Kids These Days

Sam Rainer

March 22, 2010

I am self-conscious about using the term “kid.” I served for two years at a church where a loving member would adamantly correct me when I used the word in a sermon.

“Kids are baby goats. We have children, NOT kids!” She would chastise me every time. It seriously upset her.

But what about kids children these days? Excerpts from two separate research projects caught my attention. The first is from the Perspectives on Psychological Science Journal (reported by UPI):

Today’s teens are no more egotistical and are just as happy and satisfied as previous generations, U.S. and Canadian researchers said. Brent Donnellan of Michigan State University and Kali Trzesniewski of the University of Western Ontario said that their analysis of 477,380 high school seniors from 1976-2006 showed youth are generally not the self-centered, anti-social slackers that previous research has made them out to be. “We concluded that, more often than not, kids these days are about the same as they were back in the mid-1970s,” Donnellan said in a statement. Much of the previous research has relied on “convenience studies” of relatively small samples of young adults. The study found today’s youth are more cynical and less trusting of institutions than previous generations, but Donnellan said this is generally true of the broader population.

The other report comes from Barna:

When it comes to church engagement, those who attended Sunday school or other religious programs as children or as teens were much more likely than those without such experiences to attend church and to have an active faith as adults. For instance, among those who frequently attended such programs as a child, 50% said they attended a worship service in the last week, which is slightly higher than the national average and well ahead of those who rarely or never attended children’s programs.

What do we make of these two studies? Undoubtedly, children and teens have different cultural struggles today than in the 1970s. The Internet, cell phones, and cable TV have made us rethink how we train up children in the way they should go. But, in general, the children of the 1970s are not that different from their own children today. And while there may be a heightened level of cynicism about institutions (the church included), it is clear church attendance as a child has an impact on having an active faith as an adult.

So, kids these days need their parents to get them involved in church—that hasn’t changed since the 1970s. But let’s take it one step farther. Parents should not only do church, but also talk about why their faith is important. In fact, our research has shown this conversation between parents and children is the best way to prevent the perception of hypocrisy. Perhaps my quirky church member was onto something. Goats really don’t have a place in the church, but our kids do.

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