The Best Way to Help Teens Keep Their Faith
When children are small, it’s easy to get them to go to school, do their chores, and go to church on Sunday. As they get older, though, it gets a lot harder to convince them that any of the above are fun activities. While attendance at school is required by law and doing chores is required by the law of living under your roof, church can sometimes feel negotiable, especially if not up to the task of trying to roust a sleepy teen from their bed and into church clothes on a Sunday morning. Yet when you get to church, inevitably there’s a family with teens in tow all sitting together. So how do some parents do it and keep their kids going to church?
According to a recent study, getting the kids to church involves practicing what you preach. If you are a true believer, who prioritizes church, talks about faith, and are active in your congregation, there’s a really good chance that your child will too, at least according to data from the National Study of Youth and Religion. Their data shows that 82 percent of children raised by parents who talked about faith at home, attached great importance to their beliefs, and were actively involved with their churches, were religiously active as young adults. “Parents just dominate,” University of Notre Dame Sociologist Christian Smith, who was the lead researcher for the study, told the Huffington Post, explaining that the connection was “nearly deterministic.”
WATCH: Study Finds People Who Regularly Attend Church Are Happier Than Those Who Don’t
“No other conceivable causal influence ... comes remotely close to matching the influence of parents on the religious faith and practices of youth.” With parents leading by example, kids were kept their faith into their 20s. By contrast, teens between the ages of 15 and 17 who were raised by parents who didn’t value religion, just one percent were highly religious in their mid-to-late 20s.
While attending church is important for matters of the heart and soul, as Southern Living previously reported, a study from Harvard’s School of Public Health found that going to church was also good for the mental health and physical wellbeing of children and teenagers. The researchers found that children and teens who attended religious services at least once a week were 18 percent more likely to report being happier in their twenties than those who never attended services. They were also less likely to use drugs in their twenties, have sex at an earlier age, and get a sexually transmitted infection.
While you may value church and actively practice your faith, getting a teenager out of bed on a Sunday morning can feel like torture for both of you. You can put your foot down and brace for a morning battle, or come up with a compromise. Consider taking a page out of this Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporter’s playbook and let your kids “substitute Sunday school or youth fellowship on Sunday evening” letting teens get rest and get to church.