Do you have a Jewish teen? Or know one?

And most of us do, whether it’s a child, a grandchild, a relative, or a friend’s. Here’s the question: Do you hope they will be actively Jewish in the future?

Well, consider this research regarding faith. Although written from a Christian perspective, it applies 100% to the Jewish community and to our children:

The holy grail for helping youth remain religiously active as young adults has been at home all along: parents.

Mothers and fathers who practice what they preach and preach what they practice are far and away the major influence related to adolescents keeping the faith into their 20s, according to new findings from a landmark study of youth and religion.

82 percent of children raised by parents who talked about faith at home, attached great importance to their beliefs and were active in their congregations were themselves religiously active as young adults. Other factors such as youth ministry or clergy or service projects or religious schools pale in comparison.

“No other conceivable causal influence … comes remotely close to matching the influence of parents on the religious faith and practices of youth,” University of Notre Dame sociologist, Christan Smith said in a recent talk sharing the findings at Yale Divinity School. “Parents just dominate.”

One of the strongest factors associated with older teens keeping their faith as young adults was having parents who talked about religion and spirituality at home, Smith said.

Other key factors included having parents for whom personal faith is important and who demonstrate that faith through attending services. Teens whose parents attended worship with them were especially likely to be religiously active as young adults.

Among related findings, parents from religious traditions that in general promote greater commitment and encourage discussing faith outside the sanctuary also were more likely to have children who remained active in their faith as young adults.

The role of parents is even more critical today as trust in institutions decline and many children with more demanding schedules are spending less time in congregations, Smith noted.

Yet, he said, there are some powerful “cultural scripts” that discourage parents from taking an active role in the spiritual lives of their teens.

Among those scripts:

  • After age 12, the role of parents recedes, and the influence of peers, the media, music and social media take over.
  • Cultural messages that encourage parents to turn their children over to “experts.” In the case of faith formation, many parents consider that to be the responsibility of clergy, Sunday schools and youth groups, Smith said.

Religious groups can help parents realize their key role in transmitting faith to the next generation by working with them from the births of their children to empower them to take on that responsibility, Smith said. For their part, parents need to realize a hands-off approach to religion has consequences.

“Parents, for better or worse, are actually the most influential pastors … of their children,” Smith said. “Parents set a kind of glass ceiling of religious commitment, about which their children rarely rise.”

Pretty amazing? So, if you know a Jewish teen and you hope that s/he will continue to be Jewish and be active in the Jewish community…have the parent(s) model the behavior desired…celebrate Shabbat and holidays, be involved in the congregation, be committed to Jewish values such as tikkun olam, tzedakah, and acts of chesed. Remember what the research discovered: “Parents (and grandparents) set a kind of glass ceiling of religious commitment, about which their children rarely rise.”

That’s the research. Now…what are YOU going to do?

To read the full article from which the above was excerpted, CLICK HERE.