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By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

6/2/2014 (9 months ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The formula for keeping teens in the faith.

As we move into June, we would like to introduce a new theme to our readers for the month. This June is "Heartbeat of the Family" month at Catholic Online. We'd like to open our month talking about teens dropping out of church.

Teens who find the faith practical are most likely to return to it should they stray.

Teens who find the faith practical are most likely to return to it should they stray.

Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

6/2/2014 (9 months ago)

Published in Marriage & Family

Keywords: teens, church, dropout, faith


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - According to Lifeway Research, about 70 percent of teens drop out of church after they turn 18. It's a shocking statistic, and it may be better or worse depending on the church community, but it's shocking nonetheless.

Most of these teens will return, but a good number stay away forever, snapped up by atheists and agnostics and the evangelizers of other faiths. Atheism seems to be the fastest growing segment, after simple indifference. Many young adults simply stop caring about church and spend their time without prayer and without attending services.

Let us pray for the integrity of the Christian Family.

The good news is that of those that leave, about two-thirds eventually return, which is a distinct majority.

The statistics gathered by Lifeway Research are specific to evangelical churches, but they're unlikely to be much different compared to other mainstream religious denominations such as Catholicism.

Of course, the great question is why. Why are teens leaving their churches in droves as soon as they get old enough to choose for themselves?

Kids report dropping out because the faith loses relevance as they get older. They feel that their religious preparation does not prepare them for the "real world" where they are confronted by secular and liberal influences.

People are most likely to lose their faith when they are exposed to the caustic extremes of the secular world. Yet, this initiation is important because kids turn into adults at this time and need to learn how to fend for themselves in a world awash with anti-religious influences.

As demonstrated, about two-thirds of the dropouts eventually return. A little maturity, coming home, and some grounding with reality helps. Most helpful, they said the support of parents and their faith community brought them back to church.

Teenagers who stay in church report that before the age of 18 the church guided their everyday decision making, their parents were married and involved in the church community, the sermons were relevant to real world issues, and "at least one adult from church made a significant investment in me personally and spiritually."

Kids don't want to disappoint their parents and pastors and leave churches, but once they are away from the structure of home and exposed to secular influences, it is normal for them to wander. Who isn't fascinated by the novel and the new?

It is the level of support and guidance they enjoy, both in their teenage years and afterwards that determines which prodigal sons return and which ones continue to wander.

Kids have to see teaching as relevant to the world they experience. The faith has to be made practical to them. Pizza in a meeting hall isn't enough. Teens have to know how to use biblical teaching to guide their decisions every day, and they must practice this calculus. This must be instilled in youth. By adulthood, it is almost too late.

Both parents should be committed to the teen's development as well as to their own faith. And the church community should be healthy, not caustic or abusive. Compassion as opposed to combat, should be the message. Churches that demonstrate compassion instead of constantly fighting against the tide of secularism actually do both at the same time, however many churches devolve into political infighting and involvement in secular controversies when all that really matters is relentlessly ministering to the needs of others.

Parents for whom the faith is a practical part of their everyday life, are most likely to succeed in raising Christian children. Even if those children take a hiatus during early adulthood, keeping the faith as parents is critical for enticing them to return.

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