The National Study of Youth and Religion recently released the results of an important research project. It represents one of the most ambitious and comprehensive studies of U.S. youth ever undertaken. What emerged were four distinctive consistencies that predict teen behavior – before it’s too late.
1. Role models – Parents are still the single most influential factor in a child’s spiritual development. The Lord gives moms and dads unique opportunities to teach their children about godly living. Through their parents’ lifestyle and instruction, kids can discover that they are personally accountable to God. Because some parents cannot give what they do not have, others can sometimes step into the gap and make a difference.
2. Influencers – The old African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child” is actually true. Other adults in a child’s extended family, church, and school are influential. The support, advice, love, and help they offer are important ingredients in a child’s faith development. The more godly adults children have in their lives, the more likely it will be that they become devoted Christ-followers.
3. Prayer. Andrew Murray wrote, “Time spent in prayer will yield more than that given to work. Prayer alone gives work its worth and success. Prayer opens the way for God, himself, to do his work in us and through us. Let our chief work as God’s messengers be intercession; in it we secure the presence and power of God to go with us.” Prayer is paramount in kids’ lives. The more they pray and see prayer modeled at home and church, the more they become connected and committed to God.
4. God’s Word. The poem spells it out: “Children learn what they live.” We do that which we believe is most important. If we believe that God reveals himself in his Word, then the Bible should be central in our lives at home and in church. Kids will recognize the value and priority of the Bible as they see us read, meditate, and study his Word. We can help children develop a passion for God as we develop and model a passion for his Word.
Obviously, these four key elements are not new, but they do serve as reminders that the basics of our faith are unchanging and vitally important. The average parent has spent half of his life’s time with his child when they are just ten years old. We need to make a difference – while we can.