First up, let me just say that this article is aimed at young teenagers, who are 15 years old or younger. If you are an older teenager I suggest you read this article instead. This is for young teenagers who have silently deconverted, and want an action for when they can publically “come out”. This article is NOT a discussion on the merits of the SDA church, this is simply for those that have already decided they want to leave.
This page is split up into two parts. The first part, is a deconversion plan for young teenagers that feel their parents will be OK with it (usually liberal Adventist families). The second (and bigger) part is for young teenagers that feel their parents will not be OK with it (usually conservative Adventist families). If you don’t know which camp you fit into, then be sure to read this article, as even ‘liberal’ Adventist parents might not react well if you ‘come out’! OK, lets get started.
My parents will be OK with it – now what?
- Firstly – that is awesome. Your parents are awesome, good for you! But it is still a scary thing to do. Good on you for being brave enough to stand up for who you are.
- The first step is to test the waters. Try telling people other than your parents first. You might try a non-Adventist friend first (this can also be scary; it can be embarrassing to change beliefs. Don’t worry – your true friends won’t say things like ‘I told you so’ and will be supportive). Alternatively, you might even try an Adventist friend, sibling or trusted Aunt/Uncle.
- OK – you did this and you didn’t die. Awesome! But now its time to tell your parents (gulp). So how do you tell them? You tell them; “mum, dad – I have something important to tell you. I no longer believe in Seventh Day Adventism.” They will probably be a little shocked, and they might have some questions so be prepared for these. You could tell them in a public place to make it easier. Tell them you love them, and you hope they will support you in your life decision. Try to be calm and not defensive.
- Decide a few things – decide if you are still a Christian or not. Decide if you are still happy to go to church with your parents as an expression of your spirituality and as a family activity. Decide if you still want to keep the Sabbath. Talk to your parents about boundaries. Tell them what you want and discuss how you can work within the bounds of their house rules.
- Be willing to make some concessions. Your parents might not be OK with the TV being turned on during Sabbath – respect that. It is not a big deal, and its not worth fighting over. Thank your parents for being cool with it, and respect their beliefs too; you don’t want them hassling you about theirs, so respect theirs too and don’t start fights.
My parents will NOT be OK with it – now what?
Ok, firstly, DON’T panic! The world isn’t going to end now that you aren’t a Seventh Day Adventist. Secondly, as much as I wish I could give different advice, DON’T come out. It is too hard to come out and continue to live in that environment, especially while you are so young.
Of course, you won’t want to pretend to be an Adventist forever, so you will eventually leave, just not now. I suggest to adults/older teenagers that they wait until they no longer live with other Adventists and that they move into a place of there own. Only when do they have their own house – a safe place – do I recommend they publicaly “come out”. The same goes for you as well. So for now, you can spend the next few years preparing to live by yourself.
Preparing to move out
- Because your family is not going to react well, you need to tell them when you have your own house to go to – this will be your safe place. You do not want to go back home, ever. Plan to move out as soon as you can, so around 18 years old (or even 17 in some cases). If you plan on going to college, then this is your chance. Keep in mind; other college students get to come home for the summer. You don’t. Imagine 3 months of being part of “The World” in an Adventist home. You need to start saving up money now, so that you never have to go back for overnight stays, even during vacations.
- If you aren’t going to go to college, you need to move out anyway. So start talking to your parents now about how you’ve decided you want to move out as soon as you can. Talk about how you want to be independent, and how this means a lot to you. If you can leave the city, that is the best idea. If you can’t, then move out anyway, and ideally move to the other side of town (right after you deconvert, you DON’T want to run into them in the mall).
- Start saving money for extra things, like having your own car and being able to buy your own kitchen appliances. You need to work on the assumption that you can’t rely on your SDA family’s help – ever. So find a part time job and start saving the money for the next few years.
How to survive in the church and stay hidden
- If most of your friends and family are Seventh Day Adventists, you need to start making more friends. You need to build up meaningful, close relationships with non-SDA’s. Why? Well, when you deconvert, you have to assume that you are going to lose your relationships with your SDA friends/family, even your parents and siblings. When you do, you NEED to have a supportive network of close friends to replace them and support you! So start making those friends now. Click here for advice on how to do that.
- Start to push the boundaries as much as you can. Start asking “questions” about Adventist teachings. This will help mentally prepare your parents a little for when you full-on leave.
- Hide your tracks. Don’t let your parents read your texts, emails or diaries. In fact, don’t keep a paper diary – it is too dangerous. You don’t want them to find out the truth, because your life will be miserable. If they find out and instigate an intervention meeting, lie your way out of it and do not crack under pressure. This is not the time to come out.
- If you no longer believe in the Sabbath, you will probably find it frustrating to keep it. Here are some tips on how to keep it, but not keep it.
- Start distancing yourself from the church. So, if your parents want to send you on youth camps – discourage this as much as possible. Make up excuses such as school work, or a good excuse is to claim that the kids there aren’t Godly enough for you, and that they bring you down in your faith. Combine that with school work and hope that it works. If it doesn’t work, then try to survive the camps as best as you can.
- Because you no longer believe, you will find church activities that cut into your free time frustrating, such as prayer groups, youth groups and prophecy meetings. Try to use the homework excuse to avoid having to go. Try to avoid these groups as much as possible, and try and distance yourself from other SDA youth. It sounds mean but you want as little ties as possible when it comes to leaving. You leaving will hurt/shock/disappoint them. The less SDA’s you are close to, the easier it is to leave it behind.
Finally, read this guide for what to do when you are old enough (and ready) to leave the church.
PLEASE NOTE: If you are suffering from any sort of abuse, please talk to an adult you trust. Ideally, talk to someone who is removed from your family, such as a teacher. Be open and honest.
Pathfinders. The few. The proud. The remnant
Articles Relevant for Teens
- For Young Teenagers – Deconversion Action Plan
- For Young Teenagers – Should You Leave?
- How to Secretly Break the Sabbath
- How to Make Friends Outside the Church