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Response #1 to The Saddest Letter

Wow! The “Saddest Letter” post provoked a lot of interesting discussion! Since I received it a week ago, I too have been pondering my response, and in many ways, those who commented touched on many of the things that have been on my heart. For reasons of length and direction, I think my response will break down into three posts. The first will be a general response to the broader issues. The second, a response to parents and spiritual authorities. The third, a personal response to the young lady who wrote the letter, and to her generation.

As a side note, let me first say, the letter is real. A few people have expressed doubt that perhaps I wrote the letter. I don’t operate that way. I wouldn’t deliberately post a lie on this blog. If I was writing fiction for the sake of illustration, I would just say so. The young lady who wrote the letter gave us her cell phone and we contacted her personally about using her letter. It jolted me as much as it did you.

So on with my general response. I want to draw a few key and critical points from a big picture perspective:

1. The letter and the problems articulated are not about finding blame. I did not read a spirit of blame in this letter, so much as a sincere and honest cry for help. She acknowledged imbalances that she experienced growing up, sensed that others experience the same, and simply asked that someone try to address these imbalances. Nobody grows up in a perfect home, and yes everybody is ultimately responsible for making their own spiritual choices—but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t address these patterns of imbalance that are prevalent in many homes.

2. The problems described in her letter are universal—they are present in every group, not just one or two. This is not a set of problems that flow from a certain type of church or home. They are foundational problems that could be present in any home. Neglectful parents, fragmented families, and bitter children are the norm for our culture and society. It’s impossible to point at any particular brand of Christianity and say, “That’s the source!”

3. There truly are some fantastic resources for parents and families that address the very problems this young lady described. And I believe there is a growing generation of parents (one which this young lady will probably soon be a part of) that desperately want to fight these problems biblically and with godly compassion. The two books that come to mind that every parents should read multiple times are both written by Tedd Tripp—Shepherding a Child’s Heart and Instructing a Child’s Heart. These books excellently detail a biblical approach to parenting that will resolve the problems described in the letter.

4. Rules are not the problem, lack of relationship is the problem. (I’m talking about biblical, well principled rules.) I’ve often seen families and teens toss aside all “rules” under the guise of “legalism”—a word often misused and misunderstood. Tossing rules aside doesn’t help. But I agree strongly that the presence of rules without a strong relationship simply breeds rebellion. Any strong relationship will have boundaries. It’s that simple. My marriage, to be strong, must have boundaries. The boundaries are not standards of legalism, they are merely rules of conduct that protect the relationship. If I love the relationship—the person—there are certain things I will do and will not do—if only to PLEASE the other person. Such is our relationship with God. The behavior, the “faith in action,” along with the rules, should flow from a heart that is deeply in love and close to Him. Loving Him is the only real and lasting motivation for living a godly lifestyle. And the Bible is very clear about God’s desire for us to live godly lives—holy, distinct, separated from the world. But those “rules” or “standards” or “boundaries” are designed not to create mere performance or outward appearance, they are to flow from and facilitate a continued strong personal relationship with the Lord.

I recently taught our senior high an entire lesson on this entitled “Avoiding the Trap of Impersonal Christianity”—the point being that God would rather us put away all of our religiosity if our hearts are far from Him. He desires our hearts first, and then our lifestyle to reflect that heart. In practicality, my own children don’t have a problem with my rules as long as my heart is closely knit to theirs and as long as I am directing their hearts to the Lord. (This lesson will probably post soon on our SM127 podcast on iTunes.)

5. Everybody writes from their own paradigm. I noticed in the comments we all had pretty strong opinions about various aspects of her letter. Some are of the opinion that every church (of a certain type) is this way, or most families (of certain affiliations) are this way. It’s impossible to throw that large of a blanket over Christendom or any one segment of Christianity. For instance, I grew up in several churches. One was well balanced in these matters and trained my parents and me to put relationships first. We did, and as a new Christian family we were greatly helped. One church was exactly the opposite—total surface, appearance driven, and very political in nature. Everything was about externals—if you looked good and conformed well, that’s all that mattered. The vast majority of young people from that church have wandered away from God in their adult years, many into very deep sin. My present church is the one I have served in for 21 years.

Philosophically, we have done our best to be balanced and biblically focused on relationships, but also keep the restraint right by setting the right boundaries. I’m sure we have failed at times. But, we have seen, on average, about 80% of our young people stay faithful to God into their adult years. That’s not good enough, but we are doing our best to fight the battle biblically. Point being, don’t allow your narrow paradigm to cause you to paint with a broad brush over any one segment of Christianity. For instance, if everybody you know is doing it wrong, that doesn’t represent the whole.

