One of the most important Canadian studies on helping youth stick with their faith is called Hemorrhaging Faith: Why and When Canadian Young Adults are Leaving, Staying and Returning to the Church.
This pivotal study contains survey responses from over 2,000 Canadian young adults and information gleaned from personal interviews of some of the respondents. It suggests several ways that parents, youth workers, children’s ministry staff and others in the church can help youth to continue to follow Jesus. Here are four of them:
Help Parents Engage Spiritually
One of the recurring themes that surfaced was that those who continue to be engaged in their local church often had parents who modelled an authentic faith. They saw their parents praying and reading the Bible. Yet, even more than that, they saw their parents living out their faith in a way that impacted their everyday lives. They were not afraid to show their children how a Christian worldview can help them navigate through the challenges and opportunities they face. The implication is that when we help parents continue to grow in their faith, their children benefit in faith-sustaining ways.
Facilitate “God Moments”
One of the key differences between those who stay in the church and those who leave is the extent to which they experienced God. Those who can recall answers to prayer or who experienced God in worship, service, community or in some other way are more likely to press on with God later in life. Many of those still tracking with God experienced Him in a profound way through camp or a short-term missions trip. The implication is that we need to create youth-friendly spaces (or encourage movement toward already created spaces) that help them experiment with and stretch their faith.
Invite Youth to be Vital Members of the Church Community
When youth feel like they truly belong in a church community, they are much more likely to stay within the church. In this kind of community, people care about them. Some even mentor them. Others in the church community see their gifts and encourage them to serve in meaningful ways. This gives youth an opportunity to make a difference – to feel like they are an integral part of the community. What are the implications for the rest of the church? Be friendly with youth. Include them in meaningful ways. Pray for and with them. Encourage them. Empower them to live out God’s call on their lives.
Make Christianity Relevant