major factor in escaping
09:41 attrition. I've got all these little
09:45 sayings, but the other thing I tell people is that you know
09:49 we don't try to beat somebody over the head with a violin to
09:53 convince them how beautiful the music is, yet sometimes parents
09:57 and all of us will take the Bible and just be beating
09:59 somebody over the head just to try to convince them how
10:02 beautiful God's word is. It just doesn't work when you stuff it
10:06 down their throats does it?
10:07 Right. Every generation has to discover God themselves and the
10:12 parents that a lot of the kids were younger modeled and taught
10:16 but then as the kids got to be teens stepped back and let the
10:20 kids have some freedom in experiencing God for themselves.
10:25 Those were the homes where the kids tended to stay and I think
10:31 this is consistent with scripture where the Spirit of
10:33 the Lord is there is liberty. Now there's a little interesting
10:40 side light in here that I could mention perhaps. There were 31
10:47 factors of issues with the church and with people in the
10:51 church that I asked the parents to talk about and I compared of
10:55 course the homes where the kids tended to stay versus the homes
11:01 where the kids tended to leave. One of these had to do with
11:07 movies and church standards. Now both parents, all pastoral
11:13 parents were kind of against going to the movies. But parents
11:18 whose kids tended to stay were more likely to approve home
11:23 videos, even home videos that might include some violence or
11:28 nudity. Now on the surface that seems, whoa there, what's going
11:33 on? But actually as you look at the data it's the parents are
11:38 recognizing that whereas when you go to a theater it's just
11:42 there, you can't do anything about what's on the screen
11:47 except walk out. But at home there's such a thing as the fast
11:50 forward button and so if you're watching a video that's
11:54 basically a good video but some thing bad comes on you just
11:58 skip on to the next section. The freedom to trust their
12:04 older kids to do that and to teach them that it's not just
12:10 clear cut all good or all bad. There are nuances in life and
12:16 you learn principles to make mature godly decisions and to
12:20 trust the teenagers to make those decisions. That was a
12:25 factor. So essentially the positive
12:30 influences were those parents who had that relationship with
12:33 the Lord who taught their children a relationship with the
12:37 Lord but who were not majoring in the minors. They actually
12:42 gave them some freedom to explore and I love the word you
12:46 used, experience God for themselves. So they were
12:50 training them up in the way they should go but once they got
12:54 those training wheels on they let them kind of go a little bit
12:57 instead of just constantly holding on. What about the
13:03 amount of time. You know, we're talking about pastors and their
13:07 families. Being a pastor is a very demanding job as you well
13:11 know because you've been one. What about the amount of time
13:15 that parents spent with their children? Was this a positive
13:19 influence? Yes it was and it wasn't just
13:23 vacation. Vacations were a factor but more important was
13:29 just the daily grind of life. Was dad available? Was there fun
13:36 in the family during the week? And even more that time set
13:42 aside; now we're going to have fun. We've had a real tough week
13:47 but now we're going to... All week long in the midst of all
13:52 the duties and burdens of life the parsonage can be a fun place
13:56 There can be laughter and fun throughout and those families
14:00 that somehow managed to do that tended much more to keep their
14:04 kids than those who kind of quantified or compartmentalized
14:08 joy. I can see that I'm guilty myself
14:14 in my marital relationship that there are times that when things
14:20 become so overwhelming in the demands of ministry that you
14:24 can say well we're going to put this afternoon aside for some
14:28 fun time but everything else is compartmentalized. So I can see
14:32 that that would be a difficult thing. What are the most
14:36 negative influences? What were some of the causative factors
14:41 that resulted in children leaving the church?
14:45 Huge in negativity was if there was a difference in expectation
14:52 because they were PKs (pastor's kids). Like because dad's a
14:57 pastor therefore you can't wear this or you can't do that.
15:02 Whoa, that was huge. That was a hugely negative factor.
15:07 And what are some of the others?
15:09 Some of the others were if there was an attack upon the pastoral
15:19 family which is, of course, predictable. When mom was
15:25 attacked in the church. That was bad for the kids, very bad.
15:32 But whether or not there were problems in the general in the
15:37 church was not a factor one way or another; statistically it was
15:41 not a factor. But whether some how whatever was going on in the
15:45 board room, whatever fights were going on or arguments in the
15:49 board room, if the church remained still a nurturing place
15:52 for the kids; maybe there was a youth director that really loved
15:56 the kids or some grandma or grandpa in the faith that really
16:01 loved the kids, that would overcome other problems in the
16:07 church. But when the overall church environment was not
16:13 nurturing, that was another highly negative factor in the
16:19 church. Totally understandable. We were
16:23 coming back from the GYC which is the General Youth Conference
16:27 and there was a young lady who had attended and was stranded
16:32 at the St. Louis airport. Was that up in Minneapolis?
