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Helping Empty-Nesters Draw Their Adult Children Back to Christ

In my ministry I often hear about the deep concern older adults have for their adult children. In fact, one of the major concerns facing many empty-nest adults today is that their adult children are no longer following Christ. I can walk into an empty-nesters Sunday school class, a coffee shop where older men are gathered for prayer, or even a nursing home chapel service and nearly guarantee you that someone is very burdened over an adult child who has wandered from the faith. This is a real issue facing millions of adults today and this is why I want to let you know of a valuable resource.

Dr. Rob Rienow leads a ministry called Visionary Family Ministries and has recently released a book titled, When They Turn Away: Drawing Your Adult Child Back to Christ. I was lucky enough to get to read the manuscript before it was published and write an endorsement for the book. What I love about the book is that it is easy to read and gives older parents hope as well as practical things they can do to help turn their child’s heart back to God.

Rob was willing to answer a few questions regarding the book for my blog. Feel free to chime in on what you have seen or heard on this topic and also, feel free to interact with Rob in the comments.

Why did you write When They Turn Away?

First, after almost every Visionary Parenting Conference I had empty-nest parents wanting to talk to me, with tears in their eyes, saying, “Rob, we loved the conference, but our son is 25. He lives half way across the country, and he is far from God as well. What can we do now to help him?” In addition to this, after serving for 18 years as a youth and family pastor at my church, the sad reality is that the majority of the students in my youth ministry are now, as adults, not walking with the Lord. I have a personal relationship with many of those young adults, and with their parents. 3 John 4 says, “I have no greater joy than to know that my children are walking in the truth.” The opposite is also true – there is no greater sorrow for a Christian parent when one of their sons or daughters is far from God. Not only is this a book of encouragement, but I wanted to give parents a Bible-driven plan to do all in their power to bless and spiritually encourage their adult child.

What is one of the big take-aways from the book?

It would be too hard to pick just one. There are three messages that run throughout the book. First, you are not alone. Two thirds of empty-nest Christian parents have at least one child far from God. Second, it is never too late. As long as you and your child have breath, it is never too late for God to use you, as mother or father, to draw your adult child back to Christ. One of Satan’s big lies is that your time of influence has passed! All you can do now is pray. Nothing could be further from the truth. The shortest distance between your child’s heart and Christ, is you. Third, we encourage parents, through a careful study of the Bible, to keep their eyes focused on the goal – their son or daughter, loving God with all their heart, trusting Jesus for their present and their future, and spending eternity with them in Heaven.

I love that the book has discussion questions that follow each chapter. (In fact, I think the book would make a great small group study for a church to offer). At the end of chapter 3, you ask this question, “If so many empty-nest parents in the church today have adult children who are far from God, why are so few people talking about it?” From your experience, how would you answer that question?

It is just too painful. If you believe in heaven and hell, and you believe the only way to heaven is by trusting Christ alone, and you have child who has not done that…it is the worst case scenario. Some parents have been deeply hurt by their children. Others feel embarrassed that their child is not walking with the Lord, while they buy the lie that every other family seems perfect. We need to face the pain and seriousness of this. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Can you share a story of someone who has seen God begin to work in turning their adult child back to Christ?

The book includes many stories of parents who recommitted themselves to the mission of encouraging faith in their adult children. Some began writing encouragement letters. Others needed to ask their children for forgiveness. Many parents simply needed to deepen their own walk with the Lord, knowing that they could not lead their children in a direction they were not going in themselves.

I would say that the biggest response that people have from attending the “Never Too Late” Conferences, or reading “When They Turn Away” is that they come away encouraged, and perhaps for the first time, they are equipped with a Bible-driven plan to build a better relationship with their children with the goal of helping them grow closer to the Lord.

What advice would you give to church leaders on how to minister with parents of adult children who have wandered from the faith?

First, pastors need to understand the majority of the empty nest parents in their church are suffering. Many are losing hope. When the pastor challenges these empty-nesters to be “missional” “great commission” Christians, he should remind them that their top ministry priority should be the souls of their children and grandchildren.

Thanks, Rob, for dropping by the blog and giving us some insight on this important topic.

If we are serious about ministering with baby boomers and beyond, we will have to dive into this difficult topic with many of the people we serve. I know of one church (and I’m sure their are others) that has a small group/support group for parents whose children have left the faith or do not know Christ and I believe there are other ways we can encourage and support parents who are hurting. It starts with those of us who are leaders recognizing the real-life issues facing our older adults.

I’d love to hear what all of you think about this topic. What have you seen and heard? What have you seen churches do to minister with parents of adult children?

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One comment

  • October 22, 2014 5:28 pmPosted 9 years ago
    Marlowe Shoop

    My wife and I are presently reaching out to our neighbors in our 55+ community after a life time of pastoring and my last gig of 15+ years of chaplaincy in a continuous care facility.
    I likewise share a broken heart of our children and grandchildren’s rejecting the Christian Gospel. It is not only our concern for their eternal life but the absence of the joy Christ brings to the holidays and other family gatherings.
    In all of this I remember one dear lady who lived the last 25 years of her 100 years for Jesus in response to her mother’s prayers.
    We must keep Loving God with everything in us and continue to love others as ourselves and at the top of that list of loving others is our children. Jesus is the Savior.


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