Keep Your Kids’ Faith Growing this Summer (Part 1)
Summer is often a time when our focus is on fun and sun. There is nothing wrong with that—our family certainly enjoys both in good measure! But we also want to make sure that our family’s spiritual life does not get parched in the summer sun. Summer creates different opportunities to help our children grow in faith. Let’s make the most of the season. Part 1 of this blog focuses on staying connected to other Christians and is taken from our book, Navigating Public Schools.
One big reason NOT to “check out” of church and Christian community this summer is that our connection to the body of Christ greatly impacts our children’s faith. Research has found that your family’s participation in a strong Christian community helps children stick with their faith. Although parents are the most important role models for their children, it is powerful to have other positive and loving adult role models in kids’ lives as well. Summer is a great time to evaluate your kids’ connection to role models and how you can further cultivate these relationships in the coming school year.
Fuller Seminary’s “College Transition Project” studied how various factors affected college students staying plugged into the Christian faith in college. Kara Powell and Chap Clark describe their quest to find a “silver bullet” in their book Sticky Faith: “We haven’t found that silver bullet. While the study of Scripture, small groups, mentoring, retreats, justice work, and a host of other ministry activities are important, the reality is that kids’ spiritual growth is far more complicated than just one silver bullet. The closest our research has come to that definitive silver bullet is this sticky finding: for high school and college students, there is a relationship between attendance at church-wide worship services and Sticky Faith.” They go on to describe what they call a “sticky web of relationships.” They suggest reversing the normal youth ministry rule and encourage a 5:1 ratio of adults to youth: “We’re not talking about five Sunday school teachers or five small group leaders. We’re also not talking about five adults to whom you outsource the spiritual, emotional, social, and intellectual development of your kids. We’re talking about five solid Christian adults whom you recruit to invest in your child in little, medium and big ways.”
In response to a study done on why youth are leaving church, the Vice President of LifeWay Research stressed this point: “Church leaders should passionately and consistently challenge church members to maximize their influence with youth and young adults. Frequent and intentional contact can either prevent or counteract the tendency of some to drop out of church.” The point is, we may need to radically re-think what we mean by church. To many adults I interact with, church is where we go and socialize and listen to a good sermon. After church, the conversation is often about how good (or not) the sermon was. It can become very self-focused and self-serving and we can easily see why the American church is often called “consumer-oriented.” What if we viewed church as a vehicle for change in our lives and in our kids’ lives? What if we went on a mission to find that sticky web of relationships for our children? What if we were willing to be part of another family’s web? Take a step back and think about how going deeper in church and other organizations can help build powerful inter-generational relationships. If you are single, in the “empty nest” season of life, or a couple without children, this may also be a great time to step up and invest in the next generation.