The following post comes from Congregational Resource Guide‘s excellent website. For more resources on youth ministry and parenting youth, be sure to check out all CRG has to offer.
Of the many discussions since the National Study of Youth and Religion’s release, perhaps none has been more intriguing than those surrounding the finding that parents are the most important influence on young people’s faith development. The study revealed that, for better or worse, young people tend to adopt the same beliefs, commitment level, and faith practices as their parents. Christian Smith, writing in Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers, says that “the best social predictor, although not a guarantee, of what the religious and spiritual lives of youth will look like is what the religious and spiritual lives of their parents do look like.”
The best way, Smith argues, to get youth more involved with their faith communities “is to get their parents more involved in and serious about their faith communities.” This requires congregational leaders to re-think the models of youth ministry that involve separating youth from their parents. Instead, Smith urges leaders to imagine youth ministry as family ministry.
In fact, the conception of parents as teachers of faith should not surprise, says Kenda Creasy Dean in her highly praised Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers is Telling the American Church. Catechesis, or parents teaching out loud to their children, dates back in the protestant tradition to Martin Luther. It’s important, she continues, that parents reclaim this heritage because they are teaching, whether or not they realize it.