This past week, our church had a seminar entitled “Relay: Passing the Faith Down to the Next Generation.” In the seminar we first discussed the bad news: the latest research reveals that overall the church in the U.S. has not done a great job of passing our faith down to the next generation. Church attendance in every denomination is on a steep decline, including the Episcopal Church. Young people and young families are less active in church due in large part to travel sports and other extracurricular activities, which now take place on Sundays. Furthermore, we live in an increasingly secular culture that bombards our young people with all kinds of temptation.
However, here’s some good news we discussed as well. There is also tons of research that gives us a path forward. There are families and churches who are reaching the next generation effectively. What’s the secret to their success? It’s really quite simple: young people need to be around adults and parents who live out their faith and who talk about their faith.
Young people need to see adults who take their faith seriously. If we treat worship as an add-on to our already busy lives, they will likely do the same. If we treat our relationship with God as meaningless to our day-to-day lives, they will likely do the same. Young people need to see adults who make worship a priority, who study the scriptures diligently, and who pray constantly. They need to see adults who give generously and serve compassionately. We do not have to be perfect, but we do need to be authentic. Our young people are always watching us. The question is: What is our example teaching them?
In addition, young people need to hear about our faith. This doesn’t mean we need to preach sermons at them. What this means is we need to give the next generation a vocabulary for their faith. Jesus needs to be a normal part of our everyday conversation. We need to talk about God and what he is doing in our lives. We need to share what God is teaching us and how God has helped us through struggles. We need to testify to what God is doing today in our lives. We need to teach them through our words that God is alive and moving and working, not just on Sundays, but on every day of the week.
The latest statistics may look bleak, but I have hope! God is with us! And as we live out our faith and share our faith, I truly believe God will use us to reach those around us!
* Practical Suggestions for Parents and Grandparents:
Live out your faith. Be an example.
Talk about your faith. Share about what God is teaching you.
Make worship and Christian community a priority.
Eat meals around the table. Invest in having quality time with your child.
Start forming faith-based traditions.
Create sacred spaces in your home like a prayer room/closet.
Read scripture and pray together in the morning or the evening.
Ask forgiveness when you fail and forgive them when they do as well.
Be missional. Live for something bigger. Take a step of faith.
Pray for your children every day.