In their recent book, Sticky Faith: Everyday Ideas to Build Lasting Faith in Your Kids (Zondervan, 2011), Drs. Powell & Clark layout why kids’ faith isn’t sticking. Their research indicates that somewhere between “40 to 50 percent of kids who graduate from a church or youth group will fail to stick with their faith in college.” Even more perplexing is “only 20% of college students who leave the faith planned to do so during high school. The remaining 80% intended to stick with their faith but didn’t.”
Powell and Clark ask a very important question: “Why go through any changes in your life–seasonal transitions–with faith in the backseat?” Why indeed. As adults, do we really want to invest our whole lives of faith—at home, in the church and community and the world, only to see our children squander that investment at such a crucial time in their lives? But what can we do to give kids a suitable, reasonable and supported vessel to traverse their transitioning life ahead?
No one is more significant or influential to teens than parents. “The most important social influence in shaping young people’s religious lives is the religious life modeled and taught to them by their parents. When it comes to kids’ faith, parents get what they are.” So how haphazardly are we really going to make this investment? We need to be intentional about passing on our faith, but we will need as much support as we can get! Our church is going to need our help to be intentional about this important faith-transitioning ministry.
Every child is more than the sum of their gifts, talents, abilities and personality—at the core, he and she is a beloved child of God. Parents are flawed dispensers of grace to their children. But we as parents are to treat our children as the individuals God created them to be and the community of faith, the church, is to be the reinforcement of that deep personal identity they are coming to believe they are. How do we build a Christian community around our kids?
Young adults grow best when they have the right mixture and blend of challenge and support. One deeply impacting and highly intentional way to mix faith into the identity of children is by implementing reinforcing rituals. We must, with our faith-family, be intentional in building a sticky-web for faith development. If Jesus is our role model, then we need to receive children the way he did. According to Jesus, greatness—and dare we say ‘great’ parenting and ‘great’ Christian living—emerges as adults welcome children.
Let’s begin this trend by reversing the ministry adult-to-kid ratio from 1:5 to 5:1. That is, five adults caring for one kid in little, medium and big ways. This would definitely be an intentional way in creating a sticky web of faith, an intentional engagement of “kingdom extended family,” and a development of a web of adult relationships to help children develop Sticky Faith. Parents need to realize that other adults can speak into your kids’ lives in ways you as their parent cannot. Research has shown that beyond the benefits of the mere presence of mentors, the more adult mentors who seek out the student and help the student apply faith to daily life, the better. A 5:1 mentoring initiative can do just that.
Developing a ritual, with diverse friendships, can begin by simply asking your kids who they want to spend time with. I asked my son who he respected in our church because of their faith. I asked him for 5 men’s names. I am sharing this with you because you were one whom my child named. So allow me to ask you a few questions:
–On Joshua’s birthday, would you, in place of giving them a gift, give them an experience where you take the time to share with them one life truth and one spiritual truth?
–Would you be willing to take Joshua out once every 4-6 weeks as a mentor, to eat, share, encourage?
–Would you try exchanging prayer requests; ask him or her for any special advice or encouragement they may need?
Here are a few things the road towards healthy, honest conversations with a kid means: Provide space and time for quality conversations, listen and ask questions (vs. lecturing), plant seeds of wisdom for independent thinking, not avoiding touchy subjects but ‘going there’, share your own faith, ask him how you can be praying for him, and at times, talk about your doubts. Finally, challenge him to stay in church all his life and to imagine himself always being faithful to God!
THE 5:1 INITIATIVE
- Ask you kid for five names of males/females who faith inspires them or whom they would say are godly individuals.
- Invite those Five to be a more meaningfully connected part of your kid’s life during the summer
- Plan your kid’s next birthday as a rite of passage for your 5:1 as a progressive dinner with those Five, or have some of them go camping or do day outing together
- Have your son/daughter journal about what impacted him/her most in those meetings
- At the end of the summer have the Five visit and have son/daughter share from the journal
- Have the Five respond back with how they viewed their time with your son/daughter and ways they see God at work in his/her life
- At the end, have the Five gather around you child to lay hands on him/her for prayer
- Take pictures of the Five with your kid
- Invite one of the Five over for a meal or time together once a month to invest more time
- Speak to your small group about being a 5:1 Initiative Group
- See if the Five would be interested in a follow-up meeting the next summer
- Journal yourself about the effects this is having on your child and on you
I will be blogging more about this as these men respond.