CREATE STICKY FAITH AT HOME
What can parents or grandparents do to help teenagers have faith that lasts a lifetime?
The Lifelong Faith Journal edition titled, Parents & Faith Formation, provides several suggestions. I’ve listed a few below from the articles as well as added a few of my own. Think about which ones may be relevant to your setting.
- Share verbally about their own faith journeys. Stop lecturing kids or interviewing them; instead, share organically about your own faith. Use time in the car, recent current events, or dinner discussions as a chance to share how your own faith is growing, or ways that your faith impacts your everyday life. Include both a sense of your present religious experiences and insights as well as highlights of your faith journey in the past.
- Ask their children who they will turn to when they have doubts. Doubt in and of itself isn’t toxic; it’s unexpressed doubt that turns toxic. Giving permission for independent thought leads to stickier faith.
- Connect their sons and daughters to at least five caring adults. Kids need to develop a strong personal identity for faith to stick and community helps do just that. One of the greatest gifts a parent or grandparent can give a loved one is a web of support to catch them when they fall and keep them connected to faith for the long haul. Think of ways to engage extended family, neighbors, friends, coaches and teachers to mentor and encourage your children and youth. Other adults are often able to speak to them in ways you cannot as the parent.
- Reinforce that their faith is bigger than any moral failure or mistake. Young people tend to view their faith as a list of behaviors. A faith that sticks is one that is based not primarily on behaviors, but on inner life change.
- Talk to high school juniors and seniors now about life after college. Only one in seven youth group graduates felt their faith was ready for what they faced after high school. As part of practical discussions on issues such as managing money and time, help high schoolers find a faith community to engage with at college and how to make wise decisions that will impact the rest of their lives.
- Don’t let distance deter you from building sticky networks of support. With Skype, FaceTime, Facebook, texting and more, there are so many ways to stay connected from afar. Send a “picture of the day/week” to a young person. Text your favorite Bible passage or describe how God used you recently to be a blessing to others.
- Don’t underestimate the power of the pen. Thoughtfully written cards often become lifelong keepsakes for young people. I frequently send my kids postcards from distant locations that are filled with words of blessing, affirmations and hope.
- Use “on the go” activities to deepen relationships and form faith. Some of my best conversations with my kids have been when we’re boating, on a bike trip, or walking the golf course. The conversations seem to flow more naturally for me in these settings.
Faith formation research indicates that parents and grand parents are usually the most important spiritual influence in their kids’ lives. According to Search Institute’s nationwide study, 12% of youth have a regular dialog with their mom on faith/life issues. In other words, one out of eight kids talks with their mom about their faith. It’s far lower for dads. One out of twenty, or 5%, of kids have regular faith/life conversations with their dad. Less than one out of ten teenagers looks at Scripture with their parents. When it comes to matters of faith, mum’s usually the word at home.
What might you do in your own home to increase the frequency and level of interaction with your family members? Who will you include as part of your extended family? seeking to be a source of joy, hope and blessings? How might you help others model a sticky faith for young people?