Our teenage daughter says she is embarrassed to be a Christian because of how some Christians treat people of other faiths, ethnicities, and sexual orientations. Many of her friends are non-Christians. I'm concerned that she will stop being part of the church altogether. How can I talk with her about this?
Social justice is an important part of what many young people are looking for in the church.
The church does not always have a good reputation with regard to how we have treated people. Christians have not always put our best foot forward, and the most extreme examples get the biggest headlines.
Here are some things to talk about with your daughter. All people, including Christians, sin; when Christians treat others poorly, that is evidence of sin. The church also does many things that are good and noteworthy: providing aid to hurricane and earthquake victims, feeding the hungry, and helping people who are homeless, to name a few. You probably have examples in your local congregation as well as the work of our denominational agencies. Talk positively about the work of the church at home.
Give your daughter language to use in talking to her friends: “You make a good point. That bothers me too,” or “That makes me feel bad too,” or “I see things in my church and in my family that encourage me.”
Finally, suggest that she share these questions and conversations with others in your church and with God. Encourage her to seek real-life examples of the kind of Christian she wants to be. Welcome her to invite her friends to your home so they can see faith in action.
About the Authors
Robert J. Keeley is Professor of Education Emeritus at Calvin University and a music leader at 14th St CRC in Holland, MI.
Laura Keeley is a regional catalyzer for Faith Formation Ministries in the CRCNA and director of childrens ministries at 14th St. CRC in Holland, Mich.