6. There are  a lot of churches and homes doing it right. Through our teen-parent meetings, family counseling, and fellowship at Lancaster Baptist, it has been my joy to get to know hundreds, perhaps thousands, of parents and families over the years. In addition to this, I’ve been exposed to hundreds of churches and pastors through our ministry, and I want to say, there are a lot of people—pastors, parents, youth pastors—who understand this problem, grew up with this problem, and are fighting to break out of and avoid this trend. Some are those who grew up like the young lady who wrote the letter. Others simply came through ministries where they experienced the imbalance. Others grow up with a good model and are perpetuating it. And yet others are simply godly people who have a very biblical focus in life. But I am encouraged with what I see in Bible-believing churches with whom I fellowship. I am encouraged with the families that I see at Lancaster Baptist and the parents who are diligently attempting to get it right.

7. Kids who grow up in the best of environments can still grow up and choose sin, reject God, and experience deep problems. I guess the ultimate proof of this is that people will choose to reject Christ at the end of the millennial reign! Imagine growing up in the millennial reign of Jesus Christ in the perfect world. Even then, Satan will be able to deceive many and mount an army against Christ. At some point it becomes, not a matter of how I grew up, but where I will decide to go in the future and how I will respond to my past.

8. Finally, the problems revealed in the letter are generational in nature. We’re not dealing with new problems. For the most part, today’s neglectful and disconnected parents are children of the same, and often their grandparents are too. Satan has been hard at work on the American family for many generations. It’s been a long time since healthy families were the norm. It’s been a long time since many people have seen a good model of family life—especially a biblical one.

For instance, just last week I had an appointment with a father who has never talked to his teenage son about sexual matters—this is true of most fathers (and grandfathers). He was asking for help in how to do so. He said his father had never talked to him and he was unsure of how to approach this. I was happy to help, but reminded again of the failure of past generations. I can’t imagine a more important subject for a father and teen son to have a continual and close connection on, but so few actually do.

Many parents have just never seen a good model and never been taught the biblical principles, but I find that Christian parents are hungry to help. That encourages me!

In my next response, I will write to parents. I look forward to hearing your thoughts again… feel free to comment below.

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  • Right on Bro. Schmidt!

  • Bro. Schmidt,

    The response is great. Everything that is written is true. I come from a family of 5 children, and I am currently the only one serving God. What went wrong my mom asked, and I told her sometimes it just comes down to what you as an individual choose. If your heart is in the right, than you will choose what is right. I am trying to develop this in the young people of the church in which I serve. Most of them have the outward conformity down, but it is the hidden things of the heart they struggle with. Can’t wait to here that podcast. Maybe it will help me relate it better.

    Praying for you, as you continue to serve Him.

  • A hearty AMEN to your comments Bro. Schmidt! I have read through and took my S.S. class through “Shepherding A Child’s Heart” but have not read “Instructing A Child’s Heart.” “Shepherding A Child’s Heart” is an incredible book on parenting. Let me also suggest another great book that I am reading and taking my S.S. class through – “Hook, Line & Sinker” written by Cary Schmidt. In my opinion, “Hook, Line & Sinker” is one of the best books I’ve read on parenting (with the emphasis on parenting teens) no matter what your kids age. The letter really grabbed me because I have 5 teens. Our oldest is in Bible College and our youngest in 9th grade – so this letter hits very close to home! As I read the different cries of her heart, I remember different things from “Hook, Line & Sinker” that answer the problem she discusses. I believe that EVERY Christian parent ought to read “Hook, Line & Sinker” and then put the Biblical principles into practice IMMEDIATELY! All parents (past, present and future) ought to listen to this young ladies heart, then take a long look at OURSELVES through the Mirror of the Word of God, and then determine to fight the enemy that is out to destroy our kids, our families, and generations of families to follow us. I am very thankful for men like Tedd Tripp & Cary Schmidt that have written books that can help us be better parents for the glory of God!

