By: Cynthia Yanof
I recently ran across an article talking about the number one reason teens keep the faith as young adults. The article discusses the link between how faith is demonstrated at home and the likelihood that kids will keep the faith as young adults. Am I the only one who reads the words “keep the faith” and goes instantly to Bon Jovi? Maybe so, but, either way, I now have 80s rock on the brain, and I apologize in advance if I “beat it” to death with my references.
As much as I would like to bring out some spiritual significance from this iconic Bon Jovi song, that’s not in the cards. However, I will point out the first few lines of this classic are “mother mother, tell your children,” which leads right into what I want to talk about today.
In this Huffington Post article, which admittedly is a bit dated, the author references a study finding the number one reason teens keep their faith into their twenties is a result of parents who practice what they preach. (Of course, I’m not going to reference Madonna’s “Papa Don’t Preach” at this point, because that would be inappropriate.)
The study referenced in this article indicates that 82 percent of children raised in homes where they talked about faith at home and were active in their congregations continued to be active in their faith as young adults. Predictably, only 1 percent of fifteen- to seventeen-year-olds raised in homes where little importance was put on religion were highly religious in their mid- to late twenties.
Christian Smith, the Notre Dame sociologist who headed up this study, said something poignant when discussing his study that we all need to consider:
No other conceivable causal influence . . . comes remotely close to matching the influence of parents on the religious faith and practices of youth. Parents just dominate.
In fleshing that out, Smith goes on to say that factors such as youth ministry, service projects, and religious schools paled in comparison to the influence we have as parents. Oh, and perhaps obviously, he also noted that parents who discuss faith outside of the church are more likely to have children who remain active in their faith later in life.
Are you getting this? We are the major influence in helping our kids know faith in a way that sustains even into their young adulthood. That’s great news!
Last night there was a group of people at my house listening to a Christian speaker, and it came up that our kids (even at the youngest ages) crave the truth—not the canned answers or the trite responses we tend to offer in the hard places. They want the down and dirty, real-deal insight on our faith and how it impacts our lives.
So, how well are we doing this? If we want to give our kids the very best shot at following Christ after they leave our homes, we’ve got to model it well right now. Simply praying our kids “don’t stop believing” is not enough. We’ve got to show them actively what our faith looks like day to day. I read somewhere that genuine faith is more caught than taught. This seems right.
I always go back to the same verse when I think about teaching our kids about the Lord:
“These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deuteronomy 6:6–7).
I love how specific it is to remind us to talk about the Lord when we’re sitting around, walking (more like driving today), laying down, and when we rise. In other words, wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, talk about God’s Word with “every breath you take.”
A few thoughts:
1. Start with your own faith. Nobody sniffs out hypocrisy like our kids. We need to be sure we are growing in our faith and actively living it out. The famous quote always comes to my mind: “Preach the gospel at all times, and, if necessary, use words.” How’s your quiet time? Prayer life? How do you respond when life deals you tough blows? When your kids are struggling, do you give them your advice or God’s? We don’t need to have a perfect faith, but an authentic faith is essential modeling for our kids.
2. Be diligent in laying the groundwork. Are we teaching our kids to memorize Scripture? Do we talk about the ways the Lord is providing and caring for our families? Do we make church a priority? Do we remind our kids that we care more about their heavenly successes than their earthly successes? How well are we serving others around us?
3. Pray for your children and their faith. If you’re anything like me, I pray much more about the safety of my kids than I pray about their faith. I get much more wound up if they play badly in a game than if they seem nonchalant about daily following the Lord. I’m much more in tune with their academic growth than their spiritual growth. It’s so easy to get caught up in the things this side of heaven that we get sloppy about praying for the eternal. This is an easy fix: start praying always and often for their salvation and then continued walk with the Lord.
Finally, let’s all remember that ultimately our kids are free-willed human beings who make their own choices. The Great Commission calls us to make disciples, and I would argue this starts at home with our kids; however, we are not in control of how they respond and ultimately if they live out their faith as adults. Certainly, we should impress God’s Word and teachings on their hearts and model for them what daily pursuing God looks like. But, remember, there are some amazingly godly people in the Bible whose kids derailed: Samuel, David, and Eli.
Take a few minutes and pray about the awesome privilege and responsibility we have in raising our kids to know the Lord. And don’t worry about where you may have missed opportunities in the past. Just make a point today to start authentically incorporating faith discussions with your kids “time after time.”