About 40 to 50 percent of high school graduates that attended a Christian church or youth group fail to stick with their faith in college. This is an alarming statistic and something that should get our attention as parents and teachers.
Dr. Kara E. Powell and Dr. Chap Clark have done extensive study into why students raised in Christian homes so often walk away from their faith in college. Without getting into theological questions like free will and God’s sovereignty, they found that certain habits and practices significantly helped students to stick with their faith. They put their findings together in a book titled Sticky Faith: (https://www.amazon.com/Sticky-Faith-Everyday-Ideas-Lasting/dp/0310329329/ref=sr11?ie=UTF8&qid=1478887728&sr=8-1&keywords=sticky+faith).
The most important conclusion that Doctors Powell and Clark came to was that relationships and examples within a community of faith best help students to maintain their faith. They argue that while doctrine is important and must not be discarded, we cannot focus solely on doctrine at the expense of Christian community. In their words, Christ calls us to join His body, not His seminary.
One major problem with the way many of us engage in Christian community is that we do so haphazardly. Instead of seeing our churches as clubs to entertain our kids while adults do the spiritually important things, we need to see our children as born sinners and our churches as mission fields to teach and train our children in the Gospel. What does this mean in practice? According to the authors, kids can’t be continually kept with their peers. Children’s church and youth group are good, but kids need to attend full church services and be involved in small groups or Bible studies where they can see more mature Christians live out their faith.
The most important example our children are ever going to have is always going to be us as their parents. But parents should be intentional in getting their kids around mature Christians of other ages. Without this, when kids are consistently left with their peers, the church can feel like a club—a club that one grows out of when one moves out of their parents’ house.
*I want to end by adding a word of caution. Please keep in mind as you read through these messages that it is ultimately God, not us, that develops deep and true and lasting faith. We need to be obedient to God’s calling and raise our kids well, and my goal in everything that I do as a teacher and administrator is to help you all do just that, but just as we have no ability to save ourselves, so too we have no ability to save our children—salvation is a gift of God. The authors and I are talking about wise practices that encourage the growth of faith, not spiritual techniques that earn salvation for our children or compel them to follow Christ.