Tom Gilson

Leaving Home, Leaving the Faith: What About Your Children?

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series Leaving Home, Leaving the Faith


Series: Leaving Home, Leaving the Faith

If not us as parents, then who?

Research consistently shows that 60 to 80 percent of young people leave the faith after they leave home. This is not about higher education: one study shows that proportion to be higher among those who do not go on to college.

Christian parent, this could be your child — or your children.

Some of these young people will return to faith, as they do in any generation. But what parent wants to see their child wander — especially when the world is becoming more and more set against Christian belief? You know about it already: film, tv, music, Internet, friends, and college, all seem wired to oppose faith.

What can you do? What answers are out there?

I have a word of encouragement for you, one of preparation, and of caution.

The caution is this: if you don’t take responsibility for your child’s readiness, do you know who will? How are other young people from your church faring after they leave home? Do you know? Does your pastor know? Your youth pastor? This should be something every parent holds every church accountable for!

The preparation is this: There are real, practical steps you can take that can help. They’re not guarantees, for there is no such thing. But God’s word explains things you can do that stand a good chance of helping your children make their faith become their faith: the kind of faith they will take with them wherever they go.

The encouragement is this: You can do it. By God’s grace, these sticky-faith steps are in the reach of every parent who knows what helps and steps forth to do it in God’s strength.

Let me give you a preview, from a great book whose name I just borrowed in that last sentence: Sticky Faith: Everyday Ideas to Build Lasting Faith in Your Kids. This book reports on research from Fuller Seminary’s College Transition Project. By the name you can tell it’s focused toward those who plan to go on to higher education, but I think it probably applies to all youth.

Kara Powell and Chap Clark were looking (since parents had asked!) for a “silver bullet” that would keep kids in the faith. Not surprisingly there is none. Not surprisingly again, the closest thing to it turns out to be relational in nature. Surprisingly, the relationships weren’t what many of us would have suspected. From page 63 of the Nook version:

We haven’t found that silver bullet. While the study of Scripture, small groups, mentoring, retreats, justice work, and a host of other ministry activities are important, the reality is that kids’ spiritual growth is far more complicated than one silver bullet.

The closest our research has come to that definitive silver bullet is this sticky finding: for high school and college students, there is a relationship between attendance at churchwide worship services and Sticky Faith.

And this worked both ways: young people who helped lead even younger people stuck with the faith more. And those who participated in adult worship, rather than being relegated to children’s and then teen’s groups, did too. When adults took an interest in them personally, the effect was even stronger. It makes sense: being welcomed into adult fellowship is likely to help any child transition later into adult fellowship him- or herself.

That’s just one preview of much more to come.

What about hard questions? What will it take for you to be prepared for them? We’ll have much more to talk about as time goes by.

In the meantime, the floor is open for your comments and questions.

Series Navigation (Leaving Home, Leaving the Faith):Why Young People Leave the Faith >>>

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