By Paul Kelly

What leads teenagers to stay connected to the Church and continue to pursue God? A lot of research right now is trying to answer that question. I was reading an article today written by Fuller Seminary Prof, Kara Powell based on a survey they had done of High School Seniors. The news is pretty encouraging for those of us who are ministering within smaller churches.

First, Powell says, “It turns out that intergenerational relationships are one key to building lasting faith in students.” I suppose this shouldn’t surprise us. I mean, students who are connected with the oldsters and the youngsters in the church should feel more like sticking around and should be encouraged in their faith. It is still good to see research support this idea. Powell suggests a few insights that are intended to help churches develop intergenerational relationships and thus long-term faith. First . . .

“Involvement in all-church worship during high school is more consistently linked with mature faith in both high school and college than any other form of church participation.”

This might be bad news for churches who divide their students off into their own worship experience, but it is right where we live in the small church. Regardless of the fact that your teenagers may at times balk about the oldsters’ music, helping them to find a place with everyone in the church family helps them to build a long-term faith.

Beyond that, Powell says, “The more students serve and build relationships with younger children, the more likely it is that their faith will stick.” Again, this may be difficult to address for churches who put their children in a different building than their youth. (No impossible, but difficult.) But, for those of us in small churches, everyone is already pretty close together. Don’t stress about asking the teens to help watch kids during the church picnic. And feel good about asking them to help as leaders in VBS. As they are investing in younger kids, they are also investing in their own faith.

Finally, Powell says that, while most High School seniors don’t fell supported by the adults in their churches, “The number-one way that churches made the teens…feel welcomed and valued was when adults in the congregation showed interest in them.” That might not be easy to create in a church of thousands, but in a church of tens, you can tell the adults (individually if necessary) that their interest in teenagers is forming their faith. Just asking how they are and teasing with them a little helps them to build a lasting faith.

If you want to read all of Powell’s article, you will find it in the Sept/Oct 2001 volume of Immerse journal under the title, “The Church Sticking Together.”

Category : Strategy

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