The Life of JaWS

A blog by Jason Sansbury

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

ELCA Study Emails #1: A Family of Faith

So, I recently was at a seminar where the speaker shared a list of factors that the ECLA found in a study of students from their 7th grade year to their senior year. Essentially, they wanted to look at the factors that kept students engaged in the faith. I found some of the finding to be spot on to my experiences and wanted to share them with parents as we rebuild our youth ministry. I thought I would share the emails here for the other youth ministry folks that read here. Maybe it will spark something in you for your ministry!
Here is the first email I sent parents:

Dear parents,

As part of Warmth in Winter, there are workshops and some of those workshops are designed to help adult youth workers to grow and become better youth workers. I attended one session that was particularly good and is making me think a great deal.

In 2002, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) finished a study where they looked at one class of students from the 7th grade through the 12th grade. Their hope was to look at what things help keep students involved in church as they get older. What the study did was then look at what were the common factors for students who stayed involved. They found 8 key things and I would like to send some emails over the coming weeks to look at each of those factors and talk about what we as a church, a youth ministry and as followers of Christ can do to help students mature into adult disciples of Christ. (If you want to opt out of these emails, just send me a note letting me know and I can pull you off the email list that will get this specific series of emails. You would still get the weekly emails!)

First, 80-90% of these students were active in their 7th grade year. As 12th graders, that number dropped to 30-35%.

The number one factor for students who stayed involved in the life of the church is that the Christian faith was deeply embedded in the families of those students.

As someone who has been involved in youth ministry over the last 12 years, that factor doesn’t surprise me. I truly believe that the birthplace of faith and the people most responsible for nurturing it in the lives of children are parents! I think it is the way that God designed the faith to be shared, lived out and expanded. Listen to what God spoke to the earliest families of faith in Deuteronomy 6:6-10 (The Message):
“Write these commandments that I've given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder; inscribe them on the doorposts of your homes and on your city gates.”

Basically, God is calling us to be living and sharing the faith with our children as much as possible, in the things we say and the way we live. The desire of God is that we would see all of our life as a walk with Him.

So as the youth director here at Bethlehem, I want to encourage you. It would be easy for us to read that finding and feel frustrated that we may not be doing “enough”. I know that sharing the faith in our families is sometimes the hardest place. (It has been for me!) But it is worth it so much! So here are some practical ideas to help you share your faith with your students:

  1. Talk about what being a Christian means to you. Look for opportunities to talk about decisions you have made or things you have done that were directly influenced by your faith. If you grow up in a Christian church, share that experience and if you didn’t share what helped bring you to Jesus.
  2. Encourage your children when you see them living out their faith! They deeply need to be reminded of who God has made them and called them to be!
  3. Pray with and for your kids. Prayer is deeply personal, but it isn’t always supposed to be private! Be willing to pray with your kids and pray for them as well.
  4. Read spiritual books or books of the Bible together. I would be more than willing to help find books that are age-appropriate that could help foster some conversation between your child and you about the faith.

Again, I want to encourage you. Simply by having your student here at Bethlehem is communicating that following Christ is something important to you. But let’s continue to partner together to help students grow strong in the faith!


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