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By: Pr. Matthew Richard

There is a fairly new study that reveals some profound insights on what it takes to keep today’s youth in church after they leave home and become adults. What did the study find? Did the study find that hip and cool music in the church were the reason for keeping youth in the church as they entered adulthood? Did the study find that relevant and flashy sermons brought forth greater church attendance among young adults after leaving home? How about those who attended youth group; was youth group the reason for youth staying in the church after high school?

According to some, what this new study discovered could be classified as the ‘holy grail’ for keeping teenagers in the church. What is this profound ‘holy grail’ discovery? Believe it or not, it isn’t marketing or worship service renovations or stellar youth programs but rather it is ‘Parents.’ Yes, the study found that if parents visited with their children about the Christian faith in their homes – showing its importance – and if parents/families were active in their local church, then 82% of their children would continue in the church as adults. According to one researcher, the involvement of parents with their youth in regard to the Christian Faith is “nearly deterministic” of what will happen to youth when they come into adulthood.

From Parents No. 1 influence helping teens remain religiously active as young adults | Ahead of the Trend, Association of Religious Data Archives:

  • The holy grail for helping youth remain religiously active as young adults has been at home all along: Parents.
  • Mothers and fathers who practice what they preach and preach what they practice are far and away the major influence related to adolescents keeping the faith into their 20s, according to new findings from a landmark study of youth and religion.
  • Just 1 percent of teens ages 15 to 17 raised by parents who attached little importance to religion were highly religious in their mid- to late 20s.
  • In contrast, 82 percent of children raised by parents who talked about faith at home, attached great importance to their beliefs and were active in their congregations were themselves religiously active as young adults, according to data from the latest wave of the National Study of Youth and Religion.
  • The connection is “nearly deterministic,” said University of Notre Dame Sociologist Christian Smith, lead researcher for the study.
  • Other factors such as youth ministry or clergy or service projects or religious schools pale in comparison.
  • “No other conceivable causal influence … comes remotely close to matching the influence of parents on the religious faith and practices of youth,” Smith said in a recent talk sharing the findings at Yale Divinity School. “Parents just dominate.”
  • For their part, parents need to realize a hands-off approach to religion has consequences.
  • “Parents, for better or worse, are actually the most influential pastors … of their children,” Christian Smith said. “Parents set a kind of glass ceiling of religious commitment, above which their children rarely rise.”

It is clear from the data above that we cannot diminish the importance of parents’ influence upon their children in regard to the Christian Faith. Thus, it is obvious that what is needed in today’s church is not more separate programs for our youth; programs where youth are segregated from their parents in the church. But rather, what is needed in today’s church is robust catechesis of youth ‘and’ continual catechesis/equipping of parents, so that parents may care for their children’s physical, emotional, ‘and’ spiritual well-being. This happens as the ‘whole’ family is actively involved in the life of the church, continually receiving the Lord’s Word and Sacraments, week after week after week.

To read more on this subject: http://blogs.thearda.com/trend/featured/parents-no-1-influence-helping-teens-remain-religiously-active-as-young-adults/

HT: Gene E. Veith

To read more on this subject: Looking Beyond Just Numerical Growth

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