  • Bro.Schmidt,
    Thank you so much for posting this letter! I couldn’t agree more with your response today.
    When I read the letter via Facebook, I felt as if I could have written that letter when I was 17/18 yrs old. So many of the issues good kids struggle with today I too struggled with. I didn’t have a close relationship with my parents at all…that open communication line was never really there even though we had a good Christian home, and when my parents caught on to my struggling & then wanted to have a ‘heart to heart’ talk it was so un-natural to me that I pushed them away with a heart of anger & bitterness. Wanting so badly to live a joyous Christian life, but feeling very trapped. I was saved when I was 14, did every thing right as a young girl & young teen…but as soon as senior high came the temptations over took I had no personal close relationship with even my Savior. O how I longed for it. I was only serving Him out of ‘duty’ and not out of ‘love’…I was ,as in the Bible, a hired servant…but I longed to be a bond servant, one who serves her Master out of deep love for Him.
    There is a very happy ending to my story. My pastor saw my struggle and adviced me to attend Crown College, never hearing of it before I quickly said ‘Yes Lord’…and what a work he did in my life. No more mom & dad ‘requiring’ I do right. I began a deeep relationship with my Savior that is still be cultivated even today. I often feel like David, repented in sack cloth & ashes, and O how the Lord restored me!
    I’m now 28yrs old. Married to a godly man for 8 yrs who is an assit. Pastor & working at Master’s Baptist College in ND…we have 3 young boys & how we pray for wisdom! To this young girl who is in the heat of the battle, sorting all these issues out in her life & the lives of her friends. I say, turn to Him. Forgive your parents for what they did wrong & what they will do wrong. As none of us are perfect. My parents are my best friends today. I laid all my anger & bitterness toward them at an alter stained with my tears when I was 19 & God has proved His mighty power to me & my family. There is hope!
    Most Sincerely,

  • I have read the letter and your response which is great btw…
    I will say as a former youth worker that got ran out of church because we did see the kids for who they were and what they were doing and realized that a relationship with Christ is how they will change their outward actions… this is why we were glad to have the relationship with the kids that we had.. We do have four kids all teens It is much harder as a parent… I will say always the most important part is to have a relationship with Christ but it is mighty hard to sit back and wait to see how that will play out in your own kids…
    So kids… please understand we want you to have that relationship with Christ and for us it is hard to just let it happen without interjecting because you are our kids… I am not perfect, I still struggle and I will be real with you that I am just now understanding more… I just want you to “get it” before I did and I want you to know Him… that is why I want you to read your Bible, attend church and pray to get that relationship… Oh Please help me do it right!

  • Thank you for posting. I understand your desire to be positive and encouraging that there are some parents and churches doing it the right way while still emphasizing the urgency of needed changes to others who sadly are not. I first would say that my parents and church (Pastor Wicks of First Baptist Church, Plattsmouth, NE) did extremely well in balancing rules and a relationship! I am forever grateful that the spirit of the law was emphasized far above the letter of the law, and I believe that has directly contributed to mine and my 5 siblings’ love for God and His work. I have also, however seen the opposite true. While I am grateful for my upbringing, I am saddened for so very many of my friends who went down the all too familiar path that led to letters such as the one you received. Please keep awareness in parents high! Thanks for your great work.

  • Thank you Brother Schimdt for this timely letter! We have reared two boys from birth to now college/career age. They have had all the advantages of a good church, youth group and graduated as well from our church’s Christian School. Having had those same advantages growing up, along with shortcomings especially by my father in the home, we as parents dedicated ourselves early on to live Christ before our children and assume the ultimate responsibility in these areas of heart-filled Christian living before them! Although our boys at times did not always take the rules and standards to heart that were placed around them, we always took the time to teach them about following the Lord with their heart whenever opportunities presented themselves! We trust that as they continue to mature in the Lord; that they will be led in their hearts to serve Him always from the love, care and concern we showed to them as their parents! By God’s grace we are seeing our boys (now young men) choosing to live this same heart-led Christian life for themselves and are excited about their futures! Outward influences of Christian Schools and Godly Churches will have the needed impact as we as parents take to heart always our God given responsibilities first!

  • As an older adult I can understand the young lady who wrote this letter. I watched my parents struggle with raising me and my two sisters. My father or my mother were raised in a Christian home and they did not have the education or background to always understand what I was experciening but they were loving ,caring parents and I did survive. Children need to understand that parnets do love then and care how they feel but they just don’t always know the answers themselves. I made many mistakes as a parent and have watched my children make mistaktes in raising their children. Children try to understand your parents point of view also. We don’t have all the answers. Only the LORD truly knows what is in your heart and He is the only one who can truly help you. I have cried many, many tears because of my failures as a parent. I tried.

  • I would like to read a bit more on the subject of parenting children’s hearts. The few books I have attempted to read on this subject (and I have not read yours) have been written in such a prideful I-did-everything-right attitude that I found them too annoying to read. Is there a resource from a humble perspective?

