Do you talk to your kids about faith? It can do them a world of good. Based on research from the Search Institute, though, you’re an unusual parent if you do. This group found,
[in a] nationwide study of 11,000 teenagers from 561 congregations across six denominations, 12 percent of youth have a regular dialogue with their mom on faith or life issues. . . . It’s far lower for dads. One out of twenty kids, or 5 percent, has regular faith or life conversations with their dad.
I’m reading this in Sticky Faith: Everyday Ideas to Build Lasting Faith in Your Kids by Kara E. Powell and Chap Clark (p. 47 in the Nook edition). I can’t recommend this book highly enough.
The authors go on to say that students whose parents talk about faith have more “sticky faith” — their faith tends to last after they leave home. They also point out that “Christian parents tend to avoid tricky subjects.”
Talking About Tricky Topics
That’s understandable: why talk when we don’t know what we’re talking about?
For this I have two answers. One is immediate, the other is long-term. First, if you don’t know what to say about your faith, at least open up the conversation. Here’s one way to do it. After church next Sunday, ask your teen some questions he or she might not expect from you. (Half the fun is watching them trying to figure out what you’re up to.)
- What did you think of the sermon?
- Was there anything you heard at church today that made you wonder, “how could that be true?”
- How do you think we do here as a family in living up to what was taught today?
The third question there is obviously dangerous: you might hear something you didn’t want to hear. It’s not half as dangerous, though, as letting your child just think it privately! Kids need us to be consistent, or (at least!) honest about our struggles with consistency.
The second one could be tough, too, if your teen brings up something you can’t explain yourself. Maybe you don’t know either. That’s fine (for now). Your teen may be relieved to find out you have questions, too! And then you could explore them together: for as Clark and Powell also say, it’s healthy in the long run for students to be able to share their questions and voice their doubts.
Learning About Tricky Topics
My second suggestion is of course that you begin to study and learn more about what and why you believe. Better yet: do it together with your children, as I have just said. (I think that’s one idea that’s worth repeating.) I’m building a set of resources here for you to do just that. I hope to have a linked list of suggested books and articles before long, so you’ll have an immediate access to helpful information.
Have the Conversation Regardless
In the meantime, talk with your kids about spiritual things anyway: it will do you both good!