For Young Teenagers: SDA Deconversion Action Plan

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?

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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

  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. 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.

When it all gets too much, confide in your non-SDA friends that you trust and let them support you- they will want to help!

How to survive in the church and stay hidden

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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

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1 Comment
  1. Another reason to stay quiet in your early teens (or, if you decide to be open, to be on your best behavior) is the risk of getting shipped off to a Christian boot camp for “troubled youth”. Some parents will want to do everything they can to “fix” you now, while you’re young enough to be under their control. If your leaving the church comes with extra baggage (for example, you’re also gay), I recommend you be extremely cautious about who you tell. It’s not fair, but it beats the alternative of being sent to what is basically a prison.

    As far as whether or not its safe to talk about your beliefs, I think you should base that decision on how healthy your relationship with your parents is. “Healthy” means they love and support you unconditionally and will NOT treat you like an enemy, even if they are disappointed. They will respect your right to follow your own conscience, deal with you honestly, and will not try to force you into anything.

    If you’re not sure, then take some time to think about and observe how they treat others. Are they disrespectful towards fellow church members when they disagree on issues? Do they speak badly about other relatives or friends who have changed beliefs? Do they seem to have a very negative view of non-Adventists in general? Are they very hyper-focused on legalistic behavior and love to judge others? Do they have the type of personality that sees things in only simplistic, black and white terms? If that’s the case, those are red flags that they will feel threatened by your lack of belief. When people feel scared, they make irrational decisions.

    Also, consider the fact that your parents are individuals. One might react less harshly than the other. One might be more prone to overreact or behave abusively than the other. It’s helpful to have at least one trustworthy parent you can confide in. But if the other isn’t, make sure that your supportive parent is able to stand up for you. While this isn’t by any means universal, you might have an easier time with your father being the accepting one because chances are an accepting mother would be pressured into submitting to her husband’s opinions. But it can certainly work the other way too… use your best judgement.

    Another tip for surviving is: learn to love your local library! If you can convince your parents to let you spend some time there by yourself at least once a week, you have unrestricted access to all sorts of information. Start reading up on other religions that interest you, or learn more about atheism and science and philosophy. Most libraries have computer labs where you can access websites and watch/listen to lots of things you wouldn’t be able to at home.

    In general though, there’s no rush to be “out and proud”, especially in your teenage years. Spend that time getting to know yourself and quietly learning about what YOU believe in, rather than constantly worrying about what others think. See it less as a time of self-preservation and more as a time for self-development. And most importantly, don’t beat yourself up for keeping secrets. You have the right to think for yourself, and your parents are the ones who should be ashamed if they are infringing on that right.

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