Tuesday, November 04, 2014

the #1 factor in teens keeping their faith

Christian Smith is a professor and researcher at Notre Dame who's spent years studying the faith of American youth and young adults. The Church has owed him a great debt in the last decade for his books detailing our youth's views of God, how their faith is changing over time, and the factors affecting their religious commitments, among other things.

Last week the latest findings from the National Study of Youth and Religion, which has interviewed and re-interviewed over 3,000 youth periodically since 2003, were released, and the media is starting to report on it. The Huffington Post has a clear, helpful summary of the new findings here.
When this study began in 2003, the interviewees were between 13 and 17 years old; today they're in their mid-to-late 20s. I hope you'll read the article on the study's latest results, but let me share the big takeaway with you. The biggest factor effecting these teens' continued religious activities as young adults is their parents. Christian Smith is the lead researcher on the study, and as he put it, no other influence "comes remotely close to matching the influence of parents on the religious faith and practices of youth." As the Huffington Post report highlights, "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."

Young adults in America today have been dramatically affected by the faith of their parents. There are exceptions to every trend, but it's a clear trend nonetheless.

You can learn more about the National Study of Youth and Religion here, and, again, you'll find the Huffington Post article on the study here.

Is this surprising to anyone? Parents, what does this information mean to you?
I hope that anyone concerned about their children's faith and the future of the Church in America (particularly the mainline denominations: Presbyterians, Episcopalians, and Methodists) will read over this and take this data seriously. What kinds of examples are we setting? What do we need to do differently?

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