Keeping our teens in the church is no easy task. Throw in what you know about contemporary culture and the Prince of this World and the task seems insurmountable. Our culture and the evil one seek to draw in and shred our young people, stealing their faith and their moral compass and then using them to perpetuate the cycle. Popular culture is attractive and very few of us want to go or are able to go completely against the trend of current attitudes, entertainment and thought.
The Orthodox Christian Church is counter culture. What do I mean by that? In as much as the culture does not reflect the church, it is opposed to it. Even if our kids are running in Christian circles, the Orthodox life is very dissimilar. Consider these examples: If you are an Orthodox Christian, you are in church on Sunday mornings…and counter to even other Christian churches, you are in church on Saturday evenings for Vespers. You don’t drink coffee and have pancakes on Sunday mornings before Liturgy because you are fasting before receiving the Eucharist. You aren’t eating meat on Fridays because you are fasting as part of a Christian lifestyle. You are in church most evenings during Holy Week! You get married inside a church with a priest. You make it a priority to get married before you live with your mate. The list could go on and on!
The point is: Being an Orthodox Christian can be challenging for anyone in our modern age. For teens, it’s even harder. If the typical American Christian teenager is like a trout swimming upstream, then the American Orthodox teenager is like the rare golden trout found only in rivers above 10,000 feet. No wonder a recent study indicates that teens and college aged adults are leaving the Orthodox Church and the Christian faith in vast numbers. According to The Pew Research Center’s recent study on behaviors, values and opinions of the teens and twenty-somethings that make up the Millennial generation: “nearly one-in-five adults under age 30 say they were raised in a religion but are now unaffiliated with any particular faith.” (http://www.pewforum.org/2010/02/17/religion-among-the-millennials/)
These facts are daunting for any faithful parent. How am I to raise my kids so that they know Jesus? How am I to prepare them for the cultural war? How do we, collectively as a church, keep our young people engaged in matters of faith?
I have struggled with these and many more issues. Raising five kids who will desire to follow in faith the Lord Jesus…that is the heart of my efforts.
I would like to tell you I have figured this out. I would also like to tell you we have a formula that you can just follow and your kids will all stay in church for the rest of their lives. But, I cannot. What I can tell you is that we pray a lot. We go to church a lot with our kids. We talk a lot at the dinner table.
I hold onto this piece of scripture: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6
In this series, I am going to spotlight places where I see teens and young people staying connected in the church. Hopefully, these examples will encourage us in our longing to keep our youth in the cradle of faith.
Angie Nasrallah is a writer, teacher, urban farmer, wife and homeschooling mother to five children. A graduate of Florida State University, she also earned her M.Ed in Secondary English Education from The University of Georgia. Angie began her teaching career at UGA as a graduate assistant in the Challenge Program for gifted and talented students. Since that time, she has taught writing and literature in a variety of contexts including public and private school, technical school, hybrid school and homeschool. She currently teaches her youngest son at home. An avid nature lover, Angie enjoys spending time with her boys discovering and photographing cool earthy things. With the older kids, she often finds herself in the role of coach and encourager. When she’s not with her family or out tending the chicken coop, you might find her writing stories and articles for her blog. She and her husband, subdeacon Matthew, live in Marietta, Georgia and are actively involved in St. Basil the Great Orthodox Mission.