  • I have read the letter and response, and would like to point to a bit of a culprit. What we fill our time with.

    We all need to take responsibility for our actions as parents as we teach our children. I now have a 24 yr old daughter who serves God as much as I would have ever wished for, but I do not fully know all her struggles. I think she is fine. She says she is fine. She lives far away, so it is hard to really know. I was a single parent, and her father was out of the picture. I tried not to slam him, and tried to ensure that she see some semblance of a Godly man, in the leadership in the church we attended. But I too, dropped her off at Sunday School, sent her to scholarshipped Christian school as long as I could.. I depended on my church to teach her. I should have done more to teach her myself.

    4 years ago, I married a widower, who had 3 (pretty much) adult children. They had only been without thier mother for 1 year, but the two boys had already decided they wanted nothing to do with living a Christian life. His youngest, a daughter was struggling with her belief in religion even when her mother was alive. Let me just sday, now 4 years after meeting this whole clan, NONE of his children live any kind of Christian lives. They have no concern whatsoever that they have turned from the church.

    I mention this, because my husband has now recognized some of the things that were allowed in their house, as things that “may have” contributed to their being cold to the church. BUT, he does NOT recognize a lot of things. (IE: listening to Led Zepplin while preparing a sermon, watching Two and 1/2 men and simply finding it hilarious… never having restricetd shows like the Simpsons- which has no respect for the father figure in the home, Bloody action killing or fighting of some kind of tv or movies on all the time….. those are just a few things.) His children throw things out in conversation that shock me, IE: “Dad, you can be such an idiot!” “you s_ck”, or “knock it off dude”.
    Their father spent a lot of time at work, and unfortunately, it seems the TV and other family attitudes was church on Sunday kind of living.

    I hope that the kids will “come back” God knows what has to be done for that, but I pray most that my husband will see more of what is in his own life, and how HE interacts shows more than he could have possibly imagined. I know MY actions give light to my way of living, and I strive to be more like Christ. I’m not saying these things to be “telling” on my darling husband, rather to shed some light on what may go on in many more homes. Hopefully this knowledge may make it easier to sift through and gleem some solutions to share. I’d be glad to hear them!
    Blessings all!

  • Thank you for always having a heart to help teens and young people! I am so glad to have grown up in a wonderful Christian family, attend LBC, and be apart of your youth group! I desired to grow spiritually because of the godly examples that surrounded me during my teen years. I can remember you challenging us to have a “God moment.” I still remember my first time I experienced this as a teenager and how it changed my life! Thank you for caring and teaching biblical principles for these many years!

  • My husband has read “Do You Mind If Your Kids Don’t” by Bill Rice III. He says it is a wonderful read for new parents. He teaches a Sunday school for married couples and a lot of our themes are about parenting of course. As parents ourselves, we find that although parenting children is a wonderful calling, it remains to be the hardest thing we ever do. It is a blessing, and one that needs to have our full attention. Our 6 year old was saved a few months ago and praise the Lord for that. I think as kids grow up, it is crucial that they experience transformation, where once they are saved, they will then be able to fully surrender their lives to the Lord. These are the steps of a growing Christian. Our work as parents is to lead them to Him in deed and in word. We have to walk with the Lord and take our children along with us for the journey so they can serve with compassion and grow a heart for others especially, as Christ did for us, and eventually, with a heart for Him. They, as is our prayer, will decide for themselves who they want to live for. As the Patch song goes, Only two choices on the shelf, pleasing your God or pleasing yourself. I don’t know what lies ahead but as we encourage the young parents in our class, we need to lay the foundation: good church, sound doctrine, godly friends and fellowship, bible education, and a home where Christ resides. When I got saved at age 10, I didn’t fully surrender my life until I was 25. That is when I immersed myself in the Word and found a strong church to help me start my walk with the Lord. And it is no different for teens who grow up in the church. Until they can surrender their lives to Him will they be transformed and renewed (Romans 12:1-2).

  • Your response to the sad letter is well written and insightful. I just read the book “Already Gone” and was a bit discouraged with their conclusion that the church isn’t getting it right. We do have so many parents who want the church to do their job. I fear many of these parents are not truly born again as well and they just can’t give what they don’t have themselves. Thank you for the post addressing this issue.

  • Thank you for your very practical and objective response, Pastor Schmidt. I feel you made some excellent points for consideration as we all contemplate the very real and pervasive matters brought forth by this young girl.

