Lately, I’ve been noticing a lot of blog posts about Millennials leaving the church.
For those of you who may not know what Millennials are, they are all the people who were born between 1981 to 1996!
Apparently, many of the Millennials who were born, raised, and grew up in evangelical churches are leaving it in droves.
I have two children who were born in the 70’s, they are my Generation X kids.
I also have six Millennial kids born in the 80’s and 90’s and my last son was born in ’02.
My Gen Xer’s and three of my Millennials don’t go to church and neither does my youngest!
Way back in the 80’s and 90’s I believed that if I raised my children in the church, taught them that they needed a savior, educated them at home, and protected them from evil and worldly influences they would grow up to be the most perfect, spiritual, and saved Christians on the face this planet!
What loving mom in her right mind wouldn’t want to protect her children from burning in hell?!
Our whole family faithfully attended every church service available.
In fact, we frequently traveled up to 80 miles away from home on Sunday nights just to attend special “Sister” Church services in distant cities.
Our kids attended Sunday school, children’s church, and youth group.
We fellowshipped with other like minded families and of course, we homeschooled our children*
My husband and I were quite strict.
The boys could not wear all black.
They couldn’t play with the wrong toys, listen to the wrong music, read the wrong books, or watch the wrong movies.
Even though we were so strict out of love and concern for our children’s well being, we also had our “super spiritual” reputations to uphold.
We didn’t want any of our church friends to get the wrong impression of us!
We wanted to avoid being judged or scrutinized by any of our fellow church members.
How embarrassing and humiliating it would have been for us, if our children didn’t look, speak, and act exactly the way everyone at church would have expected them to.
What my husband and I didn’t realize was the pressure this was putting on our children.
We had no idea that some of our kids were terrified if they died suddenly without repenting of some long forgotten “sin” that they would go straight to hell!
We didn’t realize that our children lived in fear of being “left Behind” in the “rapture”.
My husband and I didn’t know that we were causing some of our children to lie and be deceitful because they were hiding forbidden “evil” things like secular music tapes and videos!
We did not comprehend that it was our strict, stifling, and self righteous parenting style that was driving them into “rebellion”.
And lastly, at the time, we didn’t realize that what we were doing to our children with the best of intentions, was actually spiritual abuse!
It is horrifying to now know that our misguided intentions could so screw with our children’s minds in such a devastating manner!
I do now publicly apologize to my five oldest boys for putting them through such unnecessary fear, distress, pressure and unattainable expectations.
It wasn’t until after our daughter, Bethany, was diagnosed with brain cancer, and we were so traumatized, shell shocked, and exhausted from the whole ordeal that all our self righteous religiosity went right out the window.
Suddenly keeping up appearances was shallow and all that crap became so ridiculously trivial and unimportant.
Consequently, I, my husband, and our four youngest kids also joined the ranks of the (gasp!!), unchurched!
We ceased enforcing strict movie, book, and music rules as well as arbitrary and unnecessary dress codes upon our youngest kids.
In fact, we pretty much kind of gave up on rules altogether.
Funny thing is we discovered that the kids were quite capable of staying out of trouble without our interference!
Our four youngest children Rachel, Rebekah, Bethany and Jeremiah have been spared the religious abuse that my husband and I had unintentionally inflicted upon our five oldest boys.
Today our five oldest boys still do not go to church.
Neither do I, Malcolm, Bethany or Jeremiah!
Rebekah is married and attends church with her husband and Rachel attends church in Japan where she lives and works.
But I want you all to know, so let me shout it from the rooftop!!
All 9 of my children have grown up to be awesome, beautiful, kind, generous, caring, socially conscious, decent, good, law abiding citizens with many good things to offer society!
*Please note: I do not now and nor have I ever considered homeschooling to be spiritual abuse, unless… you totally isolate your children from all society, whip your children into obedience, teach your daughters that they can’t wear pants, that the only godly vocation for girls to is to grow up to be submissive helpmeets to their future husbands and that they must be prepared to defer all thoughts, opinions, and decisions to their future husbands as well- and teach your sons that they will be superior to and able to treat their future wives as property!
Colossians 3:21- Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.
*A version of this post was originally published on 8/5/2013.
I’m sharing this post at Create With Joy: Friendship Friday!