16:34 Yes it was. Yeah we wrote about that...
16:37 No actually this is the one from California, this was several
16:42 years back. Sacramento. Yes Sacramento. Yeah I was there
16:45 too. In Sacramento. So we gave this young lady a ride back
16:48 from the airport. The car was just stuffed with people so she
16:53 was kind of in the hatch almost back in the back. I was sitting
16:58 in the back seat and I turned around and just looked back
17:00 at her and I asked her; I said, how can we keep our young people
17:04 in the church? She said, quit trying to entertain us and give
17:08 us a challenge. Did you find in any of your research that
17:12 some of the young people felt like they left the church just
17:16 because they couldn't find their place in the church?
17:21 Yes, yes. Just trying to entertain the kids is not
17:25 enough. There has to be a missionality. Those families
17:30 where the kids were able to see themselves as part of a mission
17:35 that was definitely a keeping factor.
17:40 You know, even speaking of that I always tell people that one of
17:44 the best things you can do for your children is take them on a
17:49 mission trip because it is life changing. But it is so easy
17:53 when you're in ministry full time... You know I want to
17:58 speak to the church right now. We have to remember that God
18:03 set it up so that there would be pastors, teachers,
18:06 evangelists, prophets and what am I leaving out, anyway.
18:12 The point is God set the pastors up in the and the plan for
18:17 ministry up so that they could train all of us lay people and
18:21 that we can go out and do the work. We have a tendency, and
18:25 did you find this even in your own church, to think that the
18:30 pastor is supposed to do it all. He's supposed to do the hospital
18:33 visitation, he's supposed to do the Bible studies. Some people
18:37 think that the pastor is failing as a pastor if he's not out
18:42 doing all of these things and some pastors get caught up in
18:46 this mentality, the expectation of the church, and they don't
18:51 spend enough time with their own family. They have their
18:54 priorities wrong. What kind of a factor, if it's not God first
18:59 then the family and then the ministry, if this gets out of
19:02 order where it's ministry before God or before family,
19:06 what kind of an influence did this have on children? Did you
19:10 find in your research that this affected anyone in a negative
19:15 way that might make them leave the church?
19:18 Yeah, yeah. The pastors had to look at their families as their
19:22 prime ministry. And I think for all of us whether pastors or not
19:26 marriage is a ministry. You know the family is a ministry. It's a
19:30 basic building block of a local church. So ministry starts
19:35 there but of course it doesn't end there and the pastor is not
19:40 the circus performer for the church or for the family but
19:44 rather and empowerer, an equipper. If the kids could
19:50 experience purpose, they could put up with a lot of stuff going
19:56 on in the church. If they through it all could experience
20:00 nurture and purpose and fun. I'm not talking about fun in
20:04 terms of ice cream fun, well that too, but joy, you know, joy
20:09 So that they saw church as something that looked forward to
20:15 attending. Yes. Now specifically I'm not sure that I got the
20:20 answer that I was looking for. The amount of time that the
20:24 pastor spends with their family, how big of an influence was that
20:28 I didn't quantify that. I didn't try to quantify that. I had a
20:33 question in there that asked for days off with kids and that was
20:37 not a factor statistically which kind of surprised me because
20:41 I thought that having days set apart, you know, father/son,
20:45 father/daughter would be statistically significant, but
20:49 it wasn't. What was more important that throughout life
20:53 not to have this compartmentalized thing,
20:55 but throughout life to have this relationality, this joy in the
20:59 family. You know, Martin, you just said
21:02 something that's flying in the face of pop psychology because
21:05 they talk about quality time compared to it's not about
21:09 quantity but quality. But now I've seen new research coming
21:12 out and they're saying, hey we're rethinking all of this.
21:17 Kids want you present in their life and it isn't just quality
21:21 time but it's the time that you're just side by side in the
21:25 same room. You may not even be talking, but you're there if
21:29 they need a quick answer from you or very important like to
21:33 eat dinner together and things like this. So what you found is
21:37 that it wasn't those vacation days or special dates set aside
21:41 so much as it was just being present for your children day
21:45 by day. Exactly, and in that family
21:48 togetherness, a big factor, a big factor, in fact this came up
21:54 twice in a major way in the data was being open about problems
21:59 in the church. Okay. A highly negative factor in attrition was
22:04 trying to block the kids from knowledge of problems in the
22:09 church, or if they became aware to just not talk about it;
22:13 trying to shield them, trying to shield the kids was a major
22:18 factor in attrition. That's interesting, that's a
22:22 really interesting comment.
