Kids Don’t Have To Rebel

brother-and-sisterSo much talk these days is about millennials leaving the church. I know of one individual raised in a Christian home who went off to high-profile university and came back after four years disavowing Christianity. I know of a number of others who went to Christian schools through high school only to choose a lifestyle in contradiction of what they’d been taught. One such person living with her boyfriend says she still loves Jesus. She just doesn’t have time for church. Or apparently the things of the Bible.

But is this kind of attrition inevitable? Are Christian parents raising kids with little more than a flip-of-the-coin certainty that what they’re teaching will stick?

I watched literally hundreds of kids march through the Christian schools where I taught, and I have to say, parents have much better odds that their kids will follow the faith they’ve been taught if two things can be avoided and two things established.

First, parents should NOT try to shelter their kids from the world. First, it’s nearly a futile effort. I grew up in a Christian home but attended public schools. I shied away from talking with my parents about a number of things because I didn’t want to shock THEM. Because of their standards, and the fact that they didn’t raise hard issues, I was naive enough to think they were naive.

I just saw a posting on Facebook about one of these movie rating sites, a spoof actually. But the reality is, there are sites that count the number of “questionable words,” detail every taste of alcohol, every puff of cigarette smoke, or whatever “unsafe” thing might be in the movie.

What a mistake! Kids know people drink, do drugs, have illicit sex, and much more. Or if they don’t, they will as soon as they go away to college. Then what? They’ll be on their own trying to make sense of the unsafe world they’ve been shielded from.

discussionFar better if parents would sit down with their kids and say, I know this movie shows a hero taking vengeance by killing the person he was supposed to arrest. What do you think about that? What do you think God’s word says about that? How would God want us to handle evil people?

Parents simply miss teaching moments because they’re too busy focusing on the peripherals and not addressing the why’s and wherefore’s.

In contrast, other parents take a hands-off approach, a “I’ll let them make up their own mind” attitude. It’s the spiritual equivalent of teaching kids to swim by throwing them into the pool.

There are some parents who don’t go quite that far. Rather, they turn their child’s spiritual education over to a church or Christian school. The truth is, however, kids learn a lot more from example than they do from didactic instruction.

They learn best where there is example with didactic instruction supporting it, from church and home and school.

So one of the things that parents can establish is a lifestyle they want their children to emulate. If they want them to read the Bible regularly, go to church on Sunday, be involved in a ministry, love their neighbors, forgive people who offend them, and more, then the first thing parents need to do is to model every single one of those.

Impossible, I know. But there’s an important part of this modeling: when parents blow it, they can teach as much to their children by admitting their sin and asking forgiveness. That speaks volumes about how seriously they take living what they profess.

The second thing parents can establish is regular pray with and for their children. Nothing is more powerful. Nothing. When we pray, we are not dropping our quarters into the God machine to get whatever we want. We’re not buying into the God-lotto either—sometimes with our numbers coming up and sometimes not.

No. Prayer is our admission that we are dependent people who need God. Not just as an add-on. We need Him like we need oxygen or functioning brainwaves or a heart that pumps blood. We actually need Him more, because when this life is over, He will still be there. And who else are we going to depend on then?

How critical that we learn to depend on Him completely now! How critical that we teach our children that we are not self-sufficient except for the few big things that seem out of our control, like a hurricane or cancer.

We’ve gotten away from asking God—really asking Him and meaning it—for our daily bread. We don’t need God for our daily bread, we think. We can always buy it from the grocery store.

Except there’s the matter of money, which we get from a job, which we get from the skills and abilities we have and perhaps the people we know and the openings we hear about and the interviews we successfully navigate, and . . . well, I hope you see the point. We think it’s all up to us, but there are so many more factors that God, in His great mercy engineers for us. And, walla! We have food on the table.

How important that kids see parents dependent upon God.

So, did I ever do the rebellion thing? I did not. I think my parents tried to shield me, so you might think I should have rebelled. But they did the other three pretty well.

Let’s face it. Kids still have to accept Christ and decide to follow Him with their whole hearts, no matter what parents do. But I am pretty confident that shielding kids and trying to create “safe” without the other three will probably push them into the rebellion the parents want to spare them.

If you think about the people that Jesus reached with the gospel, there weren’t a lot of people who’d been raised in a safe environment protected from the evils of the world. There were prostitutes, at least one thief, corrupt tax collectors, sick people considered unclean by society and the religious establishment, a militant terrorist, people who’d been demon-possessed. Christ Himself said He came to save the lost, so any safe, “found people” weren’t really in need of Him.

