Recent research on faith formation clearly supports a strongly relational, intergenerational approach to forming disciples, while having little to say about a grade-level classroom model that is primarily focused on children.
Ask yourself . . . why do we hang on to age-level programming as the primary way to grow faithful followers of Christ?
“Forming meaningful relationships across generations needs to become an expected part of everyday life” (Search Institute, Building Assets Strengthening Faith, 2003). All of their findings point to the essential role of parents and the family in nurturing faith growth in the first third of life (National Studies on Youth and Religion, Smith et al, 2009).
Ask yourself . . . what should be central to the congregation’s ministries and faith formation?
“The closest our research has come to that definitive silver bullet is this sticky finding: high school and college students who experience more intergenerational worship tend to have high faith maturity.” The more teenagers serve and build relationships with younger children, the more likely it is that their faith will stick (Powell, et al, Sticky Faith, 2011).
Ask yourself . . . what if your congregation viewed faith formation through an intergenerational, relational lens? What would your faith formation efforts look like then?
“There is clear evidence that young people benefit from multiple, sustained relationships outside their immediate family” (Search Institute, Building Assets Strengthening Faith, 2003). “To grow up healthy, young people need to be surrounded, supported, and guided within a sustained network of adults in addition to their parents, who choose to know, name, support, affirm, acknowledge, guide, and include children and adolescents in their lives” (Roberto, et al, Generations Together, 2014).
Ask yourself . . . what if the primary focus and energy went to empowering parents, grandparents, and adults as role models of faithful practice?
Congregations that increase the ratio of adults to kids increase the likelihood that young adults stay engaged with their church (Powell, et al, Sticky Faith, 2011). Teenagers are 30-50% more likely to remain engaged with church if they have five or more adults invest time with them personally and spiritually (Search Institute, Grading Adults, 2007).
Ask yourself . . . what if every child and every youth had five adults willing to invest time and relationship in them?
“Effective religious socialization comes about through embedded practices; that is deliberate religious activities that are firmly intertwined with the daily habits of family routines . . . and of being part of a community” (Robert Wuthnow, Growing Up Religious, 1999).
Ask yourself . . . what if you take this research seriously? How might it transform the ways you do things?
At Vibrant Faith, these are the questions we are pondering. We believe the research calls us out of the comfort of old practices to explore new strategies that are neither easy nor uniform across the spectrum of parish life, but they are fascinating! Join us in the Community of Curious Leaders to explore what really matters in faith formation for the current age.