The bad news is the same as the good: Teens adopt beliefs and habits that mirror their parents’. If mom and dad practice a shallow faith with few demands, as many American Christians do, the kids follow suit.

"God functions for most teenagers as a combination cosmic therapist and divine butler," Smith explained to the Los Angeles Times. "God isn’t part of history or everyday life; He is distant until you need Him to solve a problem or make you feel better."

Does the word "hollow" come to mind?

Evangelical Protestant young people trail only Mormon teens in being the "most engaged" in practicing their beliefs, according to the national study. But the day-to-day treatment of God as "cosmic therapist and divine butler," rather than Savior and Lord, accurately describes far too many evangelical youth -– and parents -- regardless of what we claim to believe.

The antidote to watered-down, passive faith? The Apostle James has a no-nonsense prescription: "Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. But someone may well say, ‘You have faith, and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works’" (James 2:17, 18, NASB).

Don’t just teach the faith to your children; model it. Don’t tell them how to serve others; show them. Don’t just talk about missions and ministry during family devotion times or Sunday School; take your children with you to share Jesus with lost people on your street and in your community. Take a family mission trip across cultural lines, or across the ocean.

That’s the only kind of faith people will follow –- beginning with your own kids.


Erich Bridges is senior writer with the Southern Baptist International Mission Board whose column appears twice monthly in Baptist Press.

© 2006 Baptist Press. All rights reserved. Used with permission.