But that’s what we ought to be helping our kids realize: no matter what our outward circumstances, we are in need of a Savior. If, instead, we teach them they can control their own environment and make the world a better place, at least for themselves and their own, we will be pushing them out of the church.

The church is not a safe place. It’s a place where broken people congregate to swap stories of how they got rescued and patched up. It’s a place they can gush about the One who got them out of the kingdom of darkness and into the Light.

Time, I think, for parents to put to bed the notion that they can keep their kids safe. They can’t for one thing. But God can. So asking Him to do so seems like the first step, not the last recourse.

Blessings on those movie reviewers, but I also think it’s time to put them to bed and let parents engage their kids rather than outsourcing their application of Scripture to pop culture. Parents need to think through why they believe what they believe and articulate that to their children. Saying, “It got a 2 on moral values at XXX review site,” doesn’t train a child in the way he should go. Rather, it delays his engagement with the culture. And that state, like being freed from demon possession only to have seven other demons take up residence, is worse than before.


  1. Hello Rebecca,

    There is so much that I agree with in what you say here. You have indeed made some excellent points.

    However, it seems to me that you are failing to recognize the very powerful negative effect that watching many of these movies has on a person. The same can also be said in a similar way to the music so many of our young peopke love to listen to.

    What we deliberately take into our minds DOES effect them. And it affects our hearts also. If we are going to allow ourselves, or our children in this case, to partake of entertainment that portrays life in a way that is contrary to God’s ways, it is bound to have an effect.

    Certainly our children need to know what our world is like. They should not be sent out into it totally unaware. However, that is a different thing tben allowing them to soak themselves in any form of entertainment that promotes the opposite of God’s values. Movie and TV images can plant themselves in a mind and heart and be very hard to dislodge.

    We are told in Philippians to think on the things that are right and pure and true and holy. There is a reason for that! “Garbage in, garbage out.” How true for our minds and hearts and the minds and hearts of our young people.


    • Cherylu, thanks for your comments. And don’t worry about typos. I make them all the time. It’s the nature of this type of communication.

      I agree with what you’re saying about soaking ourselves “in any form of entertainment that promotes the opposite of God’s values.” I don’t think we should feed a child’s curiosity about sex by showing him a bunch of porn, for example. Horrors! That’s certainly not what I intended to say in this article. If that’s what I communicated, I’m very sorry. I actually think we under-emphasize discernment.

      But I’ve written extensively on the idea that what we think makes a piece of fiction safe (no sex, bad words, and limited violence), is more nearly like the magician’s trick—a distraction to keep us from looking at the real action. While we’re counting curse words, and praising movies that don’t have any, we are exposing our kids to all kinds of false ideas that are the bedrock of a lot of false teaching or idolatrous beliefs or man-glorifying, God-demeaning views.

      If you’re interested, here’s one article I wrote that touches on what I believe about Christians and entertainment: “Discernment 101.” You might also be interested in reading other articles in the Safe Fiction category.

      And yet, saying all this, I think we each need to develop our own standards based on what God leads us to. When are we going to change the channel or decide we won’t read that author again or choose not to see movies in that particular franchise. I can’t make them for you, however, but before God I should make them for me. And I think parents should make them for their children (and not outsource them to a reviewer).

      Again, thanks for reminding us that “anything goes” is not a Biblical perspectiven.



  2. Please excuse my typos. I am a horrible typist, and no matter how hard I try, it seems some errors get through. 😦


  3. I very much agree with your philosophy. We have practiced it with our four and by God’s grace the teen years were/are my favorite! My kids are passionate for Christ (apologetics/worldview VERY important. Also means exposing them to what others believe). Serving in missions, and well rounded. Ages 23-16.


    • Thanks for adding your perspective—so helpful to see what I believe to be Biblical philosophy work out in real life. How great that your kids are passionate for Christ. I can’t imagine anything making a parent happier! 😀



      • Nothing compares!


  4. And this Rebecca is where you and I part company dear sister. Throughout this comment PLEASE do not hear a condemning tone, but rather a respectful and pleading one. Please? I have not yet fully understood how the same heart and mind that produces things like the wonderful recent messages here on the churches of the apocalypse and the magnificent answers (I really REALLY mean that) I see on Mike Duran’s blog, can possibly say the things you do related to art and entertainment.

    Do know that I ascribe it in any case to the incredible overpowering deception in these areas and not to any special weakness in you. The level and nearly universal pervasiveness of moral compromise that has been embraced by otherwise orthodox Christians in the name of the arts and media entertainment is without any precedent in the history of planet earth.

