If your young adult children are questioning their faith, you are not alone! Many of us worked diligently to cultivate a durable faith in our kids when they were young, but we struggle when it comes to figuring out how best to support them as they question, doubt, and struggle to make their faith their own.
My precious assistant, Natalie, is a 25-year-old who was raised in a Christian home. After numerous conversations with friends and young adult family members, she came to me and asked if we could write this post. Her hope was to help midlife parents understand the challenges their adult kids face when it comes to maintaining their faith in today’s world.
I loved the idea because I hear from heartbroken parents whose adult children are questioning their faith on a regular basis. I struggle to help them and usually just recommend THIS excellent book. Then I tell them I will pray for them. And I do. But I always wish I could do or say more.
I’m so grateful to Natalie for her willingness to open up and be vulnerable in this post. We worked together to come up with practical, loving ways to help you if your adult children are questioning their faith.
NOTE: Throughout this post, Natalie’s words are in standard print, and Suzy’s are in italics.
Why Are So Many Young Adults Questioning Their Faith?
Believing in God and trusting in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior is a decision that will impact your thoughts, words, and actions, throughout your life. Most people who grew up in the Christian faith begin to ask questions or have doubts at some point, and the young adult years are typically when many people stray from the faith.
Everyone has doubts, but the truth is, recent generations face more temptation than previous generations. Culture bombards us with anti-Christian media and information. The things of this world that God warns us about (the lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and pride of life, 1 John 2:15) are actively promoted in music, entertainment, society, and politics.
Personally, I’ve noticed that the “intensity” of my faith has ebbed and flowed throughout my life. Sometimes I feel the closeness of God and see him in everything around me. Other times I wonder why I don’t feel his presence. As someone who grew up in a Christian home, I spent my high school years attending church and church camp regularly.
“Faith…is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods.”
– C.S. Lewis
I loved growing up in church and going to church camp, and really “felt” the presence of God. I committed my life to the Lord, but then…life happened. In high school and college, I was exposed to new thoughts, temptations, values, and ways of life. Suddenly, God didn’t feel close, or even real, anymore. The drop in emotion from intense joy and faith to, well, reality, was shocking and left me questioning the truth.
“The great thing to remember is that though our feelings come and go God’s love for us does not.”
– C.S. Lewis
Many of my friends had the same experience and came out the other side with a stronger, truer, and more personal faith. While having a childlike faith is something God says he wants for us, as young adults, we must grow up in our faith. As we become adults and begin to think independently, we must find our own path spiritually.
But not all of my friends grew up in their faith. Many of my friends have struggled and gone through intense times of doubt. Everyone experiences growing up and entering adulthood differently, and questioning your faith is a part of that growth. If your adult children are questioning their faith, there are things you can do to help.
10 Ways to Help Adult Children Questioning Their Faith
Remember that doubt is a natural part of every Christian’s life. Believers are meant to acknowledge and wrestle with their questions. Our God is up to the task! If your adult children are questioning their faith or are on the fence about Christianity, don’t panic, and don’t close yourself off! This is a wonderful opportunity to show mercy and patience and to love them through it.
1. Live Out God’s Word
Don’t be preachy or nag! If your adult child isn’t attending church or is hanging out with the wrong crowd, one way to ensure they continue doing that is to nag them. Chances are, they will eventually tune you out and it will harm your relationship.
Instead, choose to live out God’s love. Sometimes too many words or the wrong words (even with the best intentions) can turn others away. Show your adult child through your mindset and actions how amazing God’s gift can be. If your adult child is struggling with their faith, the way they see you love others and live your life will be a powerful witness to them.
2. Manage Your Perspective
If your adult child brings up their uncertainty, questions, or doubts about their faith, your initial reaction will probably be to feel anxious, afraid, or even defensive. Don’t freak out or close yourself off! Instead, do your best to be sensitive, respectful, loving, and understanding. (This may be difficult!)
If the topic of faith arises, be grateful that your children feel you are trustworthy and open your arms to them. If you want to continue the conversation, they need to feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and feelings with you. Trust me when I say that creating a space in which your adult child feels they can be open, especially about serious things, will mean so much to them.
3. Don’t Blame Yourself
Being born in a garage doesn’t make you a car any more than being born into a Christian home makes you a Christian! It may be tough to watch, but our children’s faith must become their own at some point. Know that the Lord is up to the task of wooing their hearts. It may be hard to comprehend, but He loves them even more than you do!
“Jesus may ask us to roll away stones, but only He can raise the dead.”
– Michael Horton
Believing something simply because it’s all you’ve ever known doesn’t lead to true faith. As a parent, if your adult child goes through a season of unbelief, you may feel guilt or wonder what you did wrong. But the truth is that every adult is ultimately responsible for their own relationship with God. Jesus calls on us to serve others and share the Good News, but it is the Spirit alone that brings people to faith in the Gospel.
