This Is Not the Time to Give Up

The Coalition for Christian Outreach: ‘Parents Must Address the False Burden of Guilt and Shame’

January 5, 2021

PITTSBURGH Children from Christian homes often make a variety of choices that fall outside their parents’ values. These choices range from living a promiscuous lifestyle, to partying excessively, to marrying someone of questionable character, to choosing a career solely for monetary gain, to walking away from faith and church. These choices can lead to heartbreaking, life-altering outcomes, including alienation from the rest of the family, a life lived apart from God, an unplanned pregnancy, divorce, and chronic unemployment.

Dan Dupee, former Chairman of the Board for Coalition for Christian Outreach (CCO), asks, “So what do we, as Christian parents, do when our children choose to walk away from our Christian values, in small and large ways? What do we do if they walk away from God altogether? What would God have us do?”

According to Dupee, if you are a parent who struggles with questions like these and the related emotions, you are not alone. “It’s bad enough to see your child choose a life that will be so much less than it could be, but when you feel personally responsible in some way, it’s even harder. You might legitimately bear this burden through neglect, abuse, lack of faith, or a poor example. On the other hand, you might have walked faithfully with Jesus and done all you could to help your kids do the same. Chances are the answer is a bit of both, given that we are all broken.”

Dupee explains that parents need to address the false burden of guilt and shame they often experience if their kids are not thriving in their faith. Carrying this weighty burden is in opposition to what God has for us. It is also counterproductive and senselessly painful.

Dupee recommends that parents consider the following:

  • As a parent, you are not God and not in control of the universe, let alone the mind and heart of another human being, even if that person happens to be your child. Your emerging adult kids are individuals who do things for their own reasons. They are responsible for their own choices.
  • Parenting, even Christian parenting, is messy work with unpredictable results. A wayward child is part of the struggle that comes with living in a broken world; it is not an indictment of your character.
  • Carrying the weight of guilt over parental missteps or failure will not help you be a better parent in the future. Use your energy to love your son or daughter now—in the present.
  • Misplaced guilt and shame often show up in exactly the wrong place. If you feel you must “shun” your child, even unofficially, you may well be reacting out of your own frustration at your perceived failure. There is a good chance the shunning will make things worse.
  • A large theme in our Christian journeys is learning to ask for and receive forgiveness. If we have failed our kids (as we all have), God expects us to repent, not to wallow in guilt. He expects us to go to him, asking for insight regarding the path forward.
  • As is often attributed to Winston Churchill: “Never, never, never give up.” God’s demonstrated pattern is to pursue us when we are far from him.

The college and university campus is the most strategic mission field in the world, with only 2% of students being reached with the Gospel. CCO partners with local church congregations to help students feel a sense of belonging. A community is formed between the CCO staff and students, who are invited into the lives of local congregations. Through this community of fellowship, CCO is able to minister to the students in a life-changing way.


To interview Dan Dupee or for more information about Coalition for Christian Outreach, contact, Marjorie Pratt, 610.584.1096, ext. 107, or Deborah Hamilton, ext. 102.