    I don’t know you but as this young girl’s letter is being posted all over FB via your blog, it is bringing forth a lot of consideration among many all over the nation, by now. Just so you can understand what paradigm I am viewing the world from, I want to share with you, I did not grow up in a Christian home. While the Christian young people in my generation were going to S.S., I was passing time in a bar room with my biological mother .. .nearly every Sunday. While these same Christian young people learned Bible in their Christian schools, I was learning about sex, drugs, violence and all the emptiness the world had to offer. Praise the Lord, He saved me from my pit when I was 15 … and to condense a very long story, I am now a 35-year- old Bible College graduate, wife and homeschooling mother of 6 trying to live an abundant Christian life.

    If you would be so kind as to allow me to share my own personal thoughts about this young girl’s letter (and oddly enough, as I watch much of what she described unfold in my own church family among long-standing Christian families … with upbringings much like she described. I have been wrestling all of 2011 trying to understand how things like this happen amongst people who’ve been given every “privilege” of Christianity – how timely this discussion is for me.)

    I have to agree with so much of what you said but at the same time, I can’t wonder if we are really missing the Person of Jesus Christ in our hurried lives and so we aren’t passing our fervent burning desire for a relationship with Him to our kids. And yet, we do seem to pass our fervent desire for things of the world onto them … as well as our lack of fulfillment as a result, thereof.

    And if you will, I also wonder if we need to change the way we think about rules/relationship. You spent a great deal of time talking about why we need rules/boundaries, etc. To me that seems so obvious … to me, when someone says that our lives need to focus more on our relationships with Christ, it was never to say we should throw out rules. I sense that generations of well-meaning parents have settled for rules and maybe even depended on the rules to guard their children from all of the atrocities that the young girl spoke of … maybe they thought the rules alone were all the safeguard and protection they needed… almost like a free pass to a happy, safe, Christian life?

    Maybe we’ve been forgetting that our actions reveal what is already in our hearts …

    …and perhaps a continual behavior that breaks those rules is a cry for help from a hurting heart, a misled & deceived heart, one that needs the power of God’s truth in action to get it back on track. Or sadly, maybe they (the generation/authority in question) have just been passing on all that Christianity truly ever had been to them … just a list of boundaries and rules meant to keep us safe and from sin. It is not bad to be safe within our boundaries, untouched by sin but…

    …I contend that Christianity is SO MUCH MORE in the Person of Jesus Christ…we can fill our hearts with the abundance of living that He promised not merely because He only gives us happy & easy things that satisfy us … but b/c we learn to see things the way He teaches us to, to accept ALL, even the mysterious and painful, joyfully from His hand … in a spirit of gratitude, trust, acceptance and joy. We have to move from just saying He is good but perhaps we could really believe it in the core of our being. And if we truly did learn to believe it MORE than we believed that the world fulfills, then we’d be at peace living within boundaries b/c within them, we’d be demonstrating the fulfillment we ALREADY found in Him.

    At the end of the day I don’t want to know that my kids merely obeyed the rules … but that they have come to KNOW Him and the power of His resurrection … deeply in their hearts. If ALL they did was obey, they really missed out on the deeper, fuller and abundant life that only the Person of Jesus Christ can offer.

    Perhaps you were able to speak more practically to the needs of a hurting generation than I am, as I could never presuppose to know what all of the answers are. I do think, however, that the heart of the matter rests in learning to abide in Him. And in that abiding, I believer we can find true, honest and transparent Christianity, one that redeems lives from the inside out and grants us a victorious & obedient life for His glory.

    Thank you kindly for taking the time to read my thoughts. May God continue to bless you in your ministry as you shepherd hearts for Him.

  • This letter is so very on target. My husband & I have been and are discovering the truths this young woman has shared. We have a large family and we have always been diligent to raise our children “Christian”. They were dedicated as infants, were in church almost every Sunday from birth, they attended everything from VBS to lock-ins with every church related thing in between, we taught them to pray, we own the whole VeggieTale library for goodness sake…we did all the “right” things just as this letter suggests. THEN the unexpected happened, my middle school aged child got into trouble for selling drugs at school; we later learned that she was also doing drugs herself, had begun cutting and so much more. In the meantime, our eldest moved out and became involved in a serious relationship and other scandelous things that were nothing like what we had raised her to be involved in and certainly far from anything pleasing to God. So very many disappointing things came to light, to many to list here, that shook us as parents to the core: where had we gone wrong? How could we not have known what was going on with our own children as they were living right under our roof, under our very noses? How could such disasters occur when we were doing all the “right” things? We turned to people in our church and found that many were at a loss as to how to help us or our children; some even felt that we must be “in sin” ourselves to have such going on in our home. Our hearts have ached, tears have flowed and prayers for guidance have gone up. This letter is so true as to to be painful to us as parents. The one thing we have learned though is that is never to late to “get it right”. As parents we can still pray for God to reclaim our wandering children; we can seek His help as we raise our younger children in a “better” way; we can find hope and strength in reading this letter you’ve shared and learning that we are not alone in our “failures”; there is time to make a difference. We are working on guiding our children in the way that they should go now and we are getting help from the older ones that did not get the same from us as they were growing up. Thank you for sharing about this and allowing us to all to know we are not unique in this struggle/battle for our children eternity.

