One of the Best Things We Can Do For Our Kids in this Culture War

I send my children off to school every morning.

Right into a war zone.

And you do, too.

Wait. What? I’m not talking about how you choose to educate your kids. If they attend anything outside your home –Boy Scouts, reading time at the library or soccer at the YMCA, or if you let anything inside your home through media–they are being influenced by others and exposed to a culture war.

A culture war is a struggle between two sets of conflicting cultural values.

And if you haven’t noticed, our society  has one set of values and Christians have another. I’m not going to talk about the differences and list all the things we should or shouldn’t do. Because that’s not Christianity.

Simply put, Christianity is following Jesus.

Which isn’t really simple at all. Because it cost Jesus his life. It will cost us ours, too.

Father and Son

I’ve followed Jesus into some places that scare me. They aren’t safe or pretty and loving others who are different than we are, can’t be wrapped up with a neat little bow. Sometimes following Jesus is dirty, hard work.

By living in this world, my kids are exposed to sin.  And no one on either side of the battle line likes to think about sending kid soldiers into war. But as we teach right and wrong, instill values, develop a moral compass, we are doing just that.

Because following Jesus doesn’t make sense to our culture. (Jesus said it wouldn’t, so don’t panic).

The first ten years of my marriage, I was married to a youth pastor. We spent all of our time, work hours and after hours, loving kids. Even back then, it was a crazy time to be a teenager in our culture. Kids were experimenting with all kinds of things and most of the parents were clueless. They were exercising a little bit of freedom, trying on different experiences and learning from their mistakes.

And some parents forced their kids to come and made church a battleground while others grounded their kids from coming to youth events as a form of punishment. Some kids stayed in church, others left, but the kids that ended up choosing to live their lives for Jesus were the ones who got to know Him.

I believe one of the absolute best things we can do for our children is help them build community with believers their age. My kids are now the age of some of the youth we led. And I watch my kids fight the battle at school, struggle when they don’t fit it and test the waters we’ve warned them about. And I recognize their deep need for a safe place to commune with kids and figure out how to live this Christian life.

These days, it’s sort of a fad for kids not to attend church with the family. We value sports practices, part time jobs, just about any and everything more than we do church. It’s a dangerous trend.

Recently, I signed my daughter up for an Encounter Weekend with her youth group and when I told her she freaked out. Nothing sounded fun about staying at a stranger’s home (from our church) with a group of junior high girls she didn’t know.

I told her I wanted her to go, but wouldn’t force her. It was her choice. And then I prayed my heart out that she would choose to go. And she did. And not only did she encounter other girls her age, she encountered God.

Sure, I wanted her to connect with girls her age, but even more I wanted her to experience God without me.

There’s all this crazy research on why so many kids are leaving the church once they can (6 in 10). Why? Some are leaving because it’s the first time they have the freedom to do so. Here are 6 other reasons.

But I think most leave because they don’t know Jesus.

They have heard about him their whole lives. They have the t-shirt. But it’s not that personal.

I don’t know if there’s a right way to go about it. But I do know it’s not about rules, it’s about relationship. 

One of the best things we can do for our kids is introduce them to our Savior. If we are living in relationship with him, they probably know that. Kids are smart. They can see the One who has turned our lives around.

We lose them to our culture if we fill our home with a lot of rules and legalism in an effort to produce morality. Because you can have all these things and not have Jesus.

Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out.” Romans 12:2  (MSG)

So, what can we do? 

1. Pray for our children-like on our knees. It’s a tough world for them to navigate.

2. Talk openly. Let them ask hard questions. Over lunch the other day, my kids asked why we left the denomination we were raised in. We were honest. It turned out to be a very meaningful conversation about religion and what it really means to follow Jesus.

3. Admit your mistakes and doubts. I think it’s good to let our kids know we struggle, too.

3. Refuse to let culture dictate your calendar. Most kids simply can’t fit a midweek Bible Study or youth group into their already busy lives. I wonder if that is being too busy.

4. Give them opportunities to connect. If your church doesn’t have a good youth group, help them find one.

5. Don’t give up-no matter what, no matter how far they run, no matter how wild the battle rages. Do not stop fighting for your kids.

