One of the difficult findings about teens and faith in recent years is that a majority of teens who graduate from high school do not attend church the following year. There are several reasons for this, and youth ministry experts are searching for answers to change this downhill trend. However, Richard Ross of Southwestern Baptist Seminary has come up with a very positive insight from a study he did on teens and spirituality. Ross says teens are three times more apt to stay in church after they graduate from high school if there are healthy faith conversations within the home on a regular basis. Faith conversations are discussions and study about God and the Christian life in what feels like a spontaneous conversation. Parents can use media, the news, and discussion around the dinner table to bring up issues that pertain to faith. Faith conversations can also take place in a more formal "family time" setting on a weekly or regular basis.
Cathy and I found with our own kids that they did better when it was a short, non-lecture format. We have found that the families that seem to do best keep these times fairly light and bring in another aspect of family fun time, whether it's fun food or a Wii bowling contest after the devotional time. The best faith conversations come when the kids see their parents as fellow learners, as opposed to the teacher-to-student role.
And don't feel pressure to come up with ideas for your family's faith conversations. There are plenty of good resources out there to use and adapt. If you feel a bit lost, just ask your youth worker for ideas. The practical side of developing faith conversations at home is you can integrate a greater desire to study God's Word together, search practical topics from a biblical worldview, and spend time in prayer together.
After several decades of excellent research and study, we can now see that there are very positive outcomes with young people who have a positive spiritual experience in their teen years. When young people have a healthy spiritual life, they make better decisions about their friendships, school, sexuality, and obedience to authority, and they tend to experience much fewer at-risk behaviors. For this reason, do what you can to engage your kids on a spiritual level and stay engaged through even the later teen years.