In the book Gross National Happiness, the author, Arthur Brooks finds that people who have more faith and religion in their life are happier. I decided to write a post about Faith and teens because I think that it is an important issue for many of our readers.
I think that religion is a completely personal exercise. Yet, I get a lot of questions from readers on how to encourage teens and young people to have more faith, love their religion and be more active in their youth groups. I did grow up with a good amount of faith and think there are a few things that parents can do to encourage their children to love their religion without forcing it upon them and turning them off.
How to Help Youth Love Their Faith
1) Communicate Your Fears and Your Faith with Your Kids
Many parents when wanting their children to be more religious, talk about all of the things they love about their religion and faith. I say you have to start with this, and ALSO talk about your doubt, your fears and your questions. When teens hear both sides, they understand that religion is not about blind faith, it is about a deep connection and everyone has their questions and doubts.
2) Show the Cultural Side of Religion with Teens
Religion is not only about rules, books and a place of worship. It is also a cultural identity. You want to show this to your kids. Talk to them about your religion’s cultural ideals and morals and the day to day of being Christian, Jewish, Muslim or whatever it is you believe in.
3) Do It
Actions speak louder than words. You want your kids to go to Church, you should go with them. You want them to be excited about Youth Group, you should join your own group for adults and show them what it does for you.
4) Make Minimums
I do not encourage making rules for your kids to believe. But, if religion and religious participation is important to you, make your guidelines clear. You want to tell them your ideal and your minimums. For example, your ideal might be for them to find great connection to their faith and take a leadership position on the youth council. At a minimum they might have to attend services with you every week and do the meal prayers while they are living under your roof.
5) Volunteer and Go to Events Together
Pick different kinds of religious activities beyond going to services. Go on a trip of Voluntourism in another country, lead a religious book club, go to a fair at a local place of worship, let them attend a dance held by your church/temple. This way kids and teens can see that religion is involved in many areas of life.
6) Find Other Teens
I actually think it is really important for teens to interact with other youth of all religions and faiths. But, you might want them to have a buddy to go to events with. Sometimes kids are happy to go to a religious event they just do not know anyone. This is when it becomes a social hesitation, not a religious one.
7) Find Cool Religious Tools for Youth
I speak to teens a lot about religion and faith and often list some really cool ways they can connect:
Religious Rock Music, Religion on Twitter, Religious Youth Magazines…
-Jewish Youth Magazine: JVibe
-Christian Rock Music: ChristianRock.net
-Jewish Reggae: Matisyahu
8) Give them Space
My parents pushed me to go to youth group for about 7 years before I figured out that I liked it on my own. It was not until they backed off a little that I was able to establish my own relationship with my religion. I did develop a connection, but it was much later and took me some time.
9) Let Their Connection Be Different
This ties with the point above. They might develop a very different connection to their faith and religion than you. Please be tolerant of this and open to the idea that they might find a different way to connect.
10) Be Open-Minded
Teens and youth today value and prioritize openmindedeness, tolerance and religous openness. Therefore it is extremely important, and the point I am ending on, to be tolerant of all people no matter what religion.
I hope that you read this post with an open mind and know that people of all religions are welcome and need to be tolerant of one another.