Discovering Deep, Resilient Faith
Christian author Mel Saward contemplates what we can do to help our children and youth become strong Christians.
Discovering Deep, Resilient Faith
Many statistics have emerged over the last few years that have painted a jarring picture of the state of faith for Millennials and Gen Z. But none quite so shocking as a study completed by the Barna Group recently, finding that 75% of young Christians will leave church.
But there is hope. Unlike other studies, this one listed common factors present in the 25% who stayed.
- Eating dinner five out of seven nights a week as a family
- Serving WITH their families in a ministry
- Having one spiritual experience in the home during the week
- Being entrusted with responsibility in ministry at an early age
- Having at least one faith-focused adult in their lives, other than their parents
It must be noted that this was a rather helpful study!
Finally, something constructive we might all be able to implement for our children. But despite the usefulness of this information the resounding questions still remain: How is this possible? 75%? Do these small habits really make such a significant difference?
The habits seem so simple! There are at least three factors out of the five that have nothing to do with church itself! Were any of these factors present in the 75% too?
There is something missing
Maybe it is this simple. Maybe there is more to this. But what can’t be denied is that there is something missing in the Millennials’ and Gen Zs’ experience of faith, that is often observed through their relationship with the Church. Surely that is demonstrated rather clearly in these statistics.
In my latest book, Deep Faith Resilient Faith, I examine what I believe to be the cause of this phenomenon. The missing piece is DEPTH.
It has always been a temptation in our Christian culture to become preoccupied with external matters and not those of the heart. From the day the church began, there were smaller sections that concerned themselves with rituals. And in the generations just prior to Millennials, church attendance has been the universal sign of commitment to Christ.
While I suspect such observable signs do matter, they have never completely expressed the true picture of a changed heart. Church attendance was not the goal of our faith, the goal was always to be a disciple: something that is clearly seen in the five factors above.
Church attendance was not the goal of our faith, the goal was always to be a disciple
Signs of depth
These five factors are all signs of a whole community discipling a child: parents, church leaders, and the larger church community. Truly, they are signs of depth and the priority to instil a deep faith in the next generation.
Depth of faith is critical, as scripture proposes many times: it was the depth of the soil that determined the response to the seed (Mark 4:5), it was deep digging that stabilised the house built on the rock (Luke 6:48). And so we must explore for ourselves what a deep faith looks like, so that we can exemplify it for the next generation.
This is the goal of my book. It meticulously unpacks depth in action, and how we can attain it. As you can imagine, the book is quite challenging. But confronting such truths also gives us the greatest hope we could ever have in our faith.
What they need
The fact is: the next generations need us. They need those who come before them to demonstrate through the life we live, the kind of depth and meaning that a faith in Jesus can bring. Honestly, they don’t need us to nag them, to judge them, to be frustrated by them.
They need us to be willing to take up our cross, forego our comforts and go deeper than we have ever gone before. Because the Gospel has always been enough to satisfy all of us, from generation to generation.
Melanie J. Saward is a Christian author and communicator – meljsaward.com
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