  • Good stuff brother!!!

  • This used to be me…everything she said just hit me like a knife in the heart. If you have young children, please take this to heart. And Pastors, dont think this doesnt include your family. I have spent some time at the Roloff Homes and let me tell you there are more preachers kids down there than anyone else. Satan will target your family before anyone else.
    Christians, dont assume that because you tell your kids Bible stories and MAKE them go to every service and every function that they are ok. They arent ok.

  • After reading up on the history of children and childhood last year, it looks like many of our families have never been healthy–100 years ago, 200, 500, or longer. Letting Christ transform us as adults and parents is a huge gift we can give to our own families for many generations and to the world! Even as a 31-year-old, I find that whenever my parents make a significant step in the health of their relationship, whenever the Lord does something good in and for them, I am blessed and challenged to go deeper with Jesus. If your kids are already grown, don’t be discouraged! Keep pursuing the love of God and letting His peace infiltrate all areas of your life.

  • The two things our children crave most from us are our Time and Attention. It really is about the relationship. Without the relationship in place, you have no foundation for teaching them anything, nor any right to any expectation of behavior.

  • Go on Brother! Feed me. God b!ess your heart! Amen!

  • I shared this link on my facebook and a friend commented the following. I wanted you to read what he wrote as a suggestion. ” After reading the article, which is very much on point. I feel the gentleman who wrote the book and inspired the young lady to write him a letter should include her in helping him write that book she is asking for teens. It would be foolish of him to not take advantage of this person’s prospective to help others out. I don’t know the author of the article, but if you can suggest to him via email or somehow know him, it would be a cool partnership to see come together and become strong Christian influences through a book.”

  • And this is why my family left our local “mega church”. I felt like my daughter was being scanned in like a grocery item every time we puther in Sunday School. There were so many things to do and join, but so little feeling of fellowship and family. I think that the condition this young lady described can afflict Christian adults as well of they are not properly nurtured in church. I believe that it is all about family and community. We are at a different, smaller church now, and we as parents all participate in the education of our children. My husband and I feel much closer to our young daughter spiritually, as she is now with us during part of the service, participating on the worship team even though she is only six and engaged in an active dialogue with us about God that goes on daily.

    We also talk about life. I hope that this is the dialogue that continues into her teen years, so that she never feels like she has to be the “perfect” kid and cannot come to us with problems or issues she is facing.

    I think that it is all about relationships and any parent can be neglectful in this regard. Churches can as well, especially ones who get so caught up in their ministry that they forget those to whom they are ministering.

    We are all sinners. Many of us struggle from the same things this girl talked about in her letter. I do. But are we looking to each other as Christians for support or just wanting to look good on Sunday morning. Our children are watching us and learning from our example.

  • Shepherding a Child’s Heart and Instructing a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp, where can i buy this book brother? Do you have that on the campus bookstore online?

  • Bro. Cary,
    Appreciate your response…balanced, and taking in the many angles that the letter brought up. We are studying “Shepherding a Child´s heart” with our ladies (in spanish) and it has been a very tough study, as we fight to replace culture and the lies the world wants us to believe. Our children are precious…they are not commodities and they are not plants – which only need sun and water (food).
    Going to share the letter from the young lady this Sunday with our church family (in spanish) and then follow up with your responses as we have a focus on the family this month. May I suggest that one of our biggest problems is not just the parenting but the marriage itself? I´d highly recommend “When Sinners Say I Do” – by Dave Harvey as an excellent place to start to help your children.

  • Is it horrible that I *wasn’t* jolted when I read the letter? Nothing in it surprised me… I could have WRITTEN it!!

