Want Faithful Kids? These 4 Secrets Will Make It Happen

Commonweal, has some bad news  for Catholic parents.  (But hang on, I’ve got the good news for you after this brief interlude.)kids

Here’s the bad news for Commonweal readers, and we may as well get right to it: Just over half the young people raised by parents who describe themselves as “liberal” Catholics stop going to Mass entirely once they become “emerging adults”—a new demographic category that means either prolonged adolescence or delayed adulthood, defined here in Young Catholic America as ages eighteen to twenty three.

But now, let’s put that sad trend in perspective: The picture isn’t all that much better for the children of “traditional” Catholics. Although only a quarter of those young adults say they’ve stopped going to Mass entirely, only 17 percent say they’re going every week, and in general, their allegiance to church membership and participation seems nearly as faded as the kids of so-called feckless liberals.  

Young Catholic America analyzes three waves of results from the National Study on Youth and Religion, collected from 2002 through 2008. Since many of the same young people were surveyed across this time period, the authors can compare earlier thirteen-to-seventeen-year-old respondents with those same young people five years later. Now that they’re eighteen to twenty three, their current status as Catholics might discourage even the most ardent evangelist. Only 7 percent of these young adults who might have turned out Catholic can be called “practicing” Catholics—if “practicing” is tightly defined as attending Mass weekly, saying that faith is extremely or very important, and praying at least a few times a week. About 27 percent are at the other end of the spectrum, classified as “disengaged,” meaning that they never attend Mass and feel religion is unimportant. In between these two poles is a complex landscape of the marginally attached—perhaps willing to identify themselves as Catholic, attending Mass sporadically at best, and in general living life with their Catholic identity as a more dormant, if not entirely irrelevant, force.   READ MORE.

It has nothing to do with liberal or traditional.  The book Commonweal cites totally missed the point.  Virtually nothing the institutional Church itself does will keep kids in the pews.  Not better preaching, or having perfect priests, or better music, or…whatever.  There is already a TON of research on this issue.  Young Catholic America appears to totally ignore this data from what I can tell.  In Real Estate, the key to success is “location, location, location.” In the Church, the key to raising faithful kids is “relationship, relationship, relationship.”
If we want to raise kids that are faithful and willing to save sex for marriage, then we need to do 4 things.
First, moms and dads need to witness a passionate marriage that’s worth saving sex for.
Second we need to make certain to love our kids in ways that make them feel close to us (not just us feel close to them). That’s the heart of discipleship between parent and child.
Third, they need to have a lived experience that the faith is having a qualitatively positive impact on their family life. If they can see that the faith is somehow a significant contributing factor to why their family like and enjoys each other more than their non-churched friends like and enjoy their family lives, they won’t mind–and in fact will eagerly strive to live up to–the extra rules and expectations we put on them.
Fourth, dads–yes, DADS–need to take charge of teaching the faith (oh, and the research actually shows that dads need to teach an authentic faith and model authentic piety, which is probably why trads did better in the survey).  All the data show that when dads actually take responsibility for teaching and witnessing to the faith, kids grow up to live it.  If moms are in charge of faith  formation, the figures for faith transmission are depressing.  
If those 4 factors aren’t in place, then religion just looks like a hypocritical hobby and the rules just make kids feel “weird” and unable to fit in with their peers. If we want to raise kids capable or making a radical witness, we need to make sure we are forming a radically intimate relationship with them.
For more information on how to raise kids who own their faith and love God with all their hearts, check out Parenting with Grace:  The Catholic Parents’ Guide to Raising (almost) Perfect Kids.

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