Secret to Youth Retention: Parents

“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”

Looks like the Bible was right all along. According to this study, retaining young adults is not a matter of smoke machines, dancing girls, liberalizing standards, or any of the other fads.

“The holy grail for helping youth remain religiously active as young adults has been at home all along: Parents.

“Mothers and fathers who practice what they preach and preach what they practice are far and away the major influence related to adolescents keeping the faith into their 20s, according to new findings from a landmark study of youth and religion.

“Just 1 percent of teens ages 15 to 17 raised by parents who attached little importance to religion were highly religious in their mid- to late 20s.

“In contrast, 82 percent of children raised by parents who talked about faith at home, attached great importance to their beliefs and were active in their congregations were themselves religiously active as young adults, according to data from the latest wave of the National Study of Youth and Religion.

“The connection is ‘nearly deterministic,’ said University of Notre Dame Sociologist Christian Smith, lead researcher for the study.

“Other factors such as youth ministry or clergy or service projects or religious schools pale in comparison.

“’No other conceivable causal influence … comes remotely close to matching the influence of parents on the religious faith and practices of youth,’ Smith said in a recent talk sharing the findings at Yale Divinity School. ‘Parents just dominate.’”

But the abstract highlights other important factors: Both parents belonging to same denomination, having equal interest in religion. If dad does something else, or isn’t involved, don’t expect the kids to be.