    I too grew up in a Christian home, and everything in that sad letter resonated with me. My dad was the principal of our church’s Christian school, but I always felt like he spent all his time on the “bad” kids and neglected me. It doesn’t take much putting-together to understand why I became a bad kid. By God’s grace, I’m still in church three years after graduating high school, but I’m still struggling with many of the issues listed in the letter. Thank you for taking the time to respond to her letter. I look forward to reading and rereading all 3 of your responses!

  • I have to agree with Amanda in the fact that the letter came as no shock.
    I have lived parts of it and watched parts of it unfold in the lives of my friends. Over half of my friends, who grew up like me, are not even remotely living for God. It is a sad story that is stuck on repeat with my generation.
    I grew up in a godly home and am so blessed to have the parents I do. My family is still very involved in our own churches. My parents effectively taught us to serve. My Dad, while not the Assistant Pastor, has filled that capacity since I was a small child. We were involved in everything the church did. I am not ungrateful for my childhood and for how I was raised. I had a wonderful relationship with my parents, my pastor(s), and the people of my church. I had open communication with my parents and saw them daily live a godly life. However, my christian walk never had a strong foundation. So much focus was put on the “Martha” service and not on the “Mary” service. I still struggle, which is my own fault, with my prayer life and devotions. A foundation was laid for how to properly serve/work in the church, but very little focus is given to how to serve at Jesus’ feet. People worry about how things look to those in the church, but they forget about how things look to God.
    I would like to urge parents to take a step back from being involved in every possible area of the church, and take the time to teach your children how to be involved in serving/listening at Jesus’ feet. Please take the time to show your child how to study their Bible. It is a good thing to check on their devotions and see what God is showing them. You’ll be able to tell if they are really getting anything out of them. The child does need to do the devotions because they desire to, but parents need to help them cultivate that desire.
    Don’t just assume that they truly spend time with God, just because you ask here and there what chapter they read.

    I may have not clearly communicated my heart, but parents, youth workers, Pastors; please remember that active service is not a good indicator for an active Christian heart.

  • Thank you for posting this letter, Bro. Schmidt. My husband is in his 4th year of ministry to teens, and even in such a short time, we could relate to the words of this letter. Not to mention, our own backgrounds matched the pleas of this young girl. I did have a question, though. Does the divorce rate among christians have anything relation at all to this generation’s honest struggles? We have heard often the divorce rates among Christians is very dangerous. I am a child of a divorced ministry home myself. I know what it is like to have to live like it didn’t happen, so you could be “appropriate” to serve yet thrown in your face when it isn’t a good time for you to be there. However, I wonder if not addressing it has caused the children to feel as they could hide the inconsistencies in their lives. People cannot attach to what is not consistently in their lives. Deut. 6:8 says to keep the Word in front of them continually, and God set it up from mom and dad to do it together. How does that work when neither of the original covenant is there? I understand it is a sensitive issue, and there are many stories on both sides. I am not saying divorce is the cause for it all, but wondered if there was a connection. Thank you again for you insightful words and encouragment. May God continue to bless you as you serve.

  • Thank you for continuing the dialog that this letter has started. What an amazing impact the letter and book will have. I am so excited to have found a blog that is addressing the real life struggles of kids and their parents. To be honest, I am very tired of reading books that have a one-size-fits all approach to parenting and most of the advice leaning towards how to make your kids conform to certain standards. What are we to do on a daily basis to win our kids hearts? There has to be more out there than a list of verses to memorize or an activity to participate in. Yes, both of those can be wonderful resources but parents and kids need so much more than that. I want my kids to learn so much more than a song here or there or a list of dos and donts. We need help to learn how to have a relationship with God and how to show our kids the way! Bless you for addressing this issue head on!

  • Thanks for your balanced and biblical approach!

  • I am very lucky in that I understood young that my children were here for me to raise to be Godly people, and that when I die, I did not want to be looking back at a life filled with making some company rich off of my labor while my kids were starving for my attention. So we have sacrificed in order to be able to have a home based business where my husband and I can both be there for our three kids (the third was God’s idea, not ours, but she is AWESOME!!!) We work hard to instill Godly values and love in our kids and get discouraged by how quickly it all goes away when they get around other kids at public school. I am seriously considering home schooling, very scared to do so financially but I know God and that He provides awesomely. I would be able to provide my kids a better education because I know them well. They are both good Christian kids who display genuine fruits of the spirit more often than the fruits of the flesh, which is all I can ask for. Thank you for posting this young lady’s article and your response. I am going to use it to guide a few discussions with my 11 year old going on 20 daughter, and it is very much encouraging me to take that final leap of faith and home school these gifts that God gave us! Say a little prayer for me, lol..