“Relying on God has to begin all over again every day as if nothing had yet been done.“
– C.S. Lewis
My mom and I were discussing this topic in advance of writing this post, and she brought up a great analogy! She said that insisting your children love God simply because they were raised in a Christian household is like forcing them into an arranged marriage. If you’re in an arranged marriage, do you genuinely love the other person? If you first allow your children to go through the ups and downs of dating, you most likely will find that they find true love on their own. They will build a sustainable relationship because they worked on themselves, sought the truth, and developed a love that will last a lifetime.
(Natalie’s mom is a wise empty nester!)
4. Open Up & Find Common Ground
Affirm and Respect
When your adult children are questioning their faith, affirm and respect these things:
- Their commitment to logic and reason.
- Their willingness to wrestle with tough questions and have difficult conversations.
- Their belief that no one person has all the answers.
- Their courage in facing life and all of its hardships without a belief in an eternal life or a loving and forgiving God.
Look For Common Ground
Finding common ground with anyone you disagree with makes a conversation more productive. Put your relationship over “right.” Remember that your goal is to have a loving, affirming, civil discourse. Remember the acronym LMTL (listen more, talk less).
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.
James 1:19 (NIV)
Being vulnerable helps others feel comfortable and makes them feel seen, heard, and understood. So, if you’ve ever questioned your faith, overcome obstacles in your spiritual journey, or had doubts, open up about these things to your adult kids. Share how you overcame your struggles. This will help them feel as if they are not alone.
Strive for a loving, open discussion where you will do more prayerful listening than talking! Be honest about your own doubts and struggles, and assure your kids of your unconditional love for them. Do your best not to cry, blame yourself, or get emotional during these conversations. If you need to do that later, it’s understandable! Find a good friend, a pastor, or your spouse to listen and pray with during this time.
5. Embrace Apologetics
One of the most commonly cited reasons for not believing in God, or Christianity, is that it defies logic and reason. Educating yourself will give you the freedom to confidently discuss the intellectual side of faith using reason and logic. Apologetics is the branch of theology concerned with the defense or proof of Christianity. (If you like C.S. Lewis then you will love apologetics!)
The books below are excellent resources for anyone wanting to learn more about apologetics. Whether you want to learn more about defending Christianity, are looking for a helpful gift, or simply want to deepen your own faith, these books will bless you.
My favorite book among the ones we shared above is The Case for Christ: A Journalist’s Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus by Lee Strobel. I’ve given it to so many people—at all different stages of faith.
6. Pray, Pray, Pray
While you can pray for your adult children to find truth, peace, and strength in their faith, I also encourage you to pray for yourself. Pray that God gives you the confidence to hand over spiritual matters to Him, knowing that you have done your best and that it is the Spirit’s job to do the rest.
The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.
James 5:16B (NASB)
Prayer changes things! I hope you’re praying for your adult kids regularly AND asking them to pray for you (regardless of where they are in their faith journey)! To see how I pray for my adult kids, you can check out THIS post.
7. Be Open About Your Own Faith
Live out your faith through actions and deeds, and let God’s love shine through your own life. My mom loves to talk about God by expressing her gratitude in front of us. She’ll talk about how beautiful nature is and express her appreciation that our family is healthy and still making memories together. Hearing her attribute these things to our Creator puts a simple reminder into my head that God really does bless us every day, even if I wasn’t paying much attention to it in my own heart.
“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it but because by it, I see everything else.”
– C.S. Lewis
8. Ask Forgiveness If You Need To (You Probably Do!)
As parents, we know we’re just sinners raising sinners! Humble acknowledgment, confession, and repentance of your failings as a parent will go a long way with your adult kids. Ask them to forgive you (Don’t say “I’m sorry,” but ask “Please forgive me?”) for any specific sin that may have created a stumbling block for your adult children in their faith journey.
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.
9. Initiate Spiritual Conversations
Try initiating a “lighthearted” discussion about the world and faith with your adult children. The purpose of this is to spark their curiosity and get them to think about God a bit. It doesn’t have to be a deep discussion, but instead, simply relay an interesting quote you heard (like the one below) to get their brain churning on its own, searching for the truth behind the words.
Another lighthearted thing that has helped me with my faith is listening to Christian comedians! I love Trey Kennedy and Jake Triplett—they do stand-up comedy and have a podcast called Correct Opinions. It helps to hear hilarious Christians who can joke about relatable church things and make jokes about life in general. I think listening to these very likable guys can significantly influence a young adult who thinks Christians “aren’t cool”.
The church can have a reputation for being preachy or condemning, and sometimes it can feel like there is no room for laughing, humor, and lightheartedness. I love Natalie’s creative idea! Consider checking out those comedians as a way to connect with your adult kids.
10. Take Comfort
Finally, take comfort in the Lord throughout this time. As a parent, it must be challenging to see your adult children question or stray from the faith. Take heart! It can take time for your adult child to solidify their faith, and maturity and experience are great teachers! Know that your adult child may need to experience a bit more life before they realize just how much they need a Lord and Savior. Keep praying for them!
Many thanks to Natalie for her willingness to share her heart so openly! Isn’t she a treasure? If you have adult children who are questioning their faith, we would love to pray for them. Please feel free to leave a comment and just share a name. We will pray! And if you have thoughts or tips that we didn’t cover, please share those in the comments as well!