How can I ensure that the faith of the young people I work with lasts?
As a youth worker, this is a question that I am faced with all the time and yet there never seems to be a quick fix answer. I’m sure most of you reading this can think of young people who have walked away from their faith. And I’m sure that you too have pondered over that same question - how can I make sure that their faith sticks?
This question has been the focus of an extensive research project by Fuller Youth Institute, who have interviewed young people throughout stages of their lives to find out what it was that made their faith stick, or in some cases, not stick. You can read more about their findings in their book ‘Sticky Faith’ (stickyfaith.org).
According to the research, those who have been taught a grace based gospel rather than a behaviour based one are more likely to keep the faith throughout uni and into adult life. Not suprising. A focus on rights and wrongs can mean that we’re leading our young people to fall off at the first hurdle. A gospel of grace carries us through, especially when we mess up. Let’s ensure that our hope for young people is that they love God, trust Christ and lean on his grace, rather than following a rulebook of do's and don’ts.
Secondly, the research implies that the faith of young people is more likely to ‘stick’ if they have been integrated into the life of the church, rather than always being separated from the rest of the congregation. Making sure that young people experience Church with all ages will prepare them for Church outside of the youth group. Worshipping with all ages will also nurture relationships with mature Christians, who will be able to give them brilliant advice and support for the journey ahead.
Finally, how well are you partnering with parents in preparing your young people for university? It’s important that we don’t promote a ‘dry-cleaner’ view of parenting where parents drop the kids off with the youth worker and leave them in their hands. Instead, we need to work alongside parents in this transition to university life, supporting them in supporting their child.
We can never know whether a young person’s faith is one that will last a lifetime. And there are no set remedies to ensure it. However, there are steps that we can take to help young people on this journey to guide them into a faith that matures. So keep going. Keep running the race for this generation and keep doing all you can to make this hope a reality for more and more young people.
Photo Credit: Fox Wu