  • rd.This girls letter not only describes older college level young adults but it also describes what I see everyday in our high school kids. My young daughter who is a sophmore this year has many friends, but I can count on 1 hand how many know the Lord. The world is in a sad place as these young people are our future. It’s almost scarey to listen a see how they think and behave even in front of adults. I pray daily for guidence with my daughter.

  • This girls letter not only describes older college level young adults but it also describes what I see everyday in our high school kids. My young daughter who is a sophmore this year has many friends, but I can count on 1 hand how many know the Lord. The world is in a sad place as these young people are our future. It’s almost scarey to listen a see how they think and behave even in front of adults. I pray daily for guidence with my daughter.

  • I read this letter and many of the responses and I can’t get it out of my mind – but not because I agree. I grew up like her in a Christian school, my parents worked at our church and I went to a fundamental, Baptist Bible college. The problem isn’t with the parents or the rules or any of that. It’s that the kids (myself included) don’t get what everyone is saying. Christianity is personal. You have to love God, yourself. That’s not something someone can make you do. You know the saying, “You can take a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink”. I found for myself that once I had a chance to have a few, real-life experiences I knew I needed God and it wasn’t a game or show anymore. Parents, pastors, keep doing what you are doing. Eventually some the kids will “get it”.

  • I agree that parents must make time to sit down with their children and teach the Word to them and share with them. As far as the relationship/rules dichotomy goes, of course salvation is not by works. However, I have noticed that in every really close relationship I have ever had with anyone, I would become aware of their likes and dislikes over time. If I truly loved the person and treasured the relationship I would try not to do the things they didn’t like and to do the things they liked. I suppose you could call that “rules” but we just don’t think of it that way. Shortly after we were married my husband showed me how his socks were to be folded and that is how I have folded them for 41 years because that is what he likes. God has shared with us in His word that He also has likes and dislikes and if we treasure our relationship with Him we will try to conform to His likes and dislikes just because we love Him. I don’t know if you would call that “rules”, but in every close relationship there is an adjusting to the other person’s preferences.

  • This absolutely breas my heart, as I see and hear of this so often, and am experiencing it in our own family at present. Our 38 year old daughter left her husband, three young adult and teenaged children, and two grandchildren, two years ago for a woman. She has been taught the Word of God all of her life, been taught right from wrong, good strong moral values, yet she has walked away from it all. This has ripped our once close family into shreds. We have begged, pleaded, prayed, wept a million tears, tried to comfort and console her family, yet she continues to turn a deaf ear to us all. Just this month, she moved here with us, saying that she was done and wanted to get her life straightened back out, but lived on her computer all of her free time from work. Monday morning early, she packed and left without a word. We don’t know where she is or who she’s with. Once again, because she lies to us all, her husband and children have been ripped apart once again. Our hearts are broken and we’re numb. I pray and have given this to the Lord, as only He can do what only He knows she will respond to, or if she will. Praying that she will repent and come home so that there can truly be healing and restoration for her husband, who still loves her deeply, and her children who have and continue to suffer so much.

  • “Breaks” my heart. And the three children, two of which have graduated since she left and one just turned 16.

  • I am a parent of a teenager, a preteen and an adult son who is a pastor. Parenting is not for quitters. Is it real that parents are being condemned for taking their children to church, Sunday School, youth group and church activities? I cannot tell you how many “miles” I have driven, buses I have ridden in and cars in parking lots I have sat in waiting for my children at these activities. Money I had to earn for mission trips, ministries, camps, colleges, christian schools etc so that my child could be “exposed” to Christ in every part of their life. My husband and I have made ourselves available for conversations, Bible reading, teaching, encouraging one-on-one time, hikes, family vacations, breakfasts, dinners, midnight snacks etc. We have put all of our free time on the line for our family. We believe that is what God has called us to do and we are doing our very best. Now, does that mean our children will be saved? Our children will do right? Our children will be loving, caring and appreciative . . . no, I don’t believe it does. Teenager, adult, young or old . . . each must “choose who they will serve”. The Bible is clear that everyone has a choice. So teenager, how much effort have you made to reach out to your parents? To admit your hard heart and ask forgiveness? To try and understand that parents have pressures, hang ups, insecurities at work, home, church and with family. Life is hard without Christ, for everyone, young and old. Remember, there is no “new temptation” out there. These problems have always existed, and God is still there providing a way out and a help in Christ.


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