Shooting the Rapids – Faith Formation and Families With Teens

In the last two days I acquired the privilege of participating a gathering of strict education professionals. Two significant topic areas were tackled during this get-together. Earliest, there was a great deal of attention paid to creating new and progressive ways of inserting faith towards a more centralized position for people with teenagers. Second, along with equal importance, was a discourse on the challenges that are present for families in conditions of producing faith formation an essential part of their everyday lives.

Being a family research scientist, I emerged to the table knowing that religious activity, devotion, and belief have recently been shown in many research to have a positive impact on a variety of adolescent outcomes. Recently, however, I had recently been made conscious of a tiny but growing group of studies that contain documented trends in family life proving the fact that religiousness in families is on the decline. Placed together, the evidence suggests that households with teenagers might best be seen as standing up at a crossroads of sorts, at least in conditions of the place that their family’s hope will take in their interactions with one another. 

Parents of teens fumbling with faith formation issues in their own people might appreciate the metaphor that developed over the course of this conference. In many ways, individuals voiced descriptions that compared these matters to a series of river rapids. In particular, this metaphor draws attention to two important elements contained within this experience: water and rocks. Water is an excellent symbol for faith, and I cannot imagine an improved image to use for challenges than rocks. Water is continuous and moving, while the rocks deflect and redirect.

To continue on with this metaphor, then, as parents and teens were passengers on a family raft that is attempting to navigate these white water rapids. The ride can certainly be thrilling, and it can even be somewhat hazardous, particularly if we are not properly prepared. And this is where we come to the place that religious education professionals have in promoting faith formation within households.

In essence, are they not the guides who is there to help source maps and paddles (and maybe even helmets too)? Effective guides know how to point and point, yet know full well that passage finally is dependent of the skills of the passengers themselves. Of course, if we apply a strength-based perspective to the families that we serve, we can relax assured that families — properly equipped — can experience success on this journey.

The use of the word “success” in the earlier sentence brings this tale back full circle. Sociable scientists have known for years that raising successful teenagers is determined by a variety of family strengths. Primary among those is the fact that strong family members have a significant positive identity that is known and shared by their members. The faith traditions of a family certainly qualifies as an important component of that id.

At the same time, however, close awareness of faith-based issues may help to advance families beyond what it means to improve a “successful adult. ” In brief, the experience contained within the white water rapids ride might elevate family members to consider what it means to boost “meaningful adults” as well.

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