Winning adult children to Jesus

Published 10:15 pm Friday, June 14, 2013

By Rev. Chris Surber

Many parents have asked me how to win their adult children to Christ.

An elderly woman said, “My middle-aged son will have nothing to do with the faith of his childhood or with the church.” A man in his 40s struggles with his college-bound daughter’s insistence that the song “Jesus Loves Me” is nothing more than a nursery rhyme. She’s headed for a secular college, and Jesus isn’t coming along.


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Even when Christian parents have raised their children in the church and around godly people, there is still a real possibility that as adults our children will stray from the Lord.

A man once said to me, “I don’t understand why my son has strayed from Jesus and His church. I raised him in church, just as it says in Proverbs.” Of course he was referring to Proverbs 22:6. “Train a child in the way that he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” (NET)

But even this isn’t a guarantee. God is faithful to His Word. However this verse is a proverb, a teaching that is generally true. It is a profoundly important life principle, not an insurance policy.

It is right and good to train up a child in the way he should go. It often means that when he is old he won’t depart from it. But if he does stray, that doesn’t necessarily mean we didn’t do our part. It doesn’t mean the church failed him.

God offers grace to all people, and many reject Him. So it is with our children. Rather than living with a false sense of guilt, here are a few things the Christian parent of adult children who have abandoned or neglected their faith can do.

Be a godly example. Our adult children know we aren’t perfect. Don’t put on a religious mask. Honestly live a sincere faith in front of them. Don’t apologize for it. Talk to them about it. Invite them to church events. Introduce them to your pastor, but don’t “sic” your pastor on them. I’m astonished at how many parents do not talk to their adult children about faith.

Like it or not, the parental relationship is lifelong. You may not be able to drag them by the ear to church anymore, but you can speak lovingly into their ears, inviting them and reminding them that you pray for them, their spouses, your grandchildren and their lives. This may sound cliché, but pray for them. Really pray for them. Seek God for them.

Most of all, don’t give up. Raising children is hard and loving them is lifelong. Don’t lecture and heap guilt. Live a genuine, humble faith in front of them, and remind them of the value of God’s love.

At the end of the day, we’ve got to entrust them completely to the care of God and His will for them. And friend, those are caring and good hands.

“The Lord is not slow concerning his promise, as some regard slowness, but is being patient toward you, because he does not wish for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9 NET)

Chris Surber is pastor of Cypress Chapel Christian Church in Suffolk. Visit his website at