    Rebbecca’s three excellent guidelines for parents as exemplified in her own (abbreviated by me):
    1. Consistently model the gospel in all areas of life and own inevitable failures when they happen.
    2. Establish regular prayer with and for their children.
    3. Live a life of surrendered dependance upon God at all times and in all ways.

    Rebecca says: “So, did I ever do the rebellion thing? I did not. I think my parents tried to shield me, so you might think I should have rebelled. But they did the other three pretty well.”
    And in this short statement lies the self refuting, eternal death knell of the “Hollywood Worldview”. Please hear me. You spend the first part of this article proclaiming the necessity of allowing children to view nudity and illicit sex, and we must then assume also the blasphemous profane language that these shows ALWAYS have, because they’ll find out anyway.

    Not 10 seconds later, you say the above quoted statement. To paraphrase: “Well my parents did the opposite of what I’m advancing in this article and in fact DID shield me, BUT, they also practiced righteousness in our home and taught me the means of grace and godly habits so no I didn’t rebel”

    What if your parents had NOT “done the other three pretty well”? Would that have then been remedied by some trips to a dark movie theater to view some blasphemy, blood, skin and debauchery produced by God’s enemies on a gigantic screen? Would that form Christ in children who already are not being raised in the nurture and admonition of the Lord? And if they ARE being raised in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, which as in your case, includes wise biblical “shielding” in my view, your title IS absolutely correct. “Kid’s don’t have to rebel.” When parents do the other three pretty well. That’s the answer. Not sending them to the movies for God’s sake.

    What DID Christian parents do before there was even electricity, to say nothing of a society utterly pickled in godless amusements? How did they manage to teach their children about depravity and evil? I’ll tell you how. No actually YOU’VE already told us how. Parents practicing what they preach and faithfully, lovingly and selflessly TEACHING their children to do the same. This can be done with all possible purity and power without EVER laying eyes on a TV or movie screen. It was. For millenia. I’m not saying that television and motion pictures are always evil, but the notion that they or ANYthing of pop culture are somehow necessary to ANYthing is biblically preposterous and with no precedent in church history.

    The defining difference here is whether kids are faithfully raised in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Feeding them the degenerate depravity of decomposing culture cannot possibly play any positive role in that. Would parents want THEIR children “performing” in these shows and movies? Would it be sin for their parents to “act” naked that way with somebody other than their father or mother before millions in the watching public? Or what if it WAS their father and mother on that screen “performing that way? Should they take their friends in pride for the godly example of their Christian parents? Is that a personal matter of liberty of conscience to God like food and festivals? No? Then it is the rankest of hypocrisy to pay others to damn themselves when we are supposed to be loving them as ourselves.

    Rebecca says to Cherylu: “I agree with what you’re saying about soaking ourselves “in any form of entertainment that promotes the opposite of God’s values.” I don’t think we should feed a child’s curiosity about sex by showing him a bunch of porn, for example. Horrors!”
    This is exactly what people say when they have no problem with nudity, sex and debauchery in mainstream entertainment. Along with the most horrific language and bloodthirsty violence imaginable. They express outrage and indignation at overt pornography and what they view as cheap, tasteless unartisitc film making so as to give the illusion of godly standards while they promote and praise onscreen blasphemy, blood and sex as long as they can convince themselves it is “good art” and has a redemptive message. Is this not what you are doing Rebecca? 😦 Again. Please don’t see a finger in your face and hear a harsh condemning tone. That is absolutely not my motivation.

    Please hear the eminent Westminster professor Dr Carl Trueman from THIS unbelievably great article: “Frankly, there are films rated PG-13 today which my grandparents would have considered as porn. Is the standard of what is and is not obscene set by biblical truth or by cultural accommodation? Talk of `Christians can watch anything as long as they do it critically’ is as daft, unbiblical, soft-headed, ill-thought-out, and confused as anything one is likely to come across. In fact, I have a suspicion that for some it might simply function as a rationalization for watching whatever they like and not having to feel guilty about it,”
    Amen Dr. Trueman.

    Of all the people I’ve talked to about this, you are the one I feel most likely to bow to these unassailable truths. There is no liberty of conscience here and the proposition there is would have left the whole of reformed orthodoxy before the 1960’s aghast at the very suggestion. I beg of thee to re-pray, re-study and reconsider.


    • Greg, I’ll try to read the rest of your comment, but it’s apparent that I didn’t make myself clear, so you are saying many things that are not true. I’m sorry I gave you the wrong impression.

