Alison Faison

What does the Pew Research Center say about children and teens taking after their parents religiously?

We as parents or adults working with children and teens know that our actions stick in the minds of our children more than our words. If we create time to be with our children and teens, they notice. How does this act of being present figure into the Pew Research Center’s survey data about teens and their approach to religion and spirituality?

We learned from the March 29 – April 13, 2019 survey, that most teens (ages 13 to 17) shared the religious affiliation of their parents or legal guardians. Interestingly enough, 80% of children and teens identified with their parents’ Evangelical Protestant practice. Only 6% of Mainline Protestant children and teens identified with their parents’ practice. Those percentages reflect that parents of evangelical church congregations might put more pressure on kids to attend worship and fellowship events. It could also be the noted decline of family participation in Mainline Protestant congregations. “On the whole, U.S. teens attend religious services about as often as their parents do: 44% of U.S. teens say they go to religious services at least once a month, almost exactly the same as the share of their parents who say they attend monthly (43%).

When we look at the data offered by teens, we wonder how their faith-formation as a child affected the outcome. Did the family begin attending church when the child was young, and so the tradition or habit formed a grounded practice over time? Did they start attending with family when the child became a teen, as there were more social and spiritual events geared for teens? Other Pew Research cited that a strong factor in young adults returning to church was the presence of influential adults who connected with them during their formative years at church.

How does the pandemic factor into how families are attending church? Pew did another study in March 22, 2022 “More houses of worship are returning to normal operations, but in-person attendance is unchanged since fall.” Even with houses of worship open for in-person services and fellowship events, people are still connecting online. Last fall 2021, the online streaming declined and about one-third of the surveyed U.S. adults said that “they typically go to religious services once or twice a month.” Roughly one-in-five U.S. adult regular attenders reported that they had neither attended in person nor watched virtually in the last month.”

On September 11, Calvary Homecoming, 19 children and 20 youth attended the service. That tripled the in-person children/youth attendance Calvary consistently had throughout 2021 and part of 2022. For three weeks, we have been seeing this rise in participation.  We hope that community grows and inspires families, children, and teens to see their friends at church. As last Sunday’s sermon title said, “You can’t lead alone.” Moses needed Aaron to face Pharaoh, so that they could loosen the bonds of slavery and move toward a new life with the Hebrew People.

More to Explore

100 Things Every Child Should Know Before Confirmation

The next time you are at childcare or Sunday Studio, please pick up a free copy of Rebecca Kirkpatrick’s book 100 Things Every Child Should Know Before Confirmation. This book focuses on the practice of planting the seed of faith, feeding the soil of each child’s soul, and watching children and youth grow. We want them to know the oral tradition roots that originate with the Israelite People, the Gospels that tell the life of Jesus, the acts of Jesus’ followers, and the liturgical seasons of the church starting with Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and Pentecost.

How to safely intervene when someone is targeted by violence.

How does supporting a targeted person relate to church and being in relationship with others in a Christ-like way? Wherever humans are, divisions can be created. Like Jesus, we need to know how to show up, de-escalate, be present, ask for help, ignore attackers, respect targeted people, and then have the courage to follow up with the situation until it is addressed and supported. People of all races, genders, religions, and economic status are targeted, but we know that black and indigenous people of color (BIPOC), LGBTQI+ people, as well as those experiencing poverty are most often targeted by attackers. How did Jesus show up for children, tax collectors, sex workers, widows, and everyday folks? Jesus took accountability by sitting and eating next to people, as well as walking with them. That seems easy enough, but our society's actions show us stories filled with the bystander effect or the phenomena of nobody acting even when they are watching violence in front of them.

How to talk with someone experiencing mental health challenges.

“‘How are you showing up today?’ That’s a language we use a lot,” Thomas-Bush said. “As a person of faith, how are we going to show up loving our neighbor, loving ourselves?” Thomas -Bush works with youth at Myers Park Presbyterian Church in Charlotte, NC. This youth group was featured in Our kids and mental health, an April 20, 2022 article in Presbyterians Today. “In 2019, more than 1 in 3 students indicated they persistently felt sad or hopeless, an 11% increase over 2009, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey Data Summary & Trends Report, 2009–2019. The report also showed that 16% of students made a suicide plan.” We cannot ignore youth, this data or assume that youth will get help on their own. Most adults suffering with mental health challenges do not reach out for help. It is important that we notice behavior changes that go beyond typical age-appropriate developmental behaviors and check in with the person. Parents, adults, youth leaders, and teen peers are realizing that listening without judgment, as well as asking direct questions can be the needed openers for someone to safely share their mental health challenges and then get the resources that they want.