We’ve been pastoring for 23 years now…and parenting for almost 19 of those. Speaking from BOTH perspectives, we’ve discovered that most parents’ greatest fear is that our kids will go on some crazy rebellious streak and reject the faith we hold dear.
I ran across some interesting information, though, that says this fear is largely unfounded.* It happens, of course (read Jesus’ Prodigal Son parable in Luke 15), but it’s more rare than we’d think.
Here are some points to consider. First, teens don’t have a rebellious, built-in aversion to God.
- More than four out of five teenagers say they believe in God (87%)
- 2/3 of teens believe God to be personal and involved in the lives of people today
- 71% of teens feel “very” or “somewhat” close to God
- 70% say they pray at least once a week.
Second, teens aren’t fleeing the church like rats from a sinking ship as the media would have us believe.
- Teens aren’t “promiscuous” with their faith. Almost all American teens stick with one religious faith.
- Only 6% of teens consider their religious beliefs very different from the mother’s and 11% different from their father’s.
The researchers conclude that most teenagers (whether or not they self-identify as “religious”) view religion as simply a fact of life in America – part of the background of everyday living – but not something to get worked up about one way or the other. In other words, it’s just not that big of a deal. They are glad God is around in case they need him.
Unfortunately, this is largely the same view their parents hold.
The media says that teens are leaving “the church” in droves. They say that Christian marriages have the same divorce rate as non-Christian marriages. But the pool from which they draw these statistics includes a lot of mainstream, non-Evangelical, liberal churches…in other words, churches where Christianity is “not that big of a deal” and not worth getting worked up over.
On the other hand, statistics show kids growing up in Bible-believing churches tend to grow up to be Bible-believing adults. Families in Bible-believing homes tend to stay together at a much higher rate.
Here’s the point. If the Boogieman that keeps you up at night is your kid rebelling against your faith, odds are it’s just a scary fairy tale. Get some sleep.
There’s a greater danger, though. The greater danger is that odds suggest your kids will, in fact, adopt your faith! That’s good news for those of us seeking to honor God in our lives and families. But if your faith is of the tepid, American, consumeristic, me-first, God’s-there-if-you-need-him variety…so will be your teens’. Odds are they will carry that into college and adulthood.
(*Ken Hemphill and Richard Ross, Parenting with Kingdom Purpose. Broadman and Holman, Nashville, 2005)