I don’t know if my kids will continue to follow Jesus once they leave our home. I can’t make the decision for them. But I’m going to do my best to love Him and hope they’ll follow.


  1. 2

    Toni says

    Love your article and have many of the same thoughts about how we send our kids into a war zone & hope Christ come’s out victorious. One thing I want to share is that while I believe a good youth group is important I believe it is equally important that the youth build relationships with the other members of the church as well. Both the older and the younger have a lot to give.

    The older members give wisdom and experience as well as a listening ear. Getting all your guidance from people that are still searching (youth/kids) is one of the reasons the kids struggle so. They need the influence of older and wiser members that have fought some of those same struggles. The youth Pastors/Leaders can’t do it all and they shouldn’t be expected too.

    The younger give there optimism and simple faith. They are also the ones that no one wants to disappoint, since they love unconditionally. Knowing that others are watching and following in your footsteps causes you to be a little more careful about your actions.

    I also believe the youth can contribute to the church as a whole. Expecting them to come just to be entertained is a mistake since there are so many places one can go for entertainment. Give them a way to contribute and many will feel a sense of partnership and family that causes them to realize that we are all in this together. After all we call it a church FAMILY and in families everyone contributes.

    I’ve been discussing this fact with the leaders in our church and I explained to them that even though I attended for years I didn’t feel at home until I found a way to contribute. Many people, especially the young, don’t have the confidence to stand up and say “I can help”. We need to make sure we give them opportunities to find a place in the church. I truly believe that if they feel like what they do makes a difference, they will be more open to the opportunities to build their own relationship with Christ,

  2. 3

    Kim Nealey says

    Kristen- I love how you write what is on your heart, what you’ve learned through your life experiences and how I see you love God with all your heart! You are a good Mom! Have a blessed day!

  3. 5


    There is so much I loved about what you wrote. Thanks for your wisdom that I so needed to hear this morning. I have been debating on letting my son go away for a “retreat” weekend. He is almost 10 and this has been a big social influence year for him in school. Trying to navigate the culture of the world while being a Christian kid is really hard for the kids and the parents. And I am certain it is only going to get harder. Your words “but even more I wanted her to experience God without me.” really hit home. My biggest prayer for my boys (i have 3) is for them to experience God in the most authentic way before they leave the safety net of my home. Allowing them to be in groups with other kids their age–while growing spiritually—gives them opportunity to get to know Jesus on their own. Thanks so much for sharing. And I love your blog–btw. Not even sure how I stumbled upon it, but I have been reading it for while now. You are truly a light for Jesus—thank you for sharing so authentically. :)

  4. 6

    Karyl says

    Ha! I was one of those kids who got grounded from church. It only took once and I straightened right up. (My sister wanted to be grounded from church, but my parents were too wily for that.) And your post is right on. It’s so easy to delegate our children’s education to the school and learning about Jesus to a church, but they need us to lead them in both. I started making a conscious decision to talk with my kidlet about God throughout the week. (“Don’t forget to thank God for that beautiful sunset.” “You’re right. That bug is gross. Why do you think He made it that way?”) I’ll admit it felt awkward. For years. It just wasn’t how I remember being raised and it certainly wasn’t a cultural norm. But it has been such a blessing for us both. Thanks for the continued encouragement!

  5. 7

    Meg says

    The main reason my kids hate church and youth group is the crazy hypocrisy. The girls who are so super sweet at youth group-praying for everyone, raising their hands during worship, etc, are the SAME girls who won’t even look them in the eyes at school. they are the same girls who start horrible, mean group texts targeting “losers” at school, etc. My girls say it’s just too much. It grieves me, but I have seen it first hand, so I know they aren’t making it up.

    • 7.1

      Kristen says

      Meg, We’ve had the same problem in the past. It’s so sad. I will say that we made it a mission this past year to find a place for my daughter to connect. We must have visited 4-5 youth groups. God ended up answering our prayer when our small church merged with a larger one and it has a good youth group. Don’t give up!

  6. 8


    This is a very good, thought-provoking post. I think more of us need to read it and think about it. I especial agree with not filling our homes with rules and legalism and how if they’re too busy for midweek Bible study, then maybe they’re too busy.

