Q Some of my young adult children have stopped going to church. I’d like to talk to them about it, but I don’t know how to approach the subject without sounding judgmental.
A The most important thing you can do is to accept and love your children unconditionally. You need to let them know that you are concerned about their relationship with the Lord without having them feel that they have failed you as their child. This understanding will maintain a healthy relationship between you and them and open faith conversations in the future.
You also want to avoid a danger of “evangelizing” them too zealously. I had an opportunity to counsel a high school student who said, “I understand that my faith in God is important to my dad, but he is trying too hard to convince me to believe. I have a lot of doubt, and I need to work it out somehow, but I feel like my dad is always on my case. And it’s driving me further away from church.”
Instead, share with them your own faith journey. Let them know how you have wrestled with your own doubt and obstacles prior to committing yourself to the Lord. Let them see how your faith in God is relevant to your life, in terms of finding joy and meaning in your daily living. Do this not in a spirit of debate but of empathy.
And pray. Be encouraged by Jesus’ parable of the persistent widow not to give up but to pray persistently. Every conversion is an opportunity for the Holy Spirit, who works when we pray. I know of a single mom who prayed for the salvation of her wayward son for 15 years. He became a fervent believer during his adult years and accomplished much for the Lord.
You might have heard of him: St. Augustine.