22:23 Now which doesn't mean that everything that everybody does
22:28 was common knowledge in the house but age appropriate within
22:33 boundaries of confidentiality. But families that were able to
22:39 process the pain together, like this is a rose garden, yeah, but
22:45 there are thorns in a rose garden. And one pastor in fact
22:49 told me, he said, it was no secret to the kids that there
22:54 was a particular person in the church that was causing problems
22:59 and the kids knew it. I couldn't deny it and I didn't try to be
23:03 dishonest about it. But instead every time there was a board
23:08 meeting my wife gathered the kids around me and the four of
23:12 them prayed for me. They laid their hands on me and they
23:16 prayed for me that God would help me deal with this
23:18 particular person at the board meeting and that pastor, that
23:23 pastor, all three kids are adults and they are thriving
23:27 in Christ and in the church. But yeah they didn't try to block
23:31 out or pretend, but they processed. They weren't in
23:36 denial, they didn't excuse or enable, but they said well okay
23:39 this is what's going on. Let's talk about it and they processed
23:43 it and the kids could deal with it.
23:45 You know, it's been my experience that children are
23:47 innately intuitive and they pick up things. So it would seem to
23:52 me, if I'm interpreting this correctly, but what you're
23:57 saying is that when parents try to cover up, kids feel that
24:01 disconnect. They know, they recognize there's something
24:04 going on and they don't feel like there's this openness and
24:07 this sharing between the parents and them.
24:10 In fact, it leaves the impression that it's so bad
24:14 it can't even be talked about and they wonder what in the
24:16 world is going on that this is so bad that everybody has to be
24:20 in denial about. But when parents are able to be
24:24 realistic and to bridge over to something that we talked about
24:29 previously, realistic about their own struggles. When mom
24:35 and dad try to pretend that they are Moses on Mt. Sinai all the
24:39 time, instead of saying, you know kids, we struggle too and
24:44 they are willing to be appropriately vulnerable about
24:48 their own spiritual issues, the churches issues and their own
24:52 issues. These were the parents whose kids tended to stay.
24:56 But like I mentioned where mom and dad talked about prayer,
25:03 instead of praying. Yeah. Maybe they did pray but prayer in
25:08 itself... talking about God in and of itself, talking about
25:13 prayer in and of itself was not statistically different among
25:17 both groups. But what was different was being real about
25:23 it. I can't believe that our time is
25:25 already gone but in the minute that we have left, what advice
25:30 would you give to parents that would help them keep their
25:34 children in the faith?
25:36 I would say based on the data to be loving, to realize that
25:44 what's going on in the parsonage is more important than anything
25:49 happening anywhere else and a parsonage can be a Noah's ark.
25:53 There can be fun in the family, there can be joy, there can be
25:56 purpose, there can be togetherness, we can be open
25:59 about things. We're a team together and you've got problems
26:03 we've got problems. Just as we discover God for ourselves, you
26:08 discover God for yourselves. We'll give you some space.
26:10 We're not going to expect you to be super saints just because
26:14 you're pastor kids.
26:15 That's good. You know I think that's very good advice for all
26:19 parents. When we really think about it what we have to do
26:22 with our children is model a behavior for them. Train up a
26:26 child in the way they should go. When they're old they will not
26:29 depart from it. But part of that training isn't just verbal
26:33 instruction. It's what we live out in our lives. I want to
26:37 encourage everyone that's watching today, even though
26:40 we've been taking about PKs, pastors kids, this is no
26:44 different than your children, your family. Even if you old
26:48 enough that maybe your family's grown or if you don't have
26:53 children of your own, you can make a positive influence on the
26:57 children at your church by showing them what it's like to
27:01 have a personal relationship with the Lord by helping them
27:04 have some joy and understand how to have joy in the Lord.
27:08 You know it has been lovely having you here, Martin.
27:11 We want to thank you so much and we'd like you to come back and
27:14 discuss some more about these things.
27:16 Absolutely. I'll be thrilled.
27:18 Oh wonderful. Now for those of you at home remember that these
27:22 little ones are watching us and as they grow older they're
27:26 watching us even more closely. Sometimes we think these teens
27:30 are off in a world of their own. Let me tell you, they don't miss
27:34 a lick. They see everything that we're doing. So let's be real
27:38 with them and be real with god and teach them how to find
27:42 the love of God on their own. Now may the grace of our Lord
27:46 Jesus Christ, the love of the Father, and the fellowship of
27:50 the Holy Spirit be with you and your entire family.
27:53 Thanks for joining us.


Revised 2014-12-17