How Do I Talk to Family Members Who Have Left the Church?

What do I say to young adults in my family when they say they have left the church because they were hurt by the church? How can I engage my family members in a sensitive but honest discussion on this topic?

It begins by repenting on behalf of the church and praying for the young adults in your family. After repenting, pray that someone other than family may help them see Jesus in a new way. Pray also that you will receive guidance from the Holy Spirit to pick the right time to open a conversation about God, faith, and the body of Christ, and that you will have the right words and wisdom to engage in such a conversation.

When the Holy Spirit prompts you to speak to young adult relatives, ask questions. Find out the specifics of the hurt experienced in the church of their youth and express your sorrow on their behalf for the hurt caused. Talk about who Christ is and how he made friends with those on the margins of the respectable synagogue crowd of his day. Point out that Jesus, too, was critical of the instituted religious establishment of his day and not very obedient to these religious leaders.  

Above all, remind them that the body of Christ cannot be confined to one church or one denomination, and that it is better to find a new community for worship than to simply withdraw from the existing one. Encourage them to seek until they find.

About the Author

Judy Cook is a family therapist and a member of Meadowlands Fellowship CRC in Ancaster, Ontario.
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