How to respond to your children when they backslide

Published 03 April 2017  |  

Many years ago, John Piper was a hot topic among Christian churches for being the father of an excommunicated backslider. Abraham Piper had left the church with the intent to make a "name for himself" in clubs by getting into drinking and smoking binges.

That was a long time ago, and Abraham is now reconciled to God. In an article published by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in the September 2007 issue of its Decision Magazine, Abraham offered this explanation on how he was able to return to Jesus' embrace: "The best way I know to describe what happened to me that morning is that God made it possible for me to love Jesus. When He makes this possible and at the same time gives you a glimpse of the true wonder of Jesus, it is impossible to resist His call."

As great as the work God has done in Abraham's life with the leading of the Holy Spirit and the guidance of his parents, there are countless other children who are leaving the faith today. Their parents are frustrated; some have given up hope. But how we respond to their situation is what matters now more than ever.

How do parents respond to children who have left the faith?

Here are five things that parents can and should do. You might be surprised to know that "convert them" isn't one of those things.

1. Love them

The love God has for us is covenantal, not transactional—which means it goes without condition. John 3:16 tells us that "God so loved the world"—both the Christian parts and the non-Christian ones.

Moreover, He calls us to love our children regardless of their faith. More importantly, we are to be verbal and expressive about our love, just as God is.

2. Continue to set an example

The one biggest alibi that children can use to justify their abandonment of their faith is that their parents do not live lives that adhere to scripture. Your life and example are crucial factors to your children's faith. As Matthew 5:16 says, "In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven."

3. Pray for them

As obvious as this may sound, I'm sure there are parents with such high frustration level that they believe it's useless to utter a single word of prayer to God about their problematic child. Praying is not just about thought. It's about action. Take time to pray with your spouse for your children and pray fervently for them.

4. Set rules

If your children are not yet adults, remember that you still have a responsibility to lead them. Make sure to set boundaries in your home as to what is allowed and not. Rebellion is tough to manage I know, but allowing it to run amok is obviously not the solution.

5. Trust God's work in them

During times when it seems like we're losing in life, do not forget that God is still in control of everything—including the fate of your backslidden children. In due time, He will have His way. Proverbs 19:21 tells us, "Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand."


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