By Cindy Colley
I’ve seen way too many teary-eyed moms and dads of adult children regretfully chronicling the passage of their children from a state of spiritual safety to a lost condition. These parents are good people who are, on some level, happy to be gathering around birthday cakes, having sleepovers, going fishing, and playing house with beautiful grandchildren. But they are still keenly and painfully aware that the most important thing about the lives of their children and grandchildren is horribly amiss. Their souls are headed for an eternity in Hell. Sometimes, in moments of familial closeness, they may forget that in every celebration there is an unspoken sadness, in every shared memory a haunting fear, and in every hug a silent hope. But the anxiety about their souls is never very far away. Often compounding the parental pain is regret of unfaithfulness or poor decisions made during the formative years of the children who are now parents themselves.
Regret avails little, but while there is breath, there is hope. While obviously prevention is the best solution in these cases, here are some suggestions that may yet prove effective in bringing your children back to eternal safety:

  1. Be persistent, but not overbearing. Nagging your children will not prove effective. Criticizing their spiritual ineptitude in front of the grandchildren will drive them further from the Lord. Inviting them, without coercion tactics, to events at your congregation that you think are appropriate for their situations, such as marriage or parenting seminars, may be fruitful. Giving them bulletin articles or tracts occasionally that may be relevant to some tasks or decisions they are facing may make them think about spiritual needs. Jump in there in times of tragedy with good materials from sound Christians about dealing with sorrow. Include a book about Christian parenting when you give them baby gifts for your grandchildren. Pray to God for wisdom in seeing these opportunities and for courage to properly seize them.
  2. Don’t compromise. Never miss worship services to do fun things with your family. I know a woman who goes to the Braves games with her unfaithful son on the weekends, missing worship right along with him. She will never reach him for the Lord as she compromises. Absent yourself when alcohol is served or when entertainment choices are raunchy. Don’t display the photos of your granddaughters in immodest clothing in your home. All of these situations give you opportunities to gently explain that, while you love them dearly, you will not compromise your Christianity for any earthly relationship. Again, pray that you will use these opportunities to win them.
  3. Be sure they know you are taking their names before God every day. Put your arm around their shoulders and say, “You know I’m not giving up on you. I pray for your soul every single day.”
  4. Do all you can to train your grandchildren. You will not have to tell your grandchildren to talk to their parents about the Lord. If you are constantly teaching them the will of the Lord in creative and fun ways while the kids are with you, they will tell their moms and dads about what they are learning. Keep those kids at every opportunity and fill them with the Bible. Play Bible games and have prizes for Bible knowledge accrued. Take them to VBS, and, when you have sleepovers, never fail to have Family Bible Time. Sing Bible songs and constantly have them doing Bible memory work. Invite their parents to visit your congregation and see their handiwork in their Bible classrooms.
  5. Get faithful siblings on board. If one or some of your children are faithful, encourage him or them to be a positive spiritual influence on the lost child. There are all kinds of things that a brother or sister can say or do that a parent may not be able to effectively say or do. I can imagine your daughter saying to a younger sister, “It would really mean a lot to Mom and Dad if you would attend the services with them this Sunday. If you will, I will be in town that week and we can all sit together.” Now, I am not suggesting that children should obey because it would “mean a lot to Mom and Dad,” but getting them in the building to hear a Gospel lesson is a start to softening their hearts. Cousins are huge influences on each other. If the children of your faithful kids can encourage their cousins to come to VBS or to get involved in a youth group activity, sometimes the door is opened.
  6. Be the best in-law you can be. Your daughter-in-law should be impressed with her Christian mother-in-law. She should be amazed that she is so loved and that she is treated just as a daughter by her father-in-law. Surprise your son-in-law with cards and gifts. Make sure you always speak in gentle and loving tones to him. Be your daughter-in-law’s best encourager. Pick out the good things about her and let her know you are thankful for her. You may be thinking, at this point, that he/she is the reason your child is unfaithful, but it is important to remember that you will never win your child by begrudging or being critical of his/her mate. Your chances are much better if you choose to be the best parent-in-law on the planet. Babysit, give gift cards, cook great Sunday dinners, and make baby blankets. Make your home a care-free, comfortable place where your daughter-in-law or son-in-law feels much at home.
  7. Appeal to your child’s Christian friends. Are there those in your congregation who grew up with your kids, but, unlike your children, have remained faithful? If so, enlist their prayers and help in bringing your child home. Ask them to send birthday cards to your son or daughter or ask them to send invitations to a seminar or Gospel meetings. Give one of these faithful men or women a twenty-dollar bill and ask him/her to take your child to lunch and “catch up” on old times and encourage your child in spiritual matters. Retrieve an old high school program or a baseball photo from the past and encourage your friend to mail it to your son with a note saying how fun those times were. Any relationship built with faithful friends could potentially open a door for restoration in your child.
  8. Include a letter in your will. It may be that you will pass from this life before being able to see your son or daughter come back to the Lord. Be prepared for this. Even in your death, there is an opportunity to appeal to your child. It may be that this final appeal is the strongest. Include a letter in your will to be read in that lawyer’s office or by that executor that says something like this:

Dear Son,
It’s been the most difficult thing about leaving this life to know that I am leaving you in a spiritually unprepared condition. I love you more than Iife. I would do literally anything in my power to have the assurance that I will see you again in Heaven. But I know that I have no such hope as things are now.
These material possessions I am leaving behind mean nothing compared to the spiritual blessings I so desperately want for you. Won’t you please come back to the Lord and become a faithful member of His church so that this will not be our final goodbye? I want to see you again. I want to be with my grandchildren around God’s throne. Please, please, please make things right between you and the Lord, so that I can see you again. This is my last and greatest wish for you, my son.
All my love,