Young people aren’t the church of tomorrow, they’re the church of today.
I’ve been visiting the MOM’s (Ministry of Motherhood) Group meetings occasionally, even though I’m well past their demographic of parents with young kids and babies. I’ve visited for two reasons: one is to check in on their conversations, challenges and wonderful example of fellowship and mutual support. It’s an amazing group of dedicated, faithful, authentic and fun moms who gather weekly for activities, service, support and enrichment. They sometimes think I have wisdom about the parenting journey, but what I actually have are war stories, empathy and faith, which combine, I hope, to inspire them to keep trying, praying, sometimes messing up, forgiving, trying again, and supporting each other along the awesome road of parenting.
The second reason I’ve attended the MOM’s group is to observe their classes based on the Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family from the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI). The guide provides guidance for parents and actionable steps they can take to build lasting faith in their families. We will offer the five-week program to all parents beginning April 28. In the meantime, I thought I would share in important lesson that I took away recently.
The FYI team has conducted a lot of research about how to build “sticky faith” in kids, teens and young adults. They searched for a “silver bullet” that they could teach parents to make it happen, but they couldn’t find one. The only certainty is that parents are the most dominant influence on their kids’ faith.
The next closest thing to a silver bullet that instills lasting faith in kids is
when adults show an interest in them and make an effort to know them.
So they recommend turning the old ratio of “1 adult to 5 kids” in ministry programs upside down, to “5 adults to 1 kid.” My first reaction was, “we don’t have enough youth leaders for that!” But that’s not the idea. The point is to find five adults in your child’s life that take an interest in them. It doesn’t take a huge time commitment – just a connection with a few trusted adults that care about them.
I’m sure we can all think of a good number of people of faith who our kids respect, not just in church but also in various areas of our lives. A grandparent, aunt, uncle, or older cousin, a close family friend, a coach, a youth leader, or a parent of a friend. Perhaps we can more intentionally cultivate some of those connections so those adults and our kids know their relationship matters.
The church home
The church is one of the only institutions that can be a consistent part of our lives from birth through adulthood. Our schools and teachers change, our sports teams and coaches change, our employers change, even our friendships evolve throughout our lives. But the church as a teaching, guiding, nurturing, life-giving institution stands – it welcomes our families at every stage of life. Our kids can go from the nursery through Sunday School, Kids’ Club, VBS, choirs, youth groups, mission trips, then off to college – and they need people to know their names throughout their journeys and when they come back.
As a parent, I have called WPC our church home. It’s where people have known my kids since they were babies, and many have known me through thick and thin. It reminds me of a story about a young child who gets lost near his town and is picked up by the police. They said, “Where do you live?” The boy didn’t know. As they drove through town, the boy said, “Oh, there’s my church! I know my way home from here.”
This is how we should all feel about our church, though "church" is actually not the building at 125 E. Lancaster Avenue, it’s the people inside. It’s our holy home base where we can always return to find our steadfast God and steadfast community that knows us, teaches us, cares about us, and prays for and with us through every stage of our lives. Let’s make sure our kids feel like a part of that community, and not just visitors. Make sure our church provides for the core needs of children and youth – love and relationship.
In our church, let’s think of ways we can cultivate relationships between adults and children, youth and young adults. Parents – find some adults at church who will greet your children by name as they grow. Help them know your children’s interests, so they can ask them how sports or choir or hobbies are going. Perhaps create a small group so parents can mentor each others’ children. Attend Love Your Neighbor events or other intergenerational activities where relationships can form.
We’ll be talking more about what this looks like in our upcoming Sticky Faith parenting series starting April 28. Join us!
For more on this topic, read:
Moving Away from the Kid Table – A Bigger Vision of Church