Half of Catholic teenagers lose their Catholic identity by their late 20s. TCC’s own Anna Keating with the research on what, if anything, we can do to help them keep the faith through life’s inevitable ups and downs. What would you add to the list?
1) Most former Catholics in their 20s and 30s are not atheists. They still believe in some version of God or a higher power and many still pray. These former Catholic Christians might be open to continuing conversation about God or faith with people they respect who are thoughtful, well-informed, and non-judgmental. What’s more, many people become interested in religion and spirituality again once they start raising children of their own. Life is long and complicated.
2) Children with two committed Catholic parents are more likely to grow up to be Catholic. The closer a teenager feels to their parents (and the better the relationship they have with those parents) the more likely they are to adopt their parent’s religious faith. So, being a good parent is the best thing you can do for your child’s faith.
3) Young Catholics whose parents regularly attend Mass, are involved with their parishes, live their faith, and talk to their children about their beliefs, are more likely to have adult children who remain Catholic.
4) Most Catholics today grow up in religiously pluralistic or secular settings. They need to understand that practicing and professing a faith does not contradict respecting the deeply held beliefs of others. In fact, practicing a faith can help one to better understand and engage with the deeply held beliefs of others. As Pope Francis says, “If you don’t think like I do, and I don’t think like you do, that’s okay we can still be friends.”
5) Many people today believe that faith and science are somehow incompatible. Make sure the young people in your life know that the Church is not anti-science. Being a Catholic means embracing both faith and reason. We do not now, nor have we ever, taught reading the Bible like a science textbook.
6) Some young people wrongly feel that they have done something wrong and are no longer welcome in the Church. Make sure young people know that all people sin (original sin), and their sin is not in any way exceptional, and that Jesus is a God of mercy and love, who always welcomes us back when we ask for forgiveness. No exceptions.
7) Finally, take God seriously and people lightly. Being part of a religious community (or any community for that matter) requires loads of forgiveness and a sense of humor. People aren’t perfect, but where two or three are gathered in God’s name Jesus says “there am I among them.” So we keep showing up, imperfect as we are, because God is there: in the assembly, in the Eucharist, and in the Scriptures.
*All of this data comes from a study conducted by the Institute for Church Life and the Center for the Study of Religion and Society.