How to Talk to an Aging Doubting Parent About Jesus

While we love our family members, those family ties also come with strain. When our parents don’t believe in Jesus, that brings additional concern about their eternal future into the picture. We want to have meaningful conversations, but we also want to honor them in their current stage of life. How can we best navigate conversations about Jesus with aging parents who may have doubts?

Spending time with unbelieving family members, especially when they are our parents, can be a challenge. You may worry about offending them. Or maybe you’re a bit overzealous about converting them. You might wonder if you’re saying enough to convince them of Jesus’ worth without saying too much. This is a road that must be walked with gentleness and humility. Here are four avenues for weaving discussion of faith into the everyday moments you have with your aging parents.

Live It

Our lives preach louder than our words. This idea stems from scripture, which tells us to “be doers of the word, and not hearers only”(James 1:22 ESV). If we want to speak truth into the lives of others, we need to be living that truth.

This can be challenging with family members who are close to us and know our flaws and vices more intimately or who we may have hurt in the past. However, living in a way that makes Jesus seem impactful can be the means for opening the door to conversation.

Discussing your views and plans for all aspects of life reveals your Christian worldview. This may encourage questions from your parents, allowing you a natural means for sharing where your ideals come from or why you have chosen a particular path.

People are usually more comfortable when they are in charge of the conversation. If they bring up the topic of faith, they are less likely to resist what you say. Matthew 5:16 touches on this when it tells us to “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

Scripture tells us that living like Jesus can lead others to follow Him! That’s encouraging. So, take stock of your life. Do your actions reflect your words? If they do, make sure you are prepared to “make a defense … with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15 ESV).

Speak It

I know we just got done talking about how our actions can tell about Jesus, but God also calls us to use words. This can mean something other than preparing a sermon to deliver to your parents at your next family dinner.

Do you speak about Jesus, and how do you speak about Him?

Do you “proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness and into his marvelous light?” (1 Peter 2:9 ESV). When you receive a blessing, do you praise God? When there is a meal, do you pray aloud? Do you have enough scripture memorized that you can quote it at appropriate times?

Weaving your speech into your parents’ lives can show that you love them. It shows that your faith is not simply focused on you but spills over to them as well. Reciting a scripture when they are afraid or in pain can show your compassion for them. Thanking God aloud for them can display your respect for them.

Doctor Darren Carlson also suggests asking questions of your parents in order to open up the conversation. Allow your parents to see that your faith doesn’t have to be a point of contention or something that separates them from you. Instead, it’s something that can unite them to you.

Share It

Sometimes, you have to share the gospel in bold terms.

Perhaps your parents are older, and you fear you don’t have time to beat around the bush. Go for it!

Remember, though, that there are numerous ways to share the gospel through shared experiences. Our family has unbelieving parents who participate in all of our family holidays. The chips have fallen, so we are always the hosts of these events.

This allows us to plan and execute the holidays around their spiritual significance. Prayer before meals is usually a brief explanation of why we’ve gathered together to celebrate, scripture cards are set at each place setting and read aloud, and even the children sometimes recite something or sing a hymn.

We have even done our regular family worship or devotions during spontaneous family gatherings. This means that our parents are exposed to the gospel several times each year in a natural way. They know we are Christians and assume we will focus on Christian traditions at certain times of the year. It reminds me of the church in Acts who broke bread in their homes. The togetherness and aura of celebration enhanced their fellowship.


Marci Ferrell of The Thankful Homemaker reminds us that family can be some of the hardest people to witness to. After all, we may never meet a stranger that we witness to again, but we will definitely come into contact with our parents again and again.

It can be disheartening to watch your aging parents continually reject Jesus, but one thing we can learn from Jesus himself is to persevere. Persevere in prayer, continued care for your parents despite their thoughts on God, and continual willingness to hear their fears or rejections of faith. D. Scott Hildreth reminds us that “Those we love need Jesus. He has placed us in their lives as His ambassadors and witnesses. Effective evangelism demands patience, persistence, and faith. We plant and water, but God gives the growth.”

Keep Loving

The bottom line is love. The purpose of sharing Jesus is that we love our parents and want them to experience the love of Jesus. We need to share Christ in love, always ensuring that our parents feel comfortable and safe around us, no matter the differences in our faith. Never forget that “with man this impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26 ESV).

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