      First, while my parents TRIED to shield me from the world, they didn’t. As I said, I went to public schools. I saw and heard things I know my parents never guessed I saw and heard. I never talked about it with them because of “The Shield.” I even found pages of a porn mag when I was in fifth grade, all torn up and scattered next to the path where I was riding my bike. There’s nothing my parents could do to shield me from this world because it’s pretty much everywhere.

      Here’s what my mom did later, which is what I think is the right approach. She found a pack of cigarettes at the school where she worked and brought them home to throw them out. She evidently saw I was curious and asked me if I wanted to try one. I said yes. I didn’t smoke it really—just a puff or two—and I knew I was supposed to not like it. But what hit me was, I asked my mom to look away while I lit it. I was embarrassed to smoke it in front of her. That mattered more to me than the smoking experience.

      Greg, I do not know what sort of moral compromise you’re talking about. I would NEVER send a child to a movie alone. I would ALWAYS be discerning in what would be age appropriate for a child and I would discuss themes and particulars using the mirror of God’s word as the standard.

      What I would NOT do is outsource the responsibility of determining what I or those in my household should see or read. And I’m particularly saying this in regard to sites that determine something is clean and therefore OK. Clean DOES NOT equal Christian.

      As I said, I’ll try to get to the rest of your comment later, but it seems unlikely I’ll have anything to add since you undoubtedly elaborated on your position based on things I didn not intend to communicate.



      • Fair enough for now and no hurry 🙂

        I am NOT your enemy. Quite the contrary. I am simply hoping for an actual conversation with no time pressures either way. Always was, though I admittedly started the last one unwisely. God is still taming my streetly sledgehammer personality after all these years.

        For the record, there is much here in the article and your comments so far that I find to be up to the best of what I’ve seen from you. Which I cannot emphasize enough is gloriously impressive. In every other area except art, media and entertainment, your handling of the scriptures is first rate by any sound and orthodox standard. I mean you would be an improvement over 85% of the male pastors in this country from the standpoint of theological weightiness. I truly mean that.

        Please believe I am not out to harm you or your reputation. 🙂


    • This can be done with all possible purity and power without EVER laying eyes on a TV or movie screen.

      So I got a little farther, but when I got to this, Greg, I thought, you’re simply against drama, particularly that conveyed electronically. If that’s your standard, that’s fine. I don’t believe that should be something you insist others obey because you’ve made it your standard. (And please don’t tell me one more time that you aren’t mad at me or are my enemy. It’s insulting, Greg).



      • The very next thing I said Rebecca was this:
        “I’m not saying that television and motion pictures are always evil, “
        Take a look please. I have never once said that I am always “against drama, particularly that conveyed electronically.” Ever. That WOULD be teaching as doctrine my own traditions. Though I do not myself drink alcohol under any circumstances, I do very strenuously defend the right of the saints to imbibe responsibly. EVEN to the point of getting a bit joyful and celebratory of heart with that being between them and the Lord, as this is God’s blessing. Just not for me. Make no mistake. I am no hyper-fundie legalistic. The statement you seized upon is an airtight denial of the idolatrous notion that the church has no voice in the culture unless steeped in the media entertainment of the world. NOT that it is my standard to never partake in electronically conveyed drama. Please give a me a little more credit. 😉 I certainly have you. (talk about insulting, but I am not insulted)

        I have read and mostly enjoyed a couple dozen of your full length articles and commented positively several times as well. You are under no obligation of course, but may I ask that you honor me by at least finishing what I’ve written here before you rebut? It may take you 3 minutes.

        I’ve also linked to a series of comments to several readers I’ve recorded on my blog (so called) from a terrible Article by Andrew Barber at TGC HERE. (please scroll down) Those may take you ten minutes to read. So I’m asking 13 minutes of your valuable time and do hereby welcome whatever questions and or criticisms you may see fit to ask or propose. I say again as well. At your leisure of course.

        OR, you can tell me to leave you alone and you refuse to talk about it. That’s the reply I get most often. What you cannot credibly do is pretend to have ever addressed the eminently biblical and historically supported positions regarding “art” and “electronic entertainment media” that I have consistently brought for your consideration.

        Though I came on strong at Spec-Faith at first, I have owned that and expressed my regret to the point of asking your forgiveness. Any hostility from then to the end of the world will be coming strictly from you. The Lord knows my heart.


  5. […] myself from God, to run away, to try to do it on my own. But, as Rebecca LuElla Miller reminds us, we ought to be helping our kids realize: no matter what our outward circumstances, we are in need of…. This need is true of us no less than […]


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