Archive for November 5th, 2007

the child-emerging adult faith gap: is it a sign?

I’ve thought a lot over the past few years of writing a book targeted at “emerging christian parents” - speaking to the parents and also providing resources and tools to help them in the spiritual education of their children.

There have been several things lately that have made me sit up and take notice, but probably none more than this

There are not many people who spend as much time researching young people and faith as Christian Smith, now the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Sociology at the University of Notre Dame, Director of the Center for the Sociology of Religion, and Principal Investigator of the National Study of Youth and Religion in the College of Arts & Letters at Notre Dame. In the book he did with Melinda Lundquist Denton Soul Searching, the findings of The National Study of Youth and Religion are reported and analyzed.

Smith has a piece in the Nov/Dec Books & Culture that I’d love to be required reading for anyone over 31 -

Subscribe to Books & Culture
Getting a Life
The challenge of emerging adulthood

Smith reviews recent works from researchers in sociology, psychology, and human development on the time of life between ages 18 and 30, a phase which in recent decades has morphed into a new experience for many.

This section is a sort of of show-stopper for the manner in which faith communities work to form faith:

Jeffrey Arnett explored the religious beliefs and practices of the more than one hundred emerging adults he interviewed in various locations around the country. Here is what he concluded:

The most interesting and surprising feature of emerging adults’ religious beliefs is how little relationship there is between the religious training they received throughout childhood and the religious beliefs they hold at the time they reach emerging adulthood … . In statistical analyses [of interview subjects’ answers], there was no relationship between exposure to religious training in childhood and any aspect of their religious beliefs as emerging adults … . This is a different pattern than is found in adolescence [which reflects greater continuity] … . Evidently something changes between adolescence and emerging adulthood that dissolves the link between the religious beliefs of parents and the beliefs of their children.

But writing a book is daunting and scary and wrought with all manner of freak out moments for me so we’ll see if I actually follow through.