  7. 9

    Megan says

    Thank you for this wonderful post! Our oldest daughter was 10 when she moved into our home and 11 when we adopted her. She attended public school, was homeschooled for a year and then attended Christian school her last three years of high school. Our church did not have a good youth group (small church = no teens!) so we encouraged her to attend another local youth group. She is now an 18-year old college Freshman at a Christian University. She really struggled through high school and her first semester of college. She knew how to talk the talk, but didn’t walk the walk. She never got into anything that society would consider “major” – drugs, alcohol, sex, but she was majorly running from God and what He wanted for her. Over the past 2 months, she has finally stopped fighting God and allowed Him to take complete control of her life. Last night she was (re)baptized at her campus church. It has been such a joy (and heartache) to watch Him work in her. She has had to learn some painful lessons, but to watch Him work has been incredible! I LOVE your 5 points of what we can do – we did them all for her! I would say to any parent struggling with this – don’t ever stop, don’t ever give up! It’s hard to watch your child learn a lesson the hard way, but boy, is it great to see what they learn when God teaches them! He flows from her now in a way that gives me such joy.

  8. 10

    Karen says

    OH.YES.THIS…. But I think most leave because they don’t know Jesus.

    They have heard about him their whole lives. They have the t-shirt. But it’s not that personal.

  9. 11


    Thanks so much for sharing! AMAZING words. Your words are so filled with power and so inspired from the Holy Spirit. I always feel challenged and ministered to by your blog. Thanks so much again!

  10. 13

    Heather says

    Kristen I love reading your posts but I think this is the first time I’ve commented. Just wanted to say what a great post, God has giving you great wisdom and a fierce heart for fighting for truth (and your kids). We have negotiated the teen years here (3 daughters) and now into the potential life partners (2 have serious boyfriends) you NEVER stop praying for your children :) Anyway thanks again for expressing Christianity in a strong yet very unjudgmental way. Aussie sister in Christ, Heather

  11. 14

    Arie says

    What are you supposed to do when your parents won’t let you experience God by yourself? My parents have never let me go to youth group and won’t let me go to any church events without them. My older brother who is nineteen is allowed to go to the young adult group, but I don’t want to wait until I am eighteen (the youngest age allowed in our young adult group; I am sixteen now) to experience God by myself. I don’t want to push it; I really want to respect my parents, but I don’t believe that what they are doing is right. They have never been big on talking about things, so it is really hard to talk to them about anything. I feel like I am at the end of my rope. I need advice.

  12. 15


    Yes! I think it’s almost universal – they leave the church because they don’t know Jesus. If you know Jesus, but don’t agree with some of the doctrine from your church, you find a new church. It’s that personal relationship that makes all the difference.

  13. 16


    It’s so hard to explain to people that think my son should be in hockey that if he was; he would probably never be able to attend church during the winter months. Sunday is no longer sacred – if that is the available ice time – that’s when hockey is. If you don’t go to practices – you don’t play in tournaments. which are on the weekends. which would also have us away on Sundays.

    We get more and more birthday party invitations for Sunday mornings too. Or, from about 11 am to 2 pm – and since church is 10 to about noon; they’d either be late, or they don’t go.
    there’s so much that tries to pull us away from God – tricking my kids into thinking they are missing out on Greater Things.
    Missing out on God is missing out on a great thing.

  14. 17

    Theresa says

    I love your article! I grew up in a Christian home and did the youth group thing, but I did not come to know Jesus until college. Besides all the great things you listed, here are two more that influenced my walk with God.

    1. Surround your children with adults who know Christ. For me, this was adults in our church who took an interest in me, youth leaders who acted like adults (and not teenagers themselves!), extended family (especially my aunt), and even teachers who are Christ-followers (I had a couple great ones!). Having Christ following adults in children’s lives reenforces all of the lessons and morals that we try to teach in our homes, and shows kids that God isn’t just someone our weird family made up. :)

    2. Be involved with who your children’s friends are. I’m not sure my parents had a lot of control over who my friends were in high school. But my best friend from elementary school through high school eventually became the biggest supporter of my faith as we entered our college years together. I’m not sure I would have come to know Christ in college, if my best friend wasn’t right there beside me and growing in her faith too.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>