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CHRISTIAN EDUCATION EDITORIAL
“Be still and know that I am God” -Psalm 46:10
As Christian Education prepares to begin a new year and as the young people look to a new school year loaded with extra-curricular activity, I believe the following reprint is justified. In a world full of uncertainty and constant change let us instill within our young people the truth of their unchanging, ever-loving God.
While most churches throughout the nation struggle to find ways to maintain the attendance of their young people, research continues to validate the importance of building a strong foundation of faith in their lives; one that begins at an early age. Research concludes that faith that is rooted in early childhood and watered consistently throughout the teenage years serves to keep young people from experiencing an “identity crisis” when older.
Sociologist Tim Clydesdale interviewed 125 students as they transitioned from high school to college. He discovered that most college freshmen are overwhelmed by what he called “daily life management.” They struggle to juggle and maintain their school and social networks (friends, romantic partners, authority figures). Rather than dive into figuring out who they are, students store away important fragments of who they were (often including, but not limited to, their religious and spiritual identities) in an “identity lockbox” when they enter college. For those who embrace the lockbox approach, college life is simply a series of disconnected events – without connection to one’s true self and without regard to previous commitments, including faith.
Similarly, studies acknowledged that some students put their faith on hold when they enter college so they can “enjoy college life.” Translated, that means party. When asked about shelving their faith, a couple students acknowledged the inconsistency of it all.
There are many pitfalls to a lockbox approach to faith during the adolescent and college years. One, when students put their faith on hold, they are easily pushed by the shifting winds of their peer culture. Secondly, when students set aside their faith for a time, it affects the quality of their integrated thinking. They struggle at best to make true-to-self decisions about their worldviews, romantic partners and career directions if they’ve placed their faith on hold. Lastly, there’s the issue of what happens when students finally bust open those lockboxes and take a serious look at who they are, either some time later in college or perhaps after in their adult years. Many will face deep regret about the decisions they’ve made (Sticky Faith, Powell, Griffin, Crawford).
Research after research speaks to the importance of rearing a child in faith and to the need of doing it consistently. When the acts of faith become as natural to a child and young person as getting dressed each day, it becomes a part of who they are versus a fragment of their identity.
May we work together to give each young person a strong foundation on which to build his/her identity in Christ.
In Christ, Pastor Cheryl Schalm, Minister of Christian Education
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