[Originally published as Sticky Faith 4: Complex reality, complex solution]
There’s one thing I definitely understand better after reading Sticky Faith by Powell and Clark (see blog series parts one, two, and three): there is no single cause to the loss of faith in Christian young people. Consequently, there is no single solution to the problem either.
Since so many kids decide to walk away from their faith, I think we all experience the desire to diagnose “the problem.” Some people say it’s because they were never Christian to begin with. Others blame poor, wishy-washy Christian teaching. Others want us to invest more in apologetics, because kids need to know why they believe what they believe. Still others blame the culture’s normalizing of sins, especially the sexual sins that dominate our culture. This pressure causes young people to look at the church’s ethics as old fashioned or maybe even bigoted.
In seeking out that one cause, we’re all really seeking that one cure, the magic pill that will perfectly protect our kids and keep them in the fellowship of believers. There’s a big problem with that line of thinking: There isn’t just one problem. All of the problems mentioned above contribute to the loss of faith among young people. The psychology of growing up contributes to the loss of faith among young people. It’s a complex problem that needs a comprehensive treatment. Even then, there’s no guarantee of success.
To survive adolescence with their faith more or less intact, young people need:
- Parents involved. Not just demanding their allegiance but genuinely guiding and leading them.
- Other adults involved. Young people need to see adult Christians who live authentic and hopeful lives. They need to see something they can model their own lives after.
- Good education. This is important. Before kids can understand why they believe what they believe, they need to know what they believe.
- Conversation. We all need to talk about the faith. We need to bring the faith into our lives as we think through what we do and what we hear and what our lives mean. Talking about the faith needs to be simple and natural (too often it’s awkward and weird).
- Room to question and doubt. Doubt will happen. Don’t oversell the faith. Don’t make it the answer to everything when there are so many things that we still don’t understand. Don’t forget the lessons of Job.
- Prayer. Obviously.
At Core Academy, we are designing a ministry that implements these comprehensive treatments for Christian young people studying to be scientists or scholars. Our retreats encourage conversation and building relationships rather than just lecturing and giving information. Our ministry theme of exploring hard questions makes room for doubt. We encourage everyone to think about hard questions and how we might try to answer them. The Sanders Scholarship program supports building mentor relationships between students and established scholars.
Those are my thoughts on Sticky Faith by Powell and Clark. It’s worth reading if you’re interested. I recommend it.