Disturbing findings about teens and faith in recent years reveal that a majority of high school graduates do not attend church the following year. While youth ministry experts point to several reasons for the phenomenon and seek answers that might change this downhill trend, Richard Ross, Ph.D., professor of student ministry at Southwestern Baptist Seminary, found that teens prove three times more likely to stay in church after high school graduation if they encounter regular healthy faith conversations within the home. Faith conversations, including discussions and study about God and the Christian life, most often occur in what feels like a spontaneous conversation.
Because kids typically don’t initiate regular faith conversations, parents must be proactive in developing family times together to make a difference. In our own family, we found that our kids did better with a short, non-lecture format. Families seem to experience the most success when they keep these times fairly light and combine faith conversations with another aspect of family life like dinnertime or a fun activity. The best faith conversations come when the kids see their parents as fellow learners rather than in the teacher-to-student role.
Ideas for your family’s faith conversations can come from everyday experiences such as playground behavior, teachers’ personal points of view in the classroom, a grocery clerk’s actions, a neighbor’s needs, or an advertisement’s meaning. These regular conversations help establish a solid foundation for continued church involvement and spiritual growth beyond high school.
Several decades of research have revealed measurable outcomes with young people who have a positive spiritual experience in their teen years. The research affirms that when young people have a healthy spiritual life, they make better decisions about their friendships, school, and sexuality, and they tend to experience much fewer at-risk behaviors. Knowing that the casual conversations you have today greatly impact your child’s future, engage your kids on a spiritual level as often as possible, and keep the communication going throughout the teen years.