“Nearly two-thirds of U.S. 18–29-year-olds who grew up in church tell Barna they have withdrawn from church involvement as an adult after having been active as a child or teen” (Kinnaman). This quote from Barna scared me. It did not surprise me, though. I have seen many of my former students who were passionate about Jesus in my middle school classroom drop away from the faith.
I think there are several reasons why youth who grew up in Christian homes are leaving the faith in alarming numbers. One of the reasons is that they are forgetting God’s goodness to them. Over the past few years, I’ve been able to talk with many people about this fact. One of those people was Sid Hielema. At the time, he was head of Faith Formation Ministries within the CRC denomination. We were discussing how I believe Satan uses forgetting as one of his tools. Sid reminded me of how many times in the Bible God asked his leaders to make memorials so that people would not forget.
Joshua 4:4–7 says,
So Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe, and said to them, “Go over before the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.”
God asked Joshua to put twelve stones together as a way of remembering. Remembering is why my wife and I believe God asked us to build Faith Journey. Faith Journey exists to aid Christian schools, churches, and parents in raising children to become fully devoted followers of Jesus through documenting and reflecting on their faith journey.
Sid said, “The Psalmist declares over and over that remembering the Lord’s faithfulness in the past has sustained them through many dark and challenging times. Living as we do today in a culture of short-term memory, our children and teens need all the faith-memory aid they can get. The Faith Journey app provides that: a rich, contemporary means to live out these ancient Psalms.”
At Faith Journey, we call these stones faith footprints. As people pour faith into students, it is recorded in students’ private, digital, individualized albums. What a blessing that our students have so many people contributing to their faith development: parents, youth pastors, Christian school teachers, and the students themselves.
They can also reflect on the faith footprints. Reflection is an important part of pedagogy and is often skipped. A friend of mine called making reflections in the classroom “adding stickiness to the lessons.” In their book Learning and Leading with Habits of the Mind, Arthur L. Costa and Bena Kallick explain the value of reflection: “Reflection has many facets. For example, reflecting on work enhances its meaning. Reflecting on experiences encourages insight and complex learning. We foster our own growth when we control our learning, so some reflection is best done alone. Reflection is also enhanced, however, when we ponder our learning with others” (221).
The chief responsibility of every parent is to grow their children to be fully devoted followers of Jesus, and they ask the Christian school to aid them with this task. At the Christian school, it is accomplished through teachers bringing faith into their lessons. The teachers are training the students to “look for God in all things.” In other words, we want our students to be 24/7 Christians. We don’t want them be Christians on Sundays or when it looks good for them. When faith intersections are done well, students develop a Christ-centered worldview that will impact all areas of their lives today and in the future.
Costa, Arthur l., and Bena Kallick. Learning and Leading with Habits of Mind. 1st ed., ASCD, 2008.
Covey, Stephen. “Habit 2: Begin With the End in Mind.” FranklinCovey, www.franklincovey.com.
Kinnaman, David. “Church Dropouts Have Risen to 64%—But What About Those Who Stay?” Barna, 4 Sept. 2019, www.barna.com.
Kent Ezell and his wife, Reba, are the founders of Faith Journey. Kent is currently an adjunct professor in the teacher education department at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He also serves The Potter’s House as the Director of Admissions. He has taught middle school math and Bible and was a school administrator. He and Reba have